The Congregation of the Children of Mary, whose primary purpose was the spiritual formation of the students of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, was first formed in Amiens in 1816, in the Paris school in 1820. In 1832, since the rule of cloister prevented the religious from leaving their convents, Mother Barat organized a group of former students in Lyons to perform works of service, especially for the poor and needy. From these roots grew sodalities, or religious fellowships, for the various levels of students: the Infant Jesus Sodality for the lower school, the Sodality of St. Aloysius for the middle school and the Sodality of the Holy Angels for the high school. The Children of Mary became the sodality to which students in their last year of high school and in college aspired. The initials E.deM., which a member wrote after her name, stood for the French Enfant de Marie.
While the aims of such religious fellowships are met in different ways today, in some Sacred Heart schools members of the former sodalities still gather for days of prayer and reflection.
It’s a Congé! This announcement is recognized by students at Sacred Heart Schools as signaling a day when they take leave of their regular studies and channel all energy into having fun. Congés come when they are least expected, since the planning for them is done in secret. Originally, the activities and games, such as cache-cache (a group form of hide-and-seek), were planned by the religious for the girls of the boarding schools.
The tradition has carried over to many Sacred Heart Schools of today and provides an opportunity for older students to exercise skills of planning and organizing as they work with administrators and faculty members to prepare activities for the younger students.
Only a few schools in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools formally maintain as part of their mailing address the full name “Convent of the Sacred Heart.” A stop at many schools, however, still brings a visitor face to face with the name on a sign or plaque near the main entrance. Such a sign is a reminder that the parents of older alumnae of the Sacred Heart schools were quite conscious of sending their daughters to what was sometimes called a “convent school” – not simply a school where nuns taught but a residence for nuns where young girls went to receive an education from the nuns and generally live with them for some part of the school term. From their founding until 1964, the Religious of the Sacred Heart were cloistered. In other words, they pledged themselves to the communal pursuit of religious perfection in a residence consecrated for that purpose and therefore, removed from the ordinary traffic of society. The religious were permitted to come into contact with individuals not living such a life of religious commitment and permitted to serve them as long as the contact and service occurred within the convent.
Of Scottish race, the youngest daughter of a clergyman of the Established Church of England, Janet Erskine Stuart became one of the most important influences in the lives of those she touched. As sixth superior general of the Society of the Sacred Heart (1911-1914), she traveled around the world sharing her inspiration on the education of youth and direction of teachers. Her book, The Education of Catholic Girls, highly acclaimed when it was first published in 1912, has come to be regarded as a classic, advanced in its insights into the pedagogy and development of young women. Originally written for a general audience with an interest in the problems of education, it is a must for anyone attempting to become informed about the spirit of education at Sacred Heart schools. Of the goal of such education, Mother Stuart wisely wrote, “So we must remember that it is better to begin a great work than to finish a small one…Our education is not meant to turn children out small and finished but seriously begun on a wide basis.”
The Network of Sacred Heart Schools offers a program of both domestic and international exchange to its students. In this program, upper school students, usually grade 10 or above, may apply to attend another school in the Network for approximately one quarter, or ten weeks, or the entire year. In order to qualify for exchange, students must be in good academic and social standing at their home school and obtain the recommendations of their teachers and head of school. The exchange coordinators at the students’ home school and intended exchange school handle the paperwork. After students are accepted, schedules compatible with what they have been and will be taking for the rest of the year are worked out. Exchange students live either in the boarding school or with a host family. The many advantages to exchange include seeing another part of the country/world, getting a taste of life away from home before college, experiencing life – academic, extracurricular, religious, and social – at another school, making new friends and building community within the Network.
Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, was born in Joigny, France on December 12, 1779. She was a frail, intensely thoughtful child. She grew up in the simple home of a barrel maker where she received a remarkable education under the guidance of her brother, Louis. At age 16, Sophie went to Paris with Louis to study, following a demanding program that included mathematics, Latin, theology, and biblical studies. It was in Paris that she learned from Father Joseph Varin of plans for a new religious congregation whose end would be to glorify the Heart of Jesus. It was to be rooted in prayer and devoted to the ministry of education. On November 21, 1800, with three others, she consecrated her life “to make known the revelation of God’s love, whose source and symbol is the Heart of Christ.” The first school was in Amiens, France. On January 18, 1806, at the age of 26, Mother Barat was elected superior general of the order, an office she held until her death in 1865. On Ascension Thursday, May 25, 1865, Madeleine Sophie Barat died in Paris. She was beatified in May 1908 and was canonized a saint in 1925. Her feast is celebrated on May 25.
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.
Field Day, sometimes referred to as Sports Day, is a special day near the end of each school year when students in Sacred Heart schools are able to display their athletic gifts. The way each school carries on the tradition may be unique. In some schools, a Committee of Games, comprised of students, may take on the task of preparing the activities. In other schools, Field Day has become the responsibility of the physical education department. In schools where the student body is divided into teams, Field Day may be the high point of the year, the last opportunity to accumulate points for the coveted cup or trophy.
The term Formation to Mission within the Network schools refers to an ongoing plan for the education of adults to the essential elements of the mission and traditions of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Dimensions of this formation include awakening and deepening one’s personal relationship with the heart of Christ, developing these competencies in the public sphere, and empowering others to claim their own relationship with God.
“The Goals and Criteria are the sine qua non for every school that belongs to the Sacred Heart network.” Preamble to the 1975 Goals and Criteria for the Sacred Heart Schools in the United States
In the late 1960’s in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, Sacred Heart schools faced a number of serious challenges: a declining number of religious available for work in the schools, a smaller number of Sacred Heart schools open and operating and the development of independent Boards of Trustees in the remaining institutions. Lay and religious Sacred Heart educators began to meet to find a way to safeguard the legacy and vision of Sacred Heart education in the United States. Eventually five goals were articulated that help define what a Sacred Heart institution true to the inspiration of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat strives to do, and specific criteria were drawn up by which to judge whether an institution is indeed pursuing each of the five goals and thereby merits membership in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools. The Goals and Criteria published in 1975 were adapted and refined in 1990 to reflect more accurately the challenges facing the schools as they near the end of the century.
During the 2004-2005 academic year, the constituencies of the Network Schools and Religious of the Sacred Heart engaged in a spirited consultation. The 2005 Goals and Criteria document is the fruit of that consultation. The “foundational principles” contained in this document are essential elements for being a Sacred Heart school.
Goûter is a long-standing tradition in Sacred Heart schools. In days of the boarding schools, when it was not uncommon for classes to meet until five o’clock in the afternoon, it was necessary to provide the students with a mid-afternoon snack. Later, as the schools grew, the cost and logistics of providing daily goûter became too complex.
Today, goûter, is a special treat to which students in Sacred Heart schools look forward on special feast days and holidays.
The International Passport is a small card that identifies the holder as a member of the worldwide Sacred Heart community. It is a helpful item in these days of constant travel. It can serve as a means of introduction and even a source of help in the forty-four countries where the Society of the Sacred Heart presently serves. The International Passport is usually given by the head of school at the end of the school year to the graduating class. There is also an International Directory of Sacred Heart Schools available on the Network of Sacred Heart Schools.
The Lily Procession is held on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th. The students present a lily to our Lady while saying, “O Mary, I give you the lily of my heart; be thou its guardian forever.”
This practice continues in few of our schools today. A celebration of Mary often takes place during the month of May.
In 1844, a generation after the Society of the Sacred Heart was founded, Pauline Perdrau, a young novice, took it upon herself to produce a fresco of the Virgin Mary on a wall in a recreational area of the convent, Trinità dei Monti in Rome. As a child, Pauline had had a favorite pink dress, so she chose to paint Mary as a young woman in a rose-colored dress rather than a matronly Madonna in blue. The lily at Mary’s side represented her purity; the distaff and spindle, her love of work; a book, her dedication to study. Unfortunately, although Pauline put herself wholeheartedly into her task, her inexperience with the technique of fresco did not produce the beautiful soft painting for which she had hoped. The too vivid colors had to be hidden behind a drape. Pope Pius IX, upon visiting the convent, requested that the curtain be removed. Seeing the fresco of our Lady, its colors inexplicably softened, he exclaimed, “Mater Admirabilis!” (Latin for “Mother Most Admirable”) Miracles soon began with the cure of a missionary priest who had completely lost the power of speech. Permission was given to offer Mass before the miraculous picture and to celebrate the feast of Mater Admirabilis on October 20.
There is a statue and/or picture of Mater in each of our schools today. This special day is marked with liturgical celebrations, alumnae gatherings and pink goûter.
In those schools that celebrate a May Crowning, students are chosen by their classmates to perform one of three functions during the May Crowning: to read an Act of Consecration to our Lady, to carry the crown, or to crown our Lady’s statue.
The Network of Sacred Heart Schools is composed of independent educational institutions historically interrelated and committed to the vision articulated in the Goals and Criteria. The purpose of the Network is to provide education, services and programs to further Sacred Heart education in the United States. Each member institution in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools is governed by an independent Board of Trustees. Membership in the Network is dependent upon commitment to the philosophy of and formal accountability to the Society of the Sacred Heart. This relationship of member schools to the Society of the Sacred Heart is monitored by a specific Sacred Heart system of institutional evaluation.
In 1804, four years after the founding of the Society of the Sacred Heart, members of the Society turned to Father Jean-Nicolas Loriquet, an educator of boys in Amiens, to ask him to draw up the first of eleven formulations of a Plan of Studies that would provide a guide for teachers in their mission to educate “the whole woman with a view to her own vocation in the circumstances and the age in which she has to live” (1952 formulation). At first, when all the schools were in France a single curriculum was in effect in all the boarding schools. Over the next 150 years, meetings of Sacred Heart nuns called chapters enacted revisions of the Plan to adapt it to new countries and cultures and to changing conditions. In 1958, however, a new document entitled Spirit and Plan of Studies replaced the Plan. It was a statement of the philosophy and pedagogy of Sacred Heart education that would hold good despite the external differences peculiar to each setting in which Sacred Heart schools find themselves. In this spirit, schools in the United States have adapted their programs and methods to suit the special situation of each school, but the formulation of the Goals and Criteria for Sacred Heart Schools in the United States (1975, 1990 and 2005) has helped to provide the feeling “of belonging to a larger whole, of sharing principles and values, broad purposes, hopes and ambitions.”
Originally the first exercise of the week in a school of the Sacred Heart, Primes was the assembly of students and religious at which judgment on the previous week’s conduct, good or bad, and results of the previous week’s tests were announced. Medals for politeness, for order, and for excellence in various academic subjects were also awarded, to be worn for a particular week. But Primes was also an exercise in poise. Each class was called, formed two by two, and advanced toward what could seem an intimidating group of black-garbed nuns. After forming a semicircle in front of the religious, the class curtseyed and waited for “notes” to be read. A card imprinted Tres Bien signified “very good” in behavior; a card with Bien meant “good;” a card with Assez Bien meant “good enough,” or rather “not good enough.” If a student was not bien at all, she did not receive a card, simply an oral report of “no notes,” a judgment to be dreaded. A student was expected to answer with graciousness and dignity any comment or question of Reverend Mother. This weekly practice has been replaced with monthly/quarterly, annual assemblies.
Sometimes referred to simply as “Prizes,” Prize Day brings a formal end to the school year in some Sacred Heart schools. Students are recognized for their academic achievements throughout the year and, in some schools, for character formation. The school community comes together for a formal assembly to distribute the prizes. In former days, the prizes usually consisted of books; now the prize can often be a certificate or award recognizing specific achievement. From the youngest to the oldest, the students are taught to accept awards graciously and to applaud the skills and talents of others. This practice continues in most of our schools today. In some schools the term Prize Day has been replaced with “Sacred Heart Awards” or some other title.
The Society of the Sacred Heart is divided into provinces, each province usually comprising a country or related geographical areas. There is a provincial, or superior, for each province, and a provincial team. The provincial is appointed by the superior general after input from members of the province (which numbers approximately 400 members in the United States). The provincial team is appointed by the provincial and, together with her, offers guidance for the spiritual, apostolic, and professional direction of the members of the province.
The headquarters of the United States Provincial Team is currently in St. Louis, Missouri. The team sends out monthly news of the province in the newsletter update, and its various members visit different areas of the United States each year. This group also maintains close ties with the superior general of the Society and her team, called the general council. They are located in Rome, the headquarters of the whole Society.
The use of the term “religious” in reference to the nuns who serve in the schools of the Society of the Sacred Heart is often confusing to friends new to the Sacred Heart way. The terms “sister” and “nun” are more familiar to those Catholics who attended parochial schools. Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart often sign their names followed by RSCJ, which is derived from the French Religieuse du Sacré Coeur de Jésus. During the 19th century, “Madame,” as a term of address, was used for the Religious of the Sacred Heart because the Society had come into existence shortly after the French Revolution, when it was not always possible to obtain recognition under a specifically religious name. Since then, “Madame” and later “Mother” were dropped in favor of “Sister” followed by the last name.
Ribbons, worn diagonally from a student’s right shoulder and fastened on the left at the waist to allow the ends to fall free to skirt length, have long been marks of distinction in Sacred Heart schools. Students in the third and fourth years of high school, classes that were traditionally termed Third and Fourth Academics, wore blue ribbons, light blue for boarders and dark blue for day students, while those in the first and second years (First and Second Academics) wore green. The blue and green ribbons were awarded by a vote of the students, ratified by the religious, in recognition of good conduct, good spirit, helpful influence, and leadership. Students in the middle school grades wore narrow green ribbons. In the lower grades, students wore pink ribbons, with red ribbons reserved for the first and second grades. Literary portraits of life in schools of the Sacred Heart, like Mary McCarthy’s Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood, usually mention the wearing of ribbons as a distinctive feature of the schools. Although still in use in several Sacred Heart Schools, ribbons are no longer worn everywhere.
The Sacred Heart Commission on Goals facilitates a system of accountability for Network schools in their carrying out the mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart. The commission is comprised of RSCJ and lay educators and trustees in the Network together with a member of the provincial team; it is accountable to the Provincial Team. The Sacred Heart Commission on Goals initiates, oversees and officially responds to a process of institutional self-reflection, by which each school at regular intervals is able, not only to determine where its strengths lie in relation to the Goals and Criteria, but also to express the concerns it has regarding how well it is living the vision expressed in them. The process aims to enable each school to formulate a plan for what it intends to do to deepen the life of the Goals and Criteria within its community. The mission of the Sacred Heart Commission on Goals stems from the belief that a community of educators can renew itself by means of just such reflective self-evaluation that yields fresh insights and recommitment.
The Network of Sacred Heart Schools facilitates communication between and among Sacred Heart educators and their constituents. Among its rich features, the site includes a map of and links to the schools in the United States, as well as a list of and contact information about Sacred Heart Schools around the globe. Group e-mails have been set up on this site for Sacred Heart educators throughout the Network. There is a calendar of events on this site and employment opportunities in Network schools are posted. Web casts of Network events and speakers are available on the resource page. One can also view and download Network documents: We Hold in Trust, The Life Lived, Glossary of Terms, the Network Directory, etc., as well as quotes and prayers from our Founding Mothers.
Traditionally, a Sacred Heart school is divided into teams. Each student, and sometime each teacher and administrator, is inducted into one of two teams, usually designated by colors; the Red or the Whites, the Blues or the Silvers, the Greens or the Tans. Distinct from the varsity athletic or physical education program in a school, the activities in which teams compete can range from selling tickets for a raffle or other fundraiser to participating in or attending an extracurricular event to decorating parts of the school building or keeping the grounds clean. In the boarding-school days of some of the schools, students earned or lost points for their team by the orderliness of their study hall desks and dormitory lockers; sometimes the striving for points led even to double casting for dramatic productions. Involving students in group ventures and rewarding group effort, teams attempt to foster a healthy sense of competition and school spirit and to heighten awareness of the value of individual contribution to communal ventures. Public recognition of such efforts can come from the posting of team points throughout the year and the final awarding of a trophy or prize to the team with the most points at the end of Field Day.
Mother Aloysia Hardey, our namesake for the boys’ school, opened schools all over the U.S., Canada, Cuba and beyond.
At St. Madeleine Sophie’s request, she even traveled incognito across enemy lines during the Civil War to bring help to the Sacred Heart houses in Missouri.
She remains here, in spirit, to answer your questions.
Where was the Mater statue located for many many years, and where is it now located?