Our Sacred Heart Roots

“I don’t really have any roots…,” a young woman recently shared with me while visiting the school. Listening quietly, I suspected that rather than having “no roots,” she was on an archetypal journey to find them. Does it surprise you that she has found her way to New Orleans? For us who live under the canopies of Live Oaks, whose tap roots extend both deep and wide, we value our roots as a source of identity and insight, character and culture.

Oak treeLooking deeply into our roots as a Sacred Heart school community, we discover that on this day, February 7th in 1818, St. Philippine Duchesne received her commission to North America from foundress St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. Historian, Louise Callen, RSCJ tells us that on the next day, the five Religious of the Sacred Heart set out from Paris on their arduous missionary journey to bring “the love of the heart of Jesus” to the new frontiers of the Louisiana territory. Five weeks later, on Holy Saturday, March 21th, they would navigate the last channel of the Garonne River to set sail on the Rebecca for the port of New Orleans.

If one probes this story critically, we realize that Philippine and her companions are embarking on the first part of their journey at the very beginning of Lent.

To me, this is an interesting revelation which inspires a reflection on the journey of Lentchair near oak tree for each one of us. We could ask, “Towards what do we set sail this Lent?”  “What journey are we making in Lent?” “To what is God commissioning us?” To whom or what are we willing to give our lives?”  “What shores do we need to leave to live an authentic Christian life?” “What are our new frontiers?”

As Headmistress, I can ask of our school similar questions, knowing that to thrive, prosper and grow as a school community, we must make an inward journey toward the deep roots of our identity and mission; while, concurrently, we must “cast off” from known shores in an outward journey toward the horizon ahead.

When leaving France, St. Madeleine Sophie reminded Philippine to stay close to her roots in France and to hold on to the mission as a inviolable bond. Through all she endured and sacrificed, Philippine found nourishment and solace in her deep roots of faith in God, the love of her family, and the accompaniment of friendship.

oak tree with green sproutOn Easter Sunday, this little group of sisters “awakened to the open sea of the Atlantic Ocean,” the new frontier ahead.  I pray that each one of us “set sail” from shore this Lent in the spirit of our frontier Saint, and, on Easter Sunday, awaken to find the peace and joy of the Resurrected One.

Note to readers: This is a letter written to our ASH school community at the Rosary in New Orleans, LA.

Bicentennial Celebration of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, St. Louis Cathedral

This short “Call to Worship” opened the Liturgy of Celebration with banners and song in a packed Cathedral. Philippine’s spirit is alive and well!

Good afternoon!
We gather here in this beautiful Cathedral for the opening of the Bicentennial year of celebration of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.

Philippine Duchesne was a pioneer missionary of the Catholic Church. She was a frontier woman of vision. And, she was a woman known as the “one who prays always.”

Beginning today, November 18th, 2017, and continuing through the coming year, the Religious of the Sacred Heart and members of the larger community of the Sacred Heart across the globe will–in a series of celebrations and observances– remember her enduring legacy.

In New Orleans, we have a special devotion to this French missionary who, after 2 months at sea, set foot in the New World just south of the City near the site of the Battle of New Orleans. There, on her arrival, she knelt and kissed the ground.

With four other Religious of the Sacred Heart, Philippine was welcomed by the Ursuline sisters and given hospitality at their Convent– only blocks away from where we gather this evening.

Continuing on her course up the Mississippi River, Philippine founded the first school west of the Mississippi, and she was ultimately responsible for the establishment of the Schools of the Scared Heart across the geographical landscape of North America. From her pioneering root, the Network of Sacred Heart schools has spread to become a very large tree. Today, there are 150 schools of the Sacred Heart in 41 countries of the world.

Philippine’s long life is marked by…
• …her singularity of purpose and her perseverance,
• …her enduring of faith in God, and
• …her extravagant heart for mission.

Despite continuing challenges and disappointments in the rugged territory of Louisiana, her prayer was one of constant and deep surrender—
• surrendering her illusions,
• surrendering her limitations of language,” and
• surrendering her plans to a higher, more mysterious, power that was at work in her life.

Philippine’s efficacy and, indeed, her sanctity was in HOW she lived—not in what she pursued or, even, achieved. Rather, her holiness was in her never-failing revelation of God’s love through all the times of her life, including all those times of personal uncertainty and darkness.

Philippine’s persistent faith in God is what enabled her to be courageous and to express such confidence that “all will be well with us.”

Let us now begin our celebration of the opening of this bicentennial year and of the enduring spirituality of mission given to us by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.

Awesome wonder

During this summer, I had the opportunity to go to Niagara Falls. This is a place that I had visited with my family when I was about 7 years old, and it left a deep impression on me. I have always wanted to return.

When I first rounded a turn in the street and caught a glimpse of those Falls, my heart just filled up with wonder and the beauty of the Falls really brought tears to my eyes.

Here, this is why: This is what I saw….

I stayed in that area for about 3 ½ days, walking down paths where there are rapids, and, even venturing out to the surrounding area of Lake Ontario where there is charming town surrounded by lush vineyards which produce Canadian wines.

It was an incredibly relaxing time, and the change in scenery and climate gave me some much need time to think deeply and to ask “What is it that God is calling me to? What needs my attention–my focus and the best of myself at Sacred Heart?”

Something that being near the Falls gave me in terms of priorities for the year was an insight into abundance.

Looking at the Falls, it is impossible not to have a sense of the enormous BEAUTY of the world. Beauty has always been a portal into God’s nature for me—as it was for the Foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat.

Being close to this water, it is simply impossible not to be overwhelmed with a sense of God’s abundant nature—the abundance of beauty in the water –and how this generous love of God can flow through us into the world.

I wonder…

• Am I looking at the world from perspective of scarcity or abundance?
• Am I ready to give out of a sense of my abundant blessings, as the Widow who gave her last coin?

Feeling blessed and so loved, it is natural to want to share this with others.  I realize through these kinds of experiences, I truly become what I receive.

 

 

With these rings….

Last week, members of the Junior Class at Sacred Heart received their ASH school ring from members of the Senior class. This special ceremony takes place in the context of a Eucharistic celebration, followed by a traditional ritual that includes hugs, flowers, and lots of smiling friends and families. Did I mention refreshments?

What follows in this post are my comments following this endearing ceremony:

Some people might wonder why we have a Sacred Heart ring, or why is it so important to have a “ring ceremony” like this one. They might think “…after all, it is just a ring!” Or, “Oh, it’s not a big deal, it’s just another piece of jewelry” or “Oh, (smiling) this is just another tradition at my school.”

But, that view is probably not shared by most of us who will wear rings throughout our lives for many reasons. But, why do we do that?

I know that many people from J.R. Tolkien to the writers of the Bible have reflected on the meaning of rings, but, for me, rings are reminders—reminders to what I commit in my life and of what really matters.

Looking at my vow ring on my left-hand finger this evening, I am reminded of who I am as a Sacred Heart Sister, an RSCJ. Not only a reminder to me, my ring speaks–without words–to others of my state in life, even to strangers who notice it.

For you, Seniors, your Sacred Heart rings will do that for you as you leave your school in a couple of months. Others will notice your ring and, perhaps even recognize you as a Sacred Heart graduate because our rings across the Network of Sacred Heart Schools are similar. I hope that your ring will remind you about the things that have been important during your years at this school.

When I wear my Sacred Heart ring, I am reminded of my parents who sacrificed to send me and my sisters to this school—sacrificed by getting up each morning and bringing 6 girls here for 14 years each—a total of 84 years at this school. I reminded of my Mother who would stop by this very chapel on so many of those mornings to kneel and pray in front of this statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  I am reminded of my best friend who now has cancer, and of how we have journeyed through so many things together all these years. I am reminded of my teachers, and of the religious sisters who planted a seed in my heart which became later a call to religious life.

Family. Friends. Sisters. The Community of the Sacred Heart: My ring is, yes, for me, far more than jewelry!

To the class of 2016-2017, I hope that these Sacred Heart rings come to mean these things for you, too! Wear your rings with joy, with pride, with memories, and as reminders of who you are as a “child of the Sacred Heart.” May God bless you on your journey!