Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

Her name is Philippine.  Born in France almost on the eve of the Revolution, the 29th of August, 1769.  Philippine’s family was upper middle class, by the name of Duchesne, which means “Hearts of Oak.”  Her father was a lawyer who was quite active in the politics of France just prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

At an early age, she met a Jesuit missionary from Louisiana, who told her stories of the Indians, of attack and defense, of escapes, and of martyrdom.  To evangelize the American Indians was her ardent desire, which we shall see, was later fulfilled.  When the revolution broke out, we find Philippine at the convent of St. Mary’s desiring to become a nun.  Soon her mother died and Philippine organized a new society to aid in the rebuilding of France.

Philippine had entered the novitiate of the Visitation nuns in Grenoble, but she was not able to make vows because of the Revolution.  The nuns were expelled from their convent, and Philippine spent about ten years ministering to the sick, the dying, priests in prison, orphan children during the upheaval.  After the Revolution Philippine joined the Society of the Sacred Heart, which had been founded by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat in 1800.  She made her vows as a Religious of the Sacred Heart on November 21, 1805.

Her Ambition

In 1817, Bishop Dubourg of Louisiana, paid visit to the Sisters in France seeking missionaries.  The bishop told the saint of his hopes and difficulties, and of the poverty amounting to beggary among the Indians.  Years of waiting and praying had prepared her, years of patient striving had made her more perfect.  Humility, gentleness, charity, and patience were the virtues of the missioner.  Mother Duchesne prepared herself in her own way for her great mission; through prayer and suffering.  “If I cannot work for my savages, I can at least pray and suffer for them.”  Before the bishop left she secured permission to go to America to spend the rest of her life with the Indians.  God had crowned her long waiting.  His own good time had come.

The Mission

In the spring of 1818, the Ursuline Sisters of New Orleans, gave a glad welcome to Mother Duchesne and her fellow sisters.  A few days later she started with her party up the Mississippi river to St. Charles, Missouri.  Mother Duchesne learned along this journey, that there were 100,000 Indians of fifty different tribes in the Diocese of St Louis.  The Jesuits were diligently preparing for their missions and Father DeSmet was already at work among the Potawatomies.  Mother Duchesne would be in good company, as she made final preparations, for her final work.

Father DeSmet at Sugar Creek Mission.

Father DeSmet at Sugar Creek Mission.

In 1841 Mother Duchesne left St. Charles for Sugar Creek, Indian Territory.  A mile from the mission a band of five hundred braves appeared in gala dress-bright hued blankets, plumes and feathers, and moccasins embroidered with porcupine quills, that were dyed to brilliant shades.  Hands and faces were tattooed.

Arrival of Mother Duchesne at Sugar Creek Mission

Arrival of Mother Duchesne at Sugar Creek Mission

It was here at Sugar Creek Mission that Mother Duchesne taught the children, nursed the sick, and spent hours in prayer.

The Potawatomis spoke of her as: “The Woman who prays always

St. Philippine was a woman of heroic sanctity, and a strongly marked character.  Spotless innocence, generous charity, exalted devotion and an energetic virtue were the qualities that adorned Philippine Duchesne, which preceded her profession as a religious of the Sacred Heart.  Her outstanding trait was her apostolic zeal for the conversion of the Indians.  She was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II on July 3rd, 1988.

The Faith was first preached in this Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS  by these Jesuit Fathers at the Sugar Creek Mission.  St. Rose Philippine Duchesne is the only person who ever lived on Kansas soil to be canonized a Saint by the Catholic Church.

Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne – Sacred Heart Church – Mound City, KS.