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.