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Friday, November 23, 2012

Sprout Creek Farm highlighted in Esprit de Coeur

Click here to read the story of Sprout Creek Farm (featured in Esprit de Coeur magazine) and learn more about the two Sacred Heart alums who make this endeavor possible.

Please note that 10% of all donations made on-line between now and December 8th to AASH will be given to Sprout Creek Farm. To Donate Now Click Here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Gratitude from the Oak Hill Kindergarten class (Villa Duchesne)

Listen to the voices of the Oak Hill Kindergarten class as they share their drawings and the ABCs of Thanksgiving.  These young Sacred Heart students tell us the many reasons they are grateful this Thanksgiving. Please feel free to share what makes you feel grateful in the comment section below.

Wishing all a very safe, happy and memorable Thanksgiving holiday! With much gratitude for my Sacred Heart education and the many friendships I have formed over the years!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

Artwork by Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS
as seen on the cover of America the National Catholic Weekly magazine
September, 2004 

Letter from Philippine November 2012

Dear Sisters and friends,

This is my first electronic letter, a challenge, but I was never daunted by a worthwhile challenge and I deeply believe communications, even from afar, through times and space, hold us closer and more united.  There are several things I wish to explore  with you.  First, I am sure each of you rejoiced with the hosts here above at the public canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha,  my, our,  native American sister in Christ.  Really there are so many more un-named, but we all rejoice in the recognition that hopefully will come to indigenous peoples through this public act.

A second thing I  rejoice with you about is the coming together of the Canandian and United States provinces – more like my “new world”, this large, expansive, land mass filled with people longing for the Love of the Lord to meet them in their everyday lives, joys, and sufferings.  I spent the first half of my life in France and Europe and the second half in the “new world.”   For me, the ocean was not a barrier, for you the border must not be a barrier.   We share this sense of mission regardless of the place where we are called to share our strong belief that Love builds a single world, a single Kingdom. 

For my small group, who came representing the Society, times were difficult, decisions did not neatly fit into known patterns. There were cultural differences that caused misunderstandings.  There were losses, with sickness and deaths of religious and students.  The vision, which had seemed so clear back home in France, at times seemed impossible.  There may be moments when these will be your experiences and feelings  too, but these things  can teach you to truly count on each other.  I used to write Sophie and complain that what was true for France did not fit the situations here and we had to change to enter fully into our reality.  You, too, will need that ability to let go and change for the good of the whole and the mission.  Culture can be an obstacle, or a richness.  Clearly you will work to mine the richness that is offered with this new diversity.  It really does challenge and gift us with its power to open our hearts.

I mentioned how  difficult were  the losses and deaths, among our own and our parents, students, neighbors.  I write in sympathy for those of you who shared these recent last journeys of sisters, friends, and family.  “Unless a grain falls into the ground”, a timeless message to recognize how life and death are meant to be about new life.  There is pain in these losses;  let it not pull you down, but forward, with renewed life. It is that life to be shared which called us into this time and place. You may feel, as I often felt, with our smaller numbers, perhaps we were stretched too far.  But, when each of us looked about and saw the people who, in so many ways cried out for the Love of God to enter their lives; we recalled how Sophie continued to expand against the limits: she was a believer.  Can you be any less?

I know many of you have taken my experience of night  prayer over the world to heart.  I also know many of you lie awake at night wishing you could fall asleep.  First, a challenge, why are you so awake?  Is it overwork? Anxiety? Remember the work is the Lord’s and he would prefer you trust Him.  Or,  are you awake because, like Samuel, you are being called in the night?  If so, I offer again my experience of prayer over the world.  Lift a people, a country, a concern to the Heart of our loving God.  Share the burden and the hope.  The night may pass more easily united in love.  Second, I feel humbled that this experience of mine has also brought this call to pray with our broken world in a new way into our schools.  The European Network set up a world wide ” uniting with Philippine in prayer”  initiative,  inviting any school that wished, to choose a country experiencing difficulties, find out about the country, write a prayer for that country, share the findings and a prayer for the country electronically with all the participating schools.  Perhaps, you can do this too, exploring a part of our world that seems remote but is close to the Heart of our God.

Lastly, I know many of you love that image that depicts me in my elder years kneeling in prayer among the Potowatami.  You see them leaving leaves and stones on my habit wondering if I move without them knowing it.  This image gained me the name “Woman-Who-Prayers-Always “.    Lately, I have reflected on that and I offer you my thoughts.  I was praying in sorrow, in failure, for I could do nothing else – not speak, not really cook, not carry water.  They did not see my weakness or failure.  They saw strength in me knowing my real place in the scheme of things.  Your sister, Melanie Guste, recently called this element of my spirituality “finding my knees”.  I think it is apt, but I challenge you to look again at what is not working in your lives or plans, what seems without hope of success, and knowing as you do, that the work is the Lord’s, find your knees.  It may not turn everything around,  but who knows what others will take from your humble need of the Love and compassion that you so wish to pass on to others.

I am delighted to celebrate with you.  You think this is my feast, but it is really the feast of our mission.  Today, be in touch with that mission.  May your prayer lead you deeper into the Heart of our God who calls us His own and wishes us to find as many ways as possible to share that love with others.  May your actions lead you deeper into His compassion for each other and for all who are pressed to the margins.  May your day begin with Thanks and end with Thanks, and between, be lived to the fullest.


Editors Note:  I received this most wonderful email on Friday and with permission from Sr. Kearney share it with you today.  May you find "Philippine's letter" as inspiring as I did!
Happy Feast of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne! Through the creative devotion of Bonnie Kearney, RSCJ, we have this wonderful “letter” from St. Philippine to inspire us on this feast day and in the days to come. May Philippine’s love for God and for people continue to guide our way. 
The Provincial Team, US Province
Barbara Dawson, RSCJ, Meg Causey, RSCJ, Sheila Hammond, RSCJ, Diana Wall, RSCJ

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A letter from the US Provincial ... Janet Stuart: Why We Celebrate Her Memory

Please note the information on Janet Erskine Stuart below that follows Barbara Dawson's letter was written by Sue Acheson, RSCJ (1954-2015)

November 11, 2012

Dear Friends:

This week we celebrate the birthday of Janet Erskine Stuart RSCJ, a world-renowned educator who led the Society of the Sacred Heart into the 20th century. We are happy to launch a new ministry of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the United States appropriately named The Stuart Center for Mission, Educational Leadership and Technology. The Stuart Center is a place dedicated to the Mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart and it is located in Washington DC, at the former CEDC building at 821 Varnum Street NE., a short distance from Catholic University of America.

The MISSION of the Stuart Center is to support and further the educational mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart by working with Religious of the Sacred Heart, collaborators and social justice groups to strategically respond to the educational and justice needs of our country and the world, to support the development of new projects and initiatives, to strengthen technology at the service of mission, to focus on youth and leadership and to provide conference space for religious and social justice groups aligned with our mission.

The VISION of the Stuart Center is to be at the forefront to foster a more just society through educational initiatives, technology and leadership development in collaboration with groups whose mission is aligned with that of the Society of the Sacred Heart and to support RSCJs to live mission to the fullest.

The Stuart Center is comprised of five offices, under the leadership of Sister Vicky Rajca RSCJ:
The Office of Educational Initiatives and Leadership, Director, Imma DeStefanis RSCJ

The Office of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, Coordinator, Diane Roche RSCJ

The Center for Education, Design and Communication (CEDC), Director, Laryn Kragt Bakker
The Office of Ministry, Director, Fran de La Chapelle RSCJ

The Conference Center, Director,Vicky Rajca RSCJ
It is through collaboration with a wide variety of organizations that the educational mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart realizes its fullest impact. Together we will respond more effectively to the needs of our community and our world. We ask Janet Stuart’s blessing on this 21st century educational venture.

We invite you to visit our website,, which will be launched on December 15th. Please feel free contact the staff to become better acquainted with the vast range of projects and services that will be available or stop by and visit!

With great hope,

Barbara Dawson RSCJ
Society of the Sacred Heart, US Province 

Janet Stuart: Why we celebrate her Memory

Why is the centenary of her death worth celebrating?Why is she someone whom we want to remember in the 21st century?

One reason is simply that she was a wonderful writer whose letters –especially those written during her extensive travels around the USA and Latin America between 1898-1901 – bring the environment she observed vibrantly alive. Devotees of blogs and of Twitter can admire her imaginative, concise, lively essays on various aspects of spiritual life or of community life – many of which still have something pertinent to say about relationships and the love of God.

Secondly, she was the first rscj at ‘senior management’ level in English speaking world to interpret the spirituality of the Society in a context we can recognize as ‘modern’ She installed electricity and the telephone at Roehampton, travelled in trains and motor cars, had regular dealings with lawyers, house agents, and government inspectors.  She experienced the struggle to respond to pressures for changed whilst remaining faithful to the core values of the charisma she inherited. Today we might make different choices, and are not at all concerned, as she was, with safeguarding a monastic lifestyle.  However, our freedom to be open to different ways of living religious life only ‘works’ because we have learned the lessons she inherited from St. Madeleine Sophie Barat and passed on in her own early 20th century idiom, of a person-centered spirituality that is rooted in the love of the heart of Jesus.

A third reason for remembering Janet Stuart is that she was the first Superior General to be able to exploit improved transport opportunities in order to respond to the challenge of establishing ‘Cor Unum’ in a global organization.  Where Sophie Barat had to wait months for letters to pass between France and America, and where Mabel Digby (Stuart’s predecessor) was inhibited by ill health and by a political instability in Europe that directly threatened the continued existence of religious orders in some parts of the continent, Stuart could take advantage of a window of relative calm between 1911-1914 to embark, literally, on a project to visit every community from Australia to America, from Chile to Japan.

The conferences she gave at each stop challenged religious to live up to high standards both in their religious life and in their professional lives as educators.  More importantly, the way she delivered them created a felt impact that meant the visit was cherished long afterwards – communities of sisters many of whom were ‘far from home’ felt recognized, valued, encouraged, part of the greater whole.  Although there was no attempt at acculturation, let alone enculturation, her round the world tour did evince a desire to listen and to know individuals in what was at the time a large and expanding organization.  She wrote that she had ‘great plans’ for the future, though they needed time to develop. She was tragically not given that time, but used the time she had in a way that perhaps laid solid spiritual foundations for the radical changes that were to take place after the Second World War.

The official photograph taken of Janet Stuart in 1911 when she was made Superior General rather overwhelms one with its ‘stuffiness’.  To a modern eye, the habit is stifling, and the curtained bookshelves in the background add to the impression of an outdated propriety and repression of individuality.  The individual seems absorbed into the organization, and into the values she must, as Superior General represent. However a closer look at the face within the wimple creates a more sympathetic effect.  It is an authoritative, open and intelligent gaze, with a hint of humor – at once reflective and engaged. In an essay written in 1904 Stuart wrote of how a personality can most fully reveal itself to an observer through a countenance that is ‘in repose’ and unconscious of itself’ whilst ‘fully turned to the observer … following its won thoughts’.  Intentionally or not this photograph seems to capture that idea.  It is a face that gazes out of a 19th century religious culture into the 21st century – a speaking expression, with which one could even now hold a constructive and meaningful conversation

The above was written by Sue Acheson, RSCJ and taken from the Society of the Sacred Heart England and Wales Providence website.  For further info on Janet Erskine Stuart, click here.


For your reflection…

There is much talk about the future of religious life. The case of LCWR brought the internal discourse of many congregations into the public sector.  Janet Stuart straddled two worlds, crossed the 19th and 20th centuries.  It was a time when a rapidly changing world brought both possibilities and resistance; excitement and fear and a definite uncertainty about the future of religious life at that time.  Are we not now at a similar point?

How can we as Religious of the Sacred Heart in the Province of US and Canada, like our sister Janet…

  • Make the environment, which we observe vibrantly alive?
  • Interpret the spirituality of the Society in a context we today recognize as “modern”?
  • Maximize the new technologies of an ever increasing globalized world to build our Cor Unum both here and internationally?
  • Respond to the needs of the world with the authority born of a deep life of prayers, an open and intelligent gaze and a hint of humor?

As the Stuart Center begins this new journey we also offer the Prayer for the New Year written by Janet Stuart.

Heavenly Father, unseen Companion of our life, give us faith and eager expectancy as we begin this fresh stage of our journey.  Take from us all fear of the unknown and teach us to wrest treasures from the darkness.  As the days come and go, may we find that each of one is laden with happy opportunities and enriching experiences; and when this year is ended may our best hopes be more than ever fulfilled.

Editors Note:  With regard to the above reflection, I would ask: How can we as Alumnae and Alumni of the Sacred Heart, like our sister Janet ... 
  • Make the environment, which we observe vibrantly alive?
  • Interpret the spirituality of AASH in a context we today recognize as "modern"?
  • Maximize the new technologies of an ever increasing globalized world to build our Cor Unum both here and internationally?
  • Respond to the needs of the world with the authority born of a deep life of prayers, an open and intelligent gaze and a hint of humor?