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.

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.



Crossing a threshold…


The graduation ceremonies this year were very special. Our Senior Class and their parents filled the front courtyard of the Rosary campus with a special feeling of love and solemnity that only matched the beauty of the evening. As the sun slowly set, the commencement exercises began: a magical, heart-felt spirit-filled evening for all. I will not forget it…

Welcome to the Board of Trustees, parents, friends and family and, especially to the Senior class of 2017.

This afternoon, you walked through the arched gates of the Sacre Coeur as a member of the Class of 2017, and as a senior member of the student body at the Rosary. Later this evening, after a very traditional and formal ceremony, you will leave through these same gates as a graduate of the Rosary.Graduation(127)-X2

These gates are a powerful metaphor, and as you walk through them, you cross over a threshold—the one that lies between the entrance to this school and your exit from it this evening. “Crossing a threshold” is a sacred and a powerful moment in the journey of life, and each of you are crossing an important one this evening.

When you entered these gates as a student, you crossed a threshold, and within these gates, your journey has been carefully accompanied by your parents, teachers, and friends. Like the black iron fence these people have formed a circle around you as you have learned and grown to become the women you are today. Your parents have given you the gift of a Sacred Heart education, and they, with all of us here, have supported you in your pursuits of arts, academics and athletics.

But, later tonight, as you leave through the gates with your back to the school, you are at a point of departure, and you cross a boundary. You are on the verge of something new and your step is the first one of a new beginning. I hope that you make this step mindfully—and make it, as St. Madeleine Sophie said with “courage and confidence” for what lies ahead.Graduation(213)-X3

As I prepared for these commencement exercises, I thought about the themes that so many celebrities talk about at graduation ceremonies. These people tend to about the value of striving towards goals, TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS, USING MISTAKES TO BUILD A BRIGHT FUTURE, NEVER GIVING UP ON A DREAM, AND SETTING HIGH EXPECTATIONS.

Themes like these are all good thoughts which no doubt help to inspire new beginnings. But, as a Religious of the Sacred Heart, I believe that I would be remiss if I did not remind you to look upward—to literally look upward this evening to the statue of Jesus which stands as a reminder of your true destiny.

Keeping Jesus as the center of your life is your choice now and it will be entirely your initiative. Keeping Jesus at the center of your life will protect you, will give your strength when times get rough, and knowing of the love of His open heart will nourish you at times when you really need it.
As St. Paul said, “….let nothing separate you from the love of God through Jesus Christ.” (Romans 8: 38)Graduation(270)-X3

As I look at you this evening, I see a senior class of young women who are kind, smart, generous, service oriented and true leaders. You are confident women and strong women who have made all of us so proud. Looking at you this evening, I believe that you are specially prepared for lives of courage and for lives of leadership.

Thank you, seniors, for being such a wonderful group of human beings!
I hope that you leave Sacred Heart filled with a sense of grace for all that has been given, grace for having received it, grace for sharing it with others, and grace to make a beautiful difference in the world. May God bless you on this next stage of your journey in life.Graduation(16)-X3

Our Circle of Donors

This evening, we gather together for a special Liturgy of Thanksgiving for our Circle of Donors to the 2016 Annual Giving Campaign.

At Sacred Heart, we traditionally begin this evening in this chapel with Mass because each of us here has been given a special gift by God—an impulse to generosity which has poured out from God to you as an expression of love for the students in this school.Choir

Jesus loved little children and He called them to himself. He said, “…let the little children come to me.” Each of you have received that instinct of Jesus’– to love, to care for and to call little children to know Him personally and deeply as a child of the Sacred Heart.

You are here this evening because of this special call. And, whether you realize it or not, you are
to impart to each one of them a sense of being enfolded in a family of faith that reaches to the farthest ends of the earth. These gifts of yours to these 736 children of our school are truly immeasurable, timeless and priceless.


You may not know this, but St. Madeleine Sophie Barat considered generosity as an essential aspect of the Society of the Sacred Hearts’ charism in the Church. Madeleine Sophie constantly empathized generosity with her nuns as being essential to the character of the sisters and to their religious formation.

To her, generosity was an attribute of God’s heart and of God’s way of loving. She observed that generosity was inseparable from the other virtues of kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty and empathy. In other words, if one was generous one was likely to also be a person who puts the interest of others over self, gives of their time, resources, skills and knowledge, holds nothing back, and lives life with courage and confidence.

I look out into this chapel as we begin this liturgy: I see Evelyn and Vince Liberto, our Annual Giving Chairs, our Board leadership, and person after person in this chapel that are just as St. Madeleine Sophie described–people who are all part of this marvelous mission of Sacred Heart education in New Orleans. Among you, I see kind people, sensitive, compassionate, honest and passionate people—all possessing qualities of Jesus’ heart.

With all of you, it is a joy to be in mission here at Sacred Heart.

With the faculty, staff, students, and the Religious of the Sacred Heart, we pray in gratitude for you, our circle of donors, for your gifts to this school in so many ways—your gifts of time, resources, knowledge and assistance in so many ways. You are very special gifts of God and a very special help to me and this school.

Now, let us stand, greet our celebrant, Fr. Frank Reale, S.J. and join Mrs. Jodi McWilliams and our Primary School Choir as we sing together our opening song, “Gather Us In.”