Year of Prayer - October 15

Year of Prayer - October 15


It's never too late!

Our human tendency is to set expectations for ourselves, resisting the creativity of the Holy Spirit within us. We want to know how and when things will take their course. When life does not go as we wish, we believe that God is not really listening to us. Some people think it is too late to explore new ways because they are too old.

Let us imagine what it meant to a 49-year-old woman to leave everything behind. When Philippine entered the Order of the Visitation in Grenoble, France, at the age of 18, she could not imagine the French Revolution that would force her to leave only five years later. She waited for nine years to return to her monastic life, and then for three years, she tried to reorganize the Order in Grenoble, with little success. Then, at the age of 35, she met Madeleine Sophie Barat, joining her with the Society of the Sacred Heart. This encounter gave her new goals and perspectives. Once again, she was able to leave everything behind. It was not until she was 48 years old that Philippine sailed to America, responding to her missionary call.

What did Philippine need to take these difficult decisions? Openness, faith, courage, patience, and strong inner freedom. She did not compare herself with others or her contemporaries in terms of how she evaluated her life or what she had achieved in her life so far. Instead, through constant prayer, with persistence in the presence of God, her deep desires were satisfied. The fire of the Heart of Jesus, the love and acceptance of her lived reality, gave her strength to endure.

Lord Jesus, create in us inner freedom, space where we can accept our reality with love. Open our hearts to listen to your Spirit, alive in our hearts and in our world.

Erika Tornya, RSCJ, Province of Central Europe, Hungary
Image: Erika Tornya, RSCJ

Year of Prayer - October 8

Year of Prayer - October 8


Oak Leaves

Philippine’s surname, Duchesne, means "of oak." For this reason we have always associated Philippine with the oak tree – the white oak that has leaves with rounded lobes. Another major species is the red oak with leaves with pointed lobes. Last year, the cabin in which I made my retreat was surrounded by white and red oaks. This cabin was also built by an aboriginal man. In this environment, while pondering our 2016 General Chapter Calls, I found myself painting a red oak leaf growing between two white oak leaves.

Philippine sailed from France in a ship across stormy seas in 1818 and landed in New Orleans, a rough journey that took over two months. This French woman who spoke only French crossed many frontiers – geographical, cultural, spiritual, social – in faith, as she responded to God’s call.

What might this painting be saying to us? Two white oak leaves supporting the growth of a red oak leaf may be Philippine protecting and blessing us as we explore new and different frontiers, holding our ventures close. "New frontiers," today, may be very different from what they were for Philippine. We are invited to be open to listening/hearing as new frontiers beckon. Some of us may be called afar, but new frontiers can also appear just where we are, inviting us to go to new peripheries "to accompany the life that is emerging there, to defend justice, peace and the integrity of creation in response to those who are searching for meaning in their lives, those who have been wounded, displaced, and excluded because of poverty, violence and environmental degradation." In the painting, St. Philippine Duchesne is saying, "Have courage, have faith." This holy woman, who was known to the Potawatomi as "the woman who prays always," prays with us now as we face and respond to the challenges of our time.

Marianne Tavares, RSCJ, Province of England – Wales
Image: Marianne Tavares, RSCJ

Year of Prayer - September 24

Year of Prayer - September 24


Our Timeless Source of Inspiration

The map held by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne could not suffice; she needed the guidance of the Spirit. The Spirit led our dear Philippine to the unknown and to becoming our pioneer missionary to the Americas. This was the beginning of the outward movement of our little Society, the spread of her mission to many other lands, including Africa.

Her courage in crossing ever-new frontiers remains overwhelming! Philippine looks straight into our eyes, inviting us to respond to God’s callings in our world today, troubled yet rich in God’s graces. By her example, she reminds us that a journey marked by faith is never straight. Some days may be green and others grey, cloudy, sooty and unbearable.

Against all odds we face today, for example, wars, terrorism, the immigration crisis, climate change and its threat to human life, Philippine challenges us to dare not give up but to persevere until our dreams come to fruition. She is a voice whispering to us, sharing her impeccable admirable spirit, calling us to live more humanly, united as one body.

May we set out, fearlessly, with our sails raised high, guided by God’s map, with Jesus Christ on our Rebecca. Ours is a journey of faith, mapped out as we navigate our own high seas to reach new frontiers, where human life is being threatened and needs to be defended. We look upon you, Philippine, to intercede for us, to have the same zeal for prayer and readiness to set out, and to set sail as a whole family of the Sacred Heart to new frontiers that beckon in our hearts.

Betty Susan Nankya Nsanja, RSCJ, Province of Uganda - Kenya
Image: Glenn Bahm

Year of Prayer - October 1

Year of Prayer - October 1


Education: A Frontier

The missionary spirit of Philippine Duchesne is an endless source of inspiration which stimulates us to carry on a prophetic mission on our daily frontier. I dare say that our educational mission in today’s world is a battlefield on the frontier. Faced with the greed generated by a neoliberal model of life, our service of education cannot stand in any comfort zone or neutral position.

Every day, as a school teacher, I am confronted with unjust policies based on human greed. Recently, the political situation in Korea caused us much suffering and soul-searching, particularly because President Park, who was removed from office through impeachment, is our alumna. The corruption of our government challenges us to reflect on our service of education with fundamental questions: Whom, how and why do we educate? Do we teach our students to be active citizens or just part of a passive mass?

Hannah Arendt maintained that evil comes from the tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without critical evaluation. Such thoughtlessness, I think, is our sin in Korean society, and educators have a great responsibility. If we cannot contribute to a radical reshaping of society, our institutions have no meaning.

To overcome the unjust realities in Korea, we RSCJs are trying to renew our ways of being, ways of teaching and ways of organizing ourselves. It demands our discerning efforts with analysis, logical reasoning and critical vision as we are faced with hidden intentions and manipulations in the social and political agenda. It demands our intellectual asceticism. On this battlefield, we hear the voice of Philippine: "Go! Be courageous and be patient!"

Lim, Tae Youn, RSCJ, Province of Korea - Chinese
Image: Students at candlelight demonstration in Korea
photographer unknown

Year of Prayer - September 17

Year of Prayer - September 17


Darkness into Light

Dark and light, not knowing where to go, what to do, chaos or creation – what was it that Rose Philippine Duchesne had to face in her life?

She felt herself called to be a missionary, and it took her a long way until Madeleine Sophie Barat let her undertake the adventure of setting sail to North America. Longing to live with the Indians, she had, first of all, to deal with the children in Missouri. When, after an almost life-long journey, she went to the Potawatomi, she had to accept that she was not able to learn their language. But she didn’t give up; she simply did what she could do, she prayed for them – so that the Potawatomi called her "The woman who always prays."

Philippine Duchesne didn’t give up when she had to face difficulties or when she had to accept that her dreams were far from reality. She had the capacity to discover light in every darkness; she was able to find ways where there seemed to be no pathway. Going to the frontiers of her abilities, she didn’t give up when she failed but opened herself to new horizons.

Is this the nature of a person who thinks positively? More than that, it is the strength of somebody who lets herself be guided by the Lord. It is the strength and the power of a woman who follows God through every darkness, step by step, trusting that every tunnel leads into light. Not her own will and desire determined what to do, but the reality in which she discovered God’s call.

Ilsemarie Weiffen, RSCJ, Province of Central Europe, Germany
Image: Mag. Radoslaw Celewicz, Vienna