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The Life of St. Philippine Duchesne

Mother Duchesne on boat to America

1769: Duchesne born in Grenoble, France

1788: Duchesne entered convent to be trained and educated for a religious life

1792: Returned home due to the conflict during the French Revolution/The Reign of Terror when all religious life and community was banned

1802: Joined the Society of the Sacred Heart, founded by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat

1815: Founded first Sacred Heart convent in Paris

1817: Bishop DuBourg (Bishop over the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas) visited Duchesne’s convent and Paris and Duchesne begged Barat to let her go

1818: Left France for the US with 4 other nuns, arrived in US, and opened first free school west of the first free school  established west of the Mississippi River in St. Charles, MO

1819: After a hard winter Bishop DuBourg found land closer to St. Louis in Florissant, MO. Duchesne was directed to open a new school in Florissant.  A convent was built and Duchesne and the nuns moved in December.  The convent also served as a day school on the first floor and boarding school on the second floor

1820: Opened Novitiate for girls to study to become nuns on the 3rd floor of the convent

1821: Opened Convent school Grand Coteau, LA

Portrait of Mother Duchesne
drawing of mother duchesne

1825: Opened convent school, St. Michael’s (LA) and the Native American girl’s school was opened in Florissant. The Native American school closed after Native Americans in Missouri ceded their land to the federal government in exchange for territory farther west and lack of funding for Native girls’ education by the US government

1825: Duchesne writes Barat and says that the policy of the US government is to drive all the Indians out of the settled states.  Agents buy their land and push them to uninhabited regions.  With this the Indian school closes, but enrollment in the boarding school at FLorissant continued to grow

1827: Opened academy and orphanage in St. Louis, Missouri funded by John Mullanphy 

Photo courtesy of Mo Historical society

1828: Convent and school in St. Charles reopened

1841: Went to Potawatomi in Sugar Creek (present day KS) who were forcibly removed from Indiana in 1838 and settled in KS

1842: Returned to convent in St. Charles

1846: Society of Sacred Heart nuns leave St. Ferdinand, much to Duchesne dismay to keep it open

1852: Duchesne died

1988: Duchesne canonized a saint, 4th saint from North America

St. Philippine Duchesne's feast day is November 18th

mosaic of mother duchesne at St. Louis New Cathedral

Mosaic of Duchesne in

Basilica Cathedral St. Louis

Photo courtesy of

St. Louis Magazine

Recommended Reading:

Philippine Duchesne: Frontier Missionary of the Sacred Heart, 1769-1852 by Louise Callan, R.S.C.J.

Philippine Duchesne by Catherine M. Mooney

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