The Society of the Sacred Heart
Duchesne, as a College in the tradition of the Sacred Heart, owes much to the legacy of Madeleine Sophie Barat, Rose Philippine Duchesne and Janet Erskine Stuart, rscJ.
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.
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Rose Phillipine Duchesne (1769 – 1852)It was in 1937 that the Archbishop of Brisbane, Archbishop James Duhig, invited the Religious of the Sacred, an Order founded in France in 1800 by St Madeleine Sophie Barat, to take responsibility for the administration of the first University College for Catholic women in Queensland.… Read more
Janet Erskine Stuart (1857-1914)Janet Erskine Stuart is one of the great spiritual and educational leaders of the Society of the Sacred Heart. She was the sixth Superior General of the Society and has continued to have a profound impact on both the spiritual character of the Society and the schools and Colleges it established. Whilst in some ways quite traditional, Janet Stuart was at the same time a highly innovative and seminal thinker whose educational philosophy was focused on the development of the whole person.… Read more
Sacred Heart Education
The first Sacred Heart school opened at Amiens in France in 1801; others were soon established in France and across Europe. In a comparatively short time, schools were opened on all five continents. Today, there are over four hundred schools in the Sacred Heart tradition in forty five countries which represent a very wide range of schools and colleges, from kindergarten to university, as well as more informal types of education. All of these institutions have expressed the Goals of Sacred Heart Education in the way which best fits their own situation but, intrinsically, these goals do not differ.
Commemoration of the century of the life of Janet Erskine Stuart, Religious of the Sacred Heart
This year (2014) marks the centenary of the death of Janet Erskine Stuart, a former Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart and an outstanding educator. She once wrote:
“Your life is a sacred journey. It is about change, growth, discovery, movement and transformation. It is continually expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, teaching you to see clearly and deeply, helping you to listen to your intuition.”
Janet Stuart’s personal journey – and it was not without struggle – taught her this wisdom. She was born in England on 11 November, 1857, at the Anglican Rectory of Cottesmore in Rutland where her father was the Rector. She was the youngest child of her father’s second marriage so, when her mother died fourteen months after Janet’s birth, she and her brothers were raised by their oldest sister, Dody. Janet had a happy childhood, educated at home, but also enjoying the beauty and freedom of the countryside where she felt God close to her. As a child of thirteen, she set out on a solitary search to find the purpose of her life. This search took her seven years and finally brought her to the Catholic Church in 1879 at the age of twenty-one. Three years later she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart where she was to spend thirty years of religious life, most of it at Roehampton. In 1911, she was elected Superior General of the Society. The next three years, until her death in 1914, included a good deal of travel getting to know the religious of the Sacred Heart throughout the world. It was during this time that she visited Australia and New Zealand. Janet Stuart died at Roehampton on 21 October 1914, aged 56. She is buried in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Roehampton, one of the few parts of the original building which survived the bombing in World War ll.
Janet Stuart’s influence extends throughout the world today primarily through her writings. She was a renowned educator and spiritual guide and it was to celebrate this legacy that two Conferences were held in England this year to mark the centenary of her death. The first of these celebrations was an academic Conference, Inspiring souls: reflections on education, spirituality and leadership organised by Digby Stuart Research Centre for Religion, Society and Human Flourishing and The Research Centre in Values, Rights and Beliefs in Education. Digby Stuart, the Society’s former Teacher Training College founded by Janet Stuart, is now part of a group of Colleges which have joined together to form Roehampton University. The second Conference, The Seeking Spirit, which was based on Janet Stuart’s writings, her letters and spiritual journals, presented a deeper insight into her spiritual legacy. It is her writings that reveal to us a person who was deeply spiritual and deeply intellectual, a visionary and a realist. They reveal her openness to individual differences and her belief in a holistic approach to human development. She did not want anyone to try to imitate others, but to become truly their best selves. Above all things, she focused on God’s tender care, acceptance of and love for each person. She was a person who led by example and wrote that “no one can be educated by maxim or precept; it is the life lived, and the things loved and the ideals believed in by which we tell, one upon the other.” As this year is drawing to a close, we can all profit by reflecting on some aspect of her legacy.
Sister Kathleen Muirhead rscJ