Many Religious of the Sacred Heart have a dual vocation: to religious life and to teaching. Their lives and their ministries, all that they do, is done with the heart of an educator, whether it is in a school setting or elsewhere. This commitment to educate children to empower them to have a transformative influence on their own lives and on the greater community stems to our founder, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat.
Madeleine Sophie Barat had a rare aspiration for her time: to educate girls in a manner similar to the education received by boys. She saw women as the repairers of the torn fabric of society in France following the French Revolution and set about establishing a transformative education that would help them accomplish the task. In 1805, just five years after the Society of the Sacred Heart was founded, members drafted the first Plan of Studies to ensure consistently high standards in all Sacred Heart schools. The Plan was modified periodically, but always with a goal of educating the “whole person” – long before that concept became popularly used.
Spread of Sophie's Vision
Sacred Heart education spread around the world during the 19th and 20th centuries, a sure validation of Sophie’s wisdom. Here in the United States, the Society founded scores of academies and free schools, including schools for underserved populations, like orphans and students of color. They also founded ten colleges for women, several of which are still in existence either as a part of a larger university (e.g. University of San Diego) or as independent institutions (e.g Maryville University (St. Louis) or Manhattanville University (Purchase, NY). Sacred Heart schools were known for both providing a sound education and for fostering each student’s full development.
The Second Vatican Council changed the Church and the Society, and it changed Catholic education. From 1969 to 1972, in response to the realities of the time – primarily a diminished and aging membership – the Society made the painful decision to withdraw from ten schools in the United States. And then they determined to find a way to keep other Sacred Heart schools open. They found their solution within their lay partners, Sacred Heart educators who had fully embraced the mission of the Society and the vision of St. Madeleine Sophie. Together lay and vowed religious undertook a new expression of what was meant by Sacred Heart education in the United States. This was manifested in two important developments:
- The establishment of the Network of Sacred Heart Schools (1970)
- The development of the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart Schools (1975).
The five goals, rooted in the wisdom of St. Madeleine Sophie, are familiar to all students, educators and parents of Sacred Heart schools in the United States. They are the foundation of Sacred Heart education. Schools of the Sacred Heart educate to:
- a personal and active faith in God
- a deep respect for intellectual values
- a social awareness which impels to action
- the building of community as a Christian value
- personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.
Sacred Heart Schools Today
Today there are twenty-two member and two provisional schools in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools. Each has its own unique history and character, but they share so much more of value: traditions, language, and most importantly, mission. There are also Schools of the Sacred Heart in other countries. Learn more about our schools by visiting their websites.
Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich
Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, Bethesda
Academy of the Sacred Heart, Bloomfield Hills
Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
Sacred Heart School, Halifax (Provisional)
Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Bryn Mawr
Sacred Heart School, Montreal (Provisional)
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, Bellevue
Read Sister Barbara Quinn's article on Navigating the Seasons of Change, about the journey to lay leadership at Sacred Heart Schools.