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St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Year Inducted: 
1984
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
Highlights: 
  • The first female Saint east of the Mississippi River
  • Known for her work with the Potawatomi Tribe near Centerville, KS
  • Spoke out against the government forcibly removing Native Americans
Biography: 

Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, R.S.C.J., (August 29, 1769 – November 18, 1852) was a Catholic Religious Sister and French-American saint. She spent the last half of her life teaching and serving the people of the Midwestern United States. She was born in Grenoble, France and died in St. Charles, Missouri. Along with Saint Madeleine-Sophie Barat, she was a prominent member of the Society of the Sacred Heart.[1] She was the founder in America of the first houses of the Society of the Sacred Heart.

She was the daughter of Pierre-Francois Duchesne, an eminent lawyer, and her mother was a Perier, ancestor of Casimir-Perier, President of France. When she was 19 years old, she joined the convent of the Visitation, which her family did not know. The convent shut down in 1792. She was educated by the Visitation nuns, entered that order, saw its dispersion during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, vainly attempted the reestablishment of the convent of Ste-Marie-d'en-Haut, near Grenoble, and finally, in 1804, accepted the offer of Mother Barat to receive her community into the Society of the Sacred Heart. In 1815 St. Rose Philippine Duchesne was instructed to create a Sacred Heart House in Paris.

In 1818, Rose Philippine Duchesne headed out to America with a few other members of the Society. She arrived in New Orleans, and traveled the Louisiana territory and ended up in St. Charles, Missouri which was close to St Louis, Missouri. Bishop Dubourg welcomed her to New Orleans, when she sailed up the Mississippi to St. Louis, finally settling her colony at St. Charles. Here she created a new house of the Sacred Heart Society in a log cabin. This was the first house ever built that was outside of France. This newfound house faced many struggles including lack of funds and very cold weather. Another major problem was that Duchesne struggled to learn English. She and four other members of her Society continued to create schools in America. By the year 1828, six houses had been added in America.

"Poverty and Christian heroism are here," she wrote, "and trials are the riches of priests in this land." Other foundations followed, at Florissant, Grand Côteau, New Orleans, St. Louis, St. Michael; and the approbation of the society in 1826 by Leo XII recognized the work being done in these parts. She enjoyed her work with these students, but truly desired to work with Native Americans. Years later, a school in Kansas was founded for the Potawatomi tribe children. At this new house, she spent much of her time taking care of sick Native Americans. The Native Americans named her Quahkahkanumad, which stood for "Woman Who Prays Always". Inspired by the stories of Father De Smet, S.J., Duchesne was determined to continue on and help students in the Rocky Mountains, but she became ill when she was about 73, and had to go back to St Charles. During the last ten years of her life, she Died November,18 1852 in St. Charles MO, at the age of 83.

She was canonized on July 3, 1988, by Pope John Paul II.[2]


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