Students honor hometown favorite St. Rose Philippine Duchesne on her feast day

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne certainly experienced the trials of a new frontier when she arrived in St. Charles in 1818. Lack of housing, cold, harsh weather and a language barrier were some of the challenges she and her fellow Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart faced as they set out to teach children.

Nearly 200 years later, Catholics living where St. Rose Philippine got her start celebrated the saint's feast day on Nov. 18.

The festivities started at St. Charles Borromeo, where schoolchildren, led by pastor Father John Reiker, buried a time capsule in front of the steps of the church, to be opened 100 years from now, in 2116. It was the last of the parish's 225th anniversary celebrations. The church was where St. Rose Philippine started her education ministry and where she eventually established the Academy of the Sacred Heart a few blocks away.

Contained within a vault were artifacts from the parish and school, including a file with a third-class relic of the saint, a copy of Father Peter J. Verhaegen's notes from her funeral and a photo of the sisters' cemetery, with the church in the background.

The cemetery remains there, resting between the church and the Academy of the Sacred Heart. Earlier in the fall, St. Charles Borromeo students took a walking tour of the grounds. They saw where the saint lived and died and the archaeological site where the sisters started the first school for girls.

St. Rose Philippine serves as an example of not giving up on your dreams, said Ann Tollefson, who co-chaired St. Charles Borromeo's anniversary celebrations.

St. Rose Philippine had just turned 50 when she arrived in St. Charles. "How many grandmas do you know who would set off to a new world that nobody knew anything about?" asked Tollefson, an alum of Sacred Heart Academy and Duchesne High School. "Just the journey across the Atlantic was not for the faint of heart. And not knowing what you were getting into and what kind of support you were going to get — how you'll be received. That's huge. Even at that stage of life to think: 'I want to do this ... I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there.'"

Just as the children were throwing the ceremonial rock on top of the time capsule, students from nearby Duchesne High School arrived a street over at the Academy of the Sacred Heart for Mass and veneration of the sarcophagus holding the remains of St. Rose Philippine. The 1.6-mile eucharistic procession was led by Father Paul Hoesing of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

St. Rose Philippine was brought here "by her desire," Father Hoesing said in the homily. "Desire brought her to this countryside which had very few people, very harsh conditions. ... She was so fruitful because she was on fire with desire to serve."

She also serves as an example of a woman in leadership, something admired by Veronica Swearingen, a Duchesne High senior and Student Council president. "I've been living with Mother Duchesne my whole life," said Swearingen, who attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart. "What she did, we're still living today. It says to me that she had such a devotion to everything that she did, and it's inspiring to see that."

Sister Maureen Glavin, RSCJ, head of school at the academy, described St. Rose Philippine's interiority and life of contemplation as an example badly needed in a world where young people are bombarded with negative values in a secular culture.

The saint helps "us know that when we go within and connect with God at our depth, we find deep peace, authentic peace," which allows young people "to be fully themselves and courageously revelatory of the face of Christ," Sister Maureen said. 

No votes yet