A Community of Three

My first community was named "Duchesne," and it was on the Feast of Philippine that I entered the novitiate in the Philippines. Since then Philippine has had a place in my heart, and I have been deeply inspired by her life of prayer and zeal for mission. From her story, I learned that her first desire for mission was to go to my country but that God had another plan for her. With all these connections, I felt close to her and often turned to her for help.

Four years ago, after my final profession, I was sent to my homeland for mission. I was excited but also filled with fear and uncertainty. I was afraid of being alone, without a community. Also, my presence was no longer just as an individual but as a member of the Society. This was a weight on my heart.

On the airplane, I read a small book written by Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ. Each word spoke to me deeply. I started to feel the strong connection with the Society and especially the presence of Sophie and Philippine. I conversed with them about many things, especially on the life of prayer and on "failure," the latter often Philippine’s experience. This gave me much strength and courage for the journey.

Before leaving the plane, I realized that I was in a community of three – Sophie and Philippine had joined me. Together we would start a new mission. This mission is now called the Duchesne Project. How blessed I am to be a member of this community!

Stella S., RSCJ, Province of Korea-Chinese 
Image: Andrei Rublev

Woman With A Global Heart

I find Philippine Duchesne to be a particularly inviting model for our twenty-first century world because she had a global heart.

A global heart shifts the focus of interest and compassion from “me” to “us” to “all of us”! This development describes an emergence of consciousness and compassion into ever-expanding circles. The circle of “my neighbor” is an ever-increasing number of people with whom I am capable of truly empathizing. A global heart has an inclusive, wide tent and a porous boundary!

Philippine Duchesne was constantly expanding the boundaries of her heart. As a child she yearned to reach out to the poor of Grenoble; as an adolescent and a young nun she dreamed of working with native peoples across the ocean; as an old woman she longed to travel to the Rocky Mountains and beyond—even to China. Philippine courageously crossed frontiers that were not just geographic or political; she crossed frontiers of social class, language, culture and custom. Philippine’s circle of compassion was as wide as the world. Her deep desire was to bring the Love of God, which she had come to know so intimately, to those in the world she thought were most removed from it. Philippine had a Global Heart.

So what of us? How broad is the tent of our own inclusion? How wide is the circle of our compassion? How porous are the boundaries of our hearts? For whom do our hearts hurt? If the answer is too narrow or parochial, it is useful to remember how Philippine’s Heart became so global. How? She opened her heart. She spent copious amounts of time allowing God’s Love, through Christ, to fill her, to form her and, ultimately, to transform her. Philippine’s heart thus became increasingly revelatory of Christ’s Heart. And as Christ’s Heart, her heart encompassed the globe.

Maureen Glavin, RSCJ, Province of the United States - Canada
Image: Microsoft clipart

Beyond the Limits of our Sight

Philippine dreamed big and listened wide for the voice, the call, of God. Whether working with those in need closer to home in Grenoble, or giving herself to a pull that would take her away from that which was physically familiar and ever deeper into the diverse terrain of the Heart where she made her true home, Philippine responded with disponibilité, creativity, and a broad, inclusive desire to make God's love known.

With fervor, she talked and wrote openly of her desires, her thoughts, her discernment with God. My contemporary imagination easily hears her saying year after year "and, oh, by the way ... if you need someone to cross an ocean and start something new ... I'm still open because that is where I believe God is calling me to go."

It is one thing to have the dream. It is another still to voice it. But it is something else altogether to drop everything and go forward once approval comes ... to go when the cost is dear and the unknowns looming; to go prayerfully and with courage; to say Yes and walk on knowing that doubt, fear, and challenge will be probable companions and might sometimes even gain the upper hand temporarily; to say Yes, above all else, to sharing the Love to which I too have given my life.

That level of freedom, that intensity of commitment to dreaming and discerning, to the Society, to God, and to God's people, is one of the qualities I admire most about Philippine.

Kim King, RSCJ, Province of the United States - Canada
Image: Adam Long

Staying

I think that Philippine would be very surprised by the admiration and inspiration that she arouses in us. Years ago, when I heard about her for the first time, I was impressed by her desire to be a missionary. I was struck by the fact that, with all that needed to be done in her country, with the great needs and challenges of the society of her time, she looked beyond her own frontiers and wanted to bring the love of the heart of Christ “to the ends of the earth”.

It has always seemed to me a great risk, full of courage, to decide to leave everything and to cross the immense ocean, knowing that it would be almost impossible to return. I admired her courage and the deep desire that encouraged her to embark on this voyage.

Now, years after first knowing her story, I discover that what I love most about her is what happened afterwards: meeting the practical difficulties of this new country where she had arrived, suffering from the lack of understanding of her own sisters, having to wait so long to live with the indigenous people for whom she longed to be in mission, and not to be able to learn their language. And on this journey, so full of obstacles, Philippine remained rooted in the love of Jesus, that love that had driven her on this adventure and which accompanied her in the midst of apparent failure.

When I think of how to be faithful to our charism today, I admire Philippine’s daring, but I also pray for her ability to stay in the midst of difficulties, to stay close to those realities which make us touch our own limits, to know how to embrace misunderstandings and mistakes, because there too a sacred space is revealed to us where we can discover and reveal the love of the One who loves us and wants to give us life in abundance so that we may share it with all God’s sons and daughters.

Paula Grillo, RSCJ, Province of Argentina-Uruguay
Image: Milton Frenzel

Living with Philippine’s Heart

I came to know Philippine Duchesne through stories told by one or other RSCJ, and from writings about her. Later I had the grace of visiting some places where she lived in the United States. With Philippine Duchesne, I have seen how my life is a physical, intellectual, human, psychic and spiritual journey with an open heart, like Abraham, moving towards myself, others, nature and God with a deep inner joy. Something I continue to experience linked with her is the openness in contemplating her picture on the Rebecca, crossing cultural, religious, North/South and social frontiers.

Setting out with nothing at the start of her mission, Philippine teaches me that real human poverty is not a lack of money, but rather the lack of heart or of love towards others. As Helder Camara puts it, “Nobody is so poor that he has nothing to offer; nobody is so rich that [she] does not need help.” By her person, Philippine enriches each of us. Temple of the living God, Philippine Duchesne has enabled me to see, through her being, that “to discover and manifest the love of the Heart of Christ by the service of education” is a universal heritage lived daily by every RSCJ and by everyone who decides to live by it.

N’guemta Nakoye Mannta (Juliette), RSCJ, Province of Tchad
Image: Margaret Mary Nealis, RSCJ

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