SAINT ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE (1769-1852), virgin, missionary religious and foundress – Patron saint of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri
Today, the Church honors Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, remembered as the founder of the first houses of the Society of the Sacred Heart in America and who taught the Christian faith to Native American Indians.
Born in the French Alps in the ancient city of Grenoble, France in 1769, Rose Philippine was educated at the Convent of the Visitation of Ste. Marie d’en Haut. Being drawn to the contemplative life, she became a novice there when she was eighteen years old, despite opposition from her parents.
As the French Revolution began, her convent was closed, and she began taking care of the poor and sick, opening a school for mischievous children who were living on the streets. She also risked her life helping priests in the underground during the Revolution.
When the situation in France began to improve, she personally rented her old convent, now a shambles, and tried to revive its religious life. The spirit of faith was gone from many in her country, as there were only four nuns left. Together, they joined the infant Society of the Sacred Heart.
In a short time, Sister Rose Philippine became the Order’s superior and also supervisor of the novitiate and the school. But her ambition, since hearing tales of missionary work in Louisiana as a little girl, was to go to America and work among the Native Americans.
At the age of forty-nine, she thought that this was the vocation to which God was calling her. With four nuns, she spent 11 weeks at sea enroute to New Orleans, and seven weeks more on the Mississippi River traveling to St. Louis, Missouri. Her life was filled with numerous disappointments and hardships.
In spite of the many set-backs which she and her religious Order experienced, and due to the characteristic drive and courage for which she was accredited, Mother Duchesne, as she was now known, eventually ended up in Florissant, Missouri, where she founded the first Catholic Indian School, eventually adding others throughout the territory. And at the age of 72, in poor health and retired, she founded a mission at Sugar Creek, Kansas, among the Potawatomi Indians.
She spent her last ten years in retirement in a tiny shack at the convent in St. Charles, Missouri, where she lived austerely and in constant prayer. Mother Duchesne died there on November 18, 1852 at the age of eighty-three.
She spent her life opening a road to faith among the Native Americans, a road along which others would follow; and the success hidden from her eyes during her lifetime was witnessed later by the many who rejoiced in the rapid spread of her Order over North and South America.
Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne was canonized a saint on July 3, 1988, by Pope St. John Paul II. Her remains rest in the chapel dedicated to her on the campus of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles.
We commemorate her feastday on November 18.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and vatican.va/news_services)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne)
“Gracious God, You filled the heart of Rose Philippine Duquesne with charity and missionary zeal, and gave her the desire to make You known among all peoples. Fill us, who honor her memory today, with that same love and zeal to extend Your Kingdom to the ends of the Earth.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”