November 18th is also the optional memorial of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769 – 1852), a native of France, but who spent much of her life as a missionary in the American midwest, back when it was wild and wooly territory. She was from a noble family, whose fortunes somehow survived the persecutions of the French revolution. Rose had joined the Visitandines in 1788, against her father’s wishes, but had to return home when their convent closed and the nuns dispersed by anti-Catholic revolutionaries in the event of 1789.
After Napoleon’s rise a decade later – after much chaos and bloodshed, and the eventual reestablishment of the Church and religious orders – Rose joined the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1804, newly founded by Madeleine Sophie Barat, and was sent as a missionary to America in 1817, an apostolate she had always desired.
Enduring many hardships in crossing the sea, and making their way up the Mississippi, after discovering the bishop had made no provisions for them, Rose and her few companions ended up in a log cabin in Kansas. They endured the summer heat, and freezing winter, often with little food, but began their work to teach children, settlers, immigrants, natives. Sister Rose struggled to learn the language, and hence, devoted much of her time and energy to interceding for the community.
Eventually, age and infirmity forced the good sister to return to the city in 1842, and she spent the last decade of her life as a victim soul, ever-more feeble and going blind, but always offering up what she was given to God, and to God she went on this 18th day of November, in 1852.
May Sister Rose Philippine Duchesne intercede for us all, and not least for those who teach, that they may see their work as a vocation and an apostolate, for God and for the students entrusted to them. +