Let us celebrate the heart of a missionary woman, in an era when we no longer send out missionaries, yet need to be as courageous and fearless as that pioneer, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne rscj.
Undaunted by the French Revolution, by lack of funds or physical privations, or even opposition from her own sisters, she forged ahead with a singleness of vision (some might say stubbornness) and from her foundations the Society of the Sacred Heart’s missions in North and South America, the Antilles and New Zealand were planted.
She can be our champion of responding to the poor and seeking justice for those who lack basic rights.
At every juncture of her life she faced difficulties with courage and an eye to serving the poor and disadvantaged. After the closing of Ste. Marie d’en Haut, her original convent in France, she gathered street children together into a makeshift school to educate them, and when she realized, upon arriving in Missouri, that she wouldn’t be going to “her Indians,” she wrote to the Secretary of War (then in charge of Indian Affairs!) to protest the policies for dealing with the Indian tribes. Her heart always inclined toward those whom today we would call the “marginalized.”
When she finally went to the Potawatomi band of Indians, she was too sick to serve them actively, but they saw her love for them and her desire to serve through her long hours of prayer and teaching the women how to sew. They called her "Woman Who Prays Always."
“But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 4:7
Who are our Potawatomi? What compelling calls do we hear? What calls us to work for justice?
St. Philippine Duchesne, teach us to pray always and to be present to your people in need of justice.
Sharon Karam rscj