Madeleine Sophie Barat
The Society of the Sacred Heart was founded in the turmoil of post-Revolutionary France by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat. Its history is the story of strong and dedicated women true to the Society’s motto: “One Heart and One Soul in the Heart of Jesus.”
The daughter of a vintner in the wine country southeast of Paris, Madeleine Sophie Barat was educated beyond the norms of her contemporaries, making her well-suited for leadership of a religious community dedicated to prayer and education. In Paris, on November 21, 1800, at the age of twenty, she and three other young women consecrated themselves to “make known the revelation of God’s love.” Centered in personal and communal prayer, they set out to give young women a classical education - not common in their day - and to offer religious studies and practical skills. They began to call themselves the Society of the Sacred Heart.
In 1806, Mother Barat (women religious took the name Mother or Sister in addition to their family name), was elected superior general. During her 65-year leadership, the Society of the Sacred Heart grew to include over 3500 members, expanded to the Americas, and broadened its educational mission. Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonized in 1925. Her feast is May 25.
Rose Philippine Duchesne
The missionary, Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, first brought the Society to the Americas - to St. Charles Missouri - in 1818. The first free school west of the Mississippi was founded in St. Charles in a log cabin by five RSCJ, (Religieuses de Sacre Coeur de Jesus in French) led by Mother Duchesne. Philippine was canonized in 1988. Her feast is November 18.
Today in the United States - Canada Province of the Society of the Sacred Heart, there are twenty-four Sacred Heart schools guiding students in the manner of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat. There are another 125 Sacred Heart schools in thirty countries around the world.
Religious of the Sacred Heart today serve in a wide variety of ministries, in and out of classroom settings, but all they do is done with the heart of an educator.
Want to learn more about the history of the Society?
Here's a bibliography to get you started.