Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne was born in Grenoble, an ancient city in the French Alps, on August 29, 1769. Strong-willed and impetuous, she was the eldest daughter of a large merchant family. She was educated at home and at the Visitation Monastery of Ste Marie d’en Haut, located on a mountain above the city. She entered the cloister there against the wishes of her family. When the French Revolution swept down from Paris, Philippine was forced to return home. For ten years, in dangerous circumstances, she worked for the underground church.
Philippine was introduced to Madeleine Sophie Barat in 1804, and entered the Society of the Sacred Heart. The two, Philippine and Sophie, remained life-long friends. Philippine’s greatest desire was to be a missionary to America, to serve the Native Americans. She persisted in her requests, and in 1818, Mother Barat consented. Philippine and her four companions reached New Orleans on May 29, 1818. Philippine established the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi in St. Charles, Missouri. It was from this school in St. Charles, then in Florissant, that other foundations were made, and the twenty-one schools of the present Network of Sacred Heart Schools were established. The mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart spread rapidly throughout the New World, and the schools survived against great odds because of the prayer and sacrifice of Philippine Duchesne.
On November 18, 1852, at the age of eighty-three, Mother Duchesne died at St. Charles. On May 12, 1940, she was beatified by Pope Pius XII. She was canonized July 1988 by Pope John Paul I. Her feast is celebrated on November 18th. Her remains rest in the Shrine dedicated to her on the campus of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles, Missouri, USA.