RSCJ Uganda/Kenya Province | Our first missionary

Our Story

OUR FIRST MISSIONARY - PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE

ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE was born on August 29, 1769 in Grenoble, France. She was educated at the Convent of the Visitation of Ste. Marie d'en Haut, then, drawn to the contemplative life, she became a novice there when she was 18 years old. At the time of the Revolution in France, the community was dispersed and Philippine returned to her family home, spending her time caring for the poor and sick and helping priests who had gone underground. When the political situation improved, she returned to the Monastery and tried with some companions to begin Religious life there again but without success.

In 1804, Philippine learned of a new congregation, the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and offered herself and the monastery to the Foundress, Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat. Mother Barat visited Ste. Marie in 1804 and received Philippine and several companions as novices in the Society.

The deep longing of Philippine's heart was to be a missionary among the Indians of America. This was a dream Philippine had since childhood when she heard tales of missionary work in America. .

In 1818 her dream was realized. At St. Charles, near St. Louis, Missouri, she founded the first house of the Society outside France. It was in a log cabin - and with it came all the austerities of frontier life: extreme cold, hard work, lack of funds. She also had difficulty learning English. Communication at best was slow; news often did not arrive from her beloved France. She struggled to remain closely united with the Society in France.

By 1828 she had founded six houses. These schools were for the young women of Missouri and Louisiana. She loved and served them well, but always in her heart she yearned to serve the American Indians. When she was 72 and no longer superior, a school for the Potawatomi was opened at Sugar Creek, Kansas.

She was with the Potawatomi only a year; unable to learn their language; while others taught, Philippine prayed. The Indians called her “the woman who prays always” Legend has it that as she prayed the Potawatomi children would put bits of paper on her habit and come back hours later to find them undisturbed.

In July 1842, as her health was good, she returned to St. Charles.

She died in 1852 at the age of 83. She was beatified in 1940 and canonized a Saint in 1988.