Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865)
Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in Joigny, France, a small Burgundy town, December 12, 1779. As a young girl Sophie was tutored by her brother Louis Barat who recognized the intelligence and giftedness of his younger sister, instructed her in the classics of French literature, ancient history, Spanish, Italian and possibly some Latin-- a rigorous curriculum that at the time was reserved for boys.
In the aftermath of the Reign of Terror, Sophie moved to Paris where she continued her studies in theology, the Church Fathers, biblical studies, and mathematics. During this time she became acquainted with Fr. Joseph Varin who told her of an idea of another priest, Fr. Leonor de Tournely. The idea was to begin a company of women parallel to the then-suppressed Society of Jesus and whose work would be to revitalize Christian life in France. Sophie agreed to this idea and with three companions made her vows on November 21, 1800.
Sophie Barat and her companions opened the first school in Amiens. The education of girls, indispensable for the renewal of Christian society, was launched in Amiens in a privileged setting. The foundress shared the widespread conviction that it was by the good example and generosity of prominent people that society at large would get back the faith and live it. Birth and wealth gave rights in the absence of ancestral privileges in France, which had become egalitarian as a consequence of the Revolution. Rights also implied duties, in particular, attention to the deprived of society and active charity. In 1843 Mother Barat recalled the initial plan:
"The poor were not lacking sisters at that time, but the upper classes were being totally neglected; it was for them, therefore, that we were established. Care of orphans and the poor is excellent; however, it was not for them that the first members of the Society sacrificed their attraction for the contemplative life of Carmel. It was for these children who, because they were destined for a high place in society, needed the most solid Christian instruction and the strongest basis in devotion to sustain them amid the dangers awaiting them.
In 1804 she traveled to Grenoble to the Visitation convent of St. Marie d'en Haut. There she met Rose Philippine Duchesne. The two became fast friends and collaborated in the development and extension of the Society with Philippine establishing the Society of the Sacred Heart in the United States in 1818.Sophie made a spiritual journey during her life in which she struggled to change her image of God from the harsh one that the Jansenists propagated to an understanding of the depth of God’s love through her devotion to the Sacred Heart. As her followers, we too, are caled to a spiritual journey which calls us not to settle for childish and impoverished images of God.
In leading the Society of the Sacred Heart for 65 years Sophie wrote many letters, 14,000 of them survive in the Society’s archives. So we know Sophie very well. She was a builder who established more than 80 houses, an educator, apostle and spiritual guide. During the time the Society grew to more than 3,000 members on four continents. Sophie Barat died May 25, 1865 and was canonized May 24, 1925.
In reflecting on an anniversary, Madeleine Sophie said. "To-morrow it will be fifty-seven years since the birth of the Society. One person only was the first stone. The love of Jesus did everything. We generally find that here below things degenerate in the course of time, but it must not be so with this Sacred Heart family. I pray that those who now compose it may be better than those who went before them. You are our hope."
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Scholarships and Bursaries
Duchesne College seeks to nurture each of its students, in the tradition of Madeleine Sophie Barat. Acknowledging and celebrating ‘achievement’, in its widest sense, plays an important part in this.…Read more
The College boasts many facilities and services to our students, including a Learning Lounge, Wi-fi availability in common areas, 2 large common rooms, fully equipped Gym and over 200 single study bedrooms.…Read more