Year of Prayer - September 10

Year of Prayer - September 10


With Dirt Under Her Fingernails

Philippine’s attempts to reopen Sainte Marie d’en Haut must have demanded skills that were not normally in the repertoire of wealthy young women. Had she been observant of trades people or did she simply problem-solve when taking on practical tasks? When Sophie asked her to prepare the house on the Rue des Postes, we hear that she not only scrubbed and cleaned but replaced window panes and assisted in applying the mortar when the builders were too slow.

We know that after a few years on the American frontier, Philippine was mending furniture and had mastered gardening, milking and mucking out the barn. When "difficult" children were sent out into the garden to spend time with her, who did they meet? Philippine was that old nun with the mended habit and dirt under her nails. She was not piously snipping off a few daisy heads but laboring to produce vegetables for the table.

In the early foundations, such practical tasks were necessary for survival and none of them were beneath Philippine. She rose to each new occasion and accepted the challenges with generosity, good humor, intelligence and a dash of Duchesne determination. There must have been errors and failures, but Philippine was not afraid to try. There would also have been occasions when her patience was tested in helping the impractical, the less competent and those not as willing to get their hands dirty.

Are we willing to get dirt beneath our nails as we labor alongside Philippine?

Donna Collins, RSCJ, Province of the United States - Canada
Image: Donna Collins, RSCJ

Year of Prayer - September 3

Year of Prayer - September 3


We Can Make a Difference

In this image, Saint Rose Philippine stands between two girls in a position that is very significant. This image reminds me of many illiterate women, particularly in my part of the world, who are struggling to love and educate their children against many odds. I have always admired Philippine’s courage. Even though she could not speak English, she founded schools in a predominately English-speaking country. She was a woman impelled to action for social justice. She never gave up the mission to Native Americans, for which she waited for so long. Through these actions, she realized the encounter of two civilizations by fighting against illiteracy and poverty for God’s sake. Philippine is my source of inspiration and courage, particularly in uncharted situations. She is a model teacher. I often ask, what might have motivated Philippine Duchesne to love children and the poor?

I see a similarity between Philippine and Pope Francis, whose hearts are wide open to the most vulnerable. On his way back from Greece last April, Pope Francis brought home with him twelve Syrian refugees, all of them Muslims. These twelve are now receiving language and job training as well as educational opportunities. Recently, he organized a party for 1,500 economically disadvantaged people.

In most cases, a poor person is an outsider, a person to fear! When I consider what motivated Philippine in all her actions, my heart is grateful for God’s unfailing love and for the gift of Philippine to the Society. I am convinced that only love can destroy barriers and create bridges between the poor and the rich. In Africa, some traditions have led people to perceive the materially poor and women as destitute and vulnerable. However, if educated, these groups of people become very capable and strong. I believe that the worst aspect of poverty is being illiterate. I pray that, as the Society of the Sacred Heart, we continue Philippine Duchesne’s legacy, becoming more aware of the injustices caused by poverty in our own time. Through education, may we do all in our power to eliminate these injustices.

Kaja Kayembe Clémentine, RSCJ, Province of Democratic Republic of Congo
Image: Hildreth Meière

Year of Prayer - August 20

Year of Prayer - August 20


The "Rebecca Moment" in the Philippines

Ever since Philippine Duchesne and her companions set sail for the New World on a ship named Rebecca, we have come to speak about "Rebecca moments" as times of choice, sometimes in perilous situations or when facing similar uncertainty about the future as Philippine faced when she boarded the Rebecca in 1818.

In the Philippines our "Rebecca" moment came on August 22, 1969, when the first two Filipino RSCJ "set sail" from Japan in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call for the renewal of religious life. It was 151 years earlier on August 21, 1818 that Philippine Duchesne set foot on Market Street Landing in St. Louis, Missouri.

More Filipino RSCJ joined them to start a "little society," living in a rented apartment in the midst of the inner city of Manila and seeking to discover how religious life for them as RSCJ would take form. The community participated in political action and education for the next twenty years of martial law until the People Power Revolution overthrew the dictatorship in 1986.

Soon after, as our contribution to nation-rebuilding, we went to Northern Samar, one of the poorest and most neglected provinces of the Philippines. This year we celebrate thirty years of presence in this Duchesne-like mission.

Together, our little community of the Philippine District prayed, discerned decisions, and eventually evolved a post-Vatican religious life form that was considered a breakthrough in the lifestyle and ministries of the Society of the Sacred Heart.

Maribel V. Carceller, RSCJ, District of the Philippines
Image: Maribel Carceller, RSCJ

Year of Prayer - August 27

Year of Prayer - August 27


Prayer to St. Philippine from Soboba Indian Reservation

O holy woman, who prays always, we honor you
You are like Eagle, soaring high to Creator
Your prayer is like sweet-smelling smoke of sage and cedar
Your presence with us is acorn meal, feeding our spirits and drawing us to Grandfather

O holy woman, who prays always, we thank you
You brought your Society to us long years ago
Your sisters are with us even now, in your name
Your love and prayer help us walk the Red Road

O holy woman, who prays always, we ask your blessing
Bless us, your Indian children, and stay with us always
Bless our land, Mother Earth, given by Creator
Bless all people who walk on Mother Earth. May we live together in peace.

Amen, Aho!

Window in St. Joseph Mission Church
Soboba Indian Reservation

The Eagle is Sacred—the carrier of our prayers to God.
The Smoke from the sage represents our prayers arising.
The Acorns symbolize the meal we celebrate, and
The Gourd-rattle is the music of our songs to God.

Marianna Torrano, RSCJ, Province of the United States – Canada

Year of Prayer - August 13

Year of Prayer - August 13


Philippine’s Return to Ste Marie d’En-Haut

In 1801, in the midst of a glacial winter’s cold, some Grenoble youngsters hanging around the streets were called by Philippine for a rather extraordinary task: to help her refurbish her dear Monastery of the Visitation, badly damaged by the French Revolution.

We see them carrying heavy packages.

We picture them cheerful and noisy ...

The mission with these children was clearly received at the time of her pilgrimage to La Louvesc in May 1800, a village evangelised by Saint Francis Regis. She returned then, having decided "to provide instruction for the poor, following the example of Saint Francis Regis."

Tenacity, courage and generosity energised Philippine in this step, and even more, because "in the faces of these boys, I saw the reflection of the Lord’s gaze," she stated.

A contemplative gaze? Yes, her whole happiness lay in being there, as it was on that blessed Holy Thursday night, April 1806: "I was happier among them than among all the grandees of the world."

Today? A mission always of today, according to Pope Francis: "Illiteracy still remains very present ... a great injustice striking at the dignity of the human person. Instruction is truly a particular (special) form of evangelisation."

With Philippine’s tenacity, courage and generosity, together with the strength of our charism, may we respond to this ever relevant call: to work for the integral development of the person, to build a world of justice and peace; and in response to the cry of the poor, to proclaim the Gospel (Cf. Constitutions §13)

Colette Mercier, RSCJ, Province of Belgium – France – Netherlands
Image: Robin (Catherine Blood, RSCJ)

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