Anna du Rousier was born on 20 December 1806 in Poitou, France. When she was seven years old she lost her father “as a result of political vengeance, in general for the help that he gave to the Realists during the “Hundred days”, and for his participation in the War of Vendée.
She studied at the Sacred Heart School in Poitiers. At the age of 12 she met Rose Philippine Duchesne who was passing through the school in Poitiers on her way to America. From then on, she began to ask and to prepare herself to enter the Novitiate. She entered the Congregation at the age of 17, in 1821. She never lost her desire to become a missionary.
In 1825 she made her First Vows and in 1831 her Final Vows. Her words express her commitment: “To apply myself constantly to procure the greater glory of the Heart of Jesus without ever turning in on myself …. Such was the decision that I took on the day of my Profession”.
During these years, in Turin, she had various responsibilities: Mistress General of the School, in charge of the orphan girls, accompanier to the Children of Mary (former pupils), spiritual accompanier of many people. In 1843, on being named Provincial of Piamonte, she travelled constantly because of the great demand for foundations, not only in the north of Italy but also in Austria and Poland, and the need to visit the houses that were dependent on her.
At the age of 46 she was sent to North America by the Superior General, Madeleine Sophie Barat. She arrived in May 1852 in order to visit the communities there. In November of that year she visited Rose Philippine Duchesne, who was very ill, and she managed to be with her in the days before her death.
Whilst in the United States she received her obedience to make a foundation in Chile. On 23 July 1853, with two RSCJ,(1) Mary McNally and Antonieta Pisorno, she travelled to Chile. In one of her letters she shared with her friend, another RSCJ called Louise de Limminghe, what this meant to her:
“At the end of July I received my obedience for Chile and I confide in you, my dear Mother, that never in my whole life did I experience such a great interior struggle as that which I felt then. The idea of moving away from the shores of “Lake Eerie” down to South America caused in my soul such repugnance and such resistance, that, during the night of the day on which I had received the letter, I suffered mortal agonies: I really believed that I was suffering something of the agony of Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. My heart, my soul, my imagination and my whole being were laid bare: the dangers of such a long journey, the isolation, the sense of abandonment, the difficulties I was going to encounter, thousands and thousands of fears and apprehensions terrified me to such an extent that, in spite of my supplications and petitions, I felt that my heart was fainting. After making many acts of acceptance of everything and handing myself over to everything, with many whole-hearted repetitions of the Our Father, the storm abated and a great feeling of loving peace inundated all my soul”.
Madeleine Sophie had received a request from the government in Chile for the foundation of a school in Santiago and for taking charge of the first training school for governesses.
The difficult journey, partly by boat and partly mounted on mules, lasted for a month. They arrived at Valparaíso on 12 September and at Santiago de Chile on 14 September 1853. They immediately began their educational work, which had a great influence on the education of women.
Soon, in 1858, foundations were being made all over Chile: Talca, Valparaíso, Chillán and Concepción. In 1870 she made preparations for a foundation in Lima, which she completed in 1876.
Thus, with Anna du Rousier and her companions, the Society of the Sacred Heart was born in South America.
After 27 years of work in Chile, Anna died on 28 January 1880, in Santiago, at the age of 74. In her last conference to the religious, she said:
“Let us think of nothing other than glorifying the Heart of Jesus, in loving it. This is the whole reason for our being. What a consolation it is to think that whatever we do, has nothing other than this as its end. Become holy, my sisters, become holy: you should have no other preoccupation”.
Her body rests at the foot of the image of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Mausoleum of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the Catholic Cemetery in Santiago de Chile.