At the beginning of the 21st century the Society of the Sacred Heart is a group of nearly 3000 women in over 500 communities in 45 countries. We work in universities, secondary and elementary schools; with handicapped children and adults; in popular education centers in rural and urban areas; with migrants, indigenous people, and refugees; in parishes, retreat centers, ashrams; in prisons; in advocacy work, especially with women and children; as teachers, administrators, lawyers, nurses, doctors, artists, writers, therapists, pastoral counselors, spiritual directors, and social workers. Most live in communities of three to seven people near those we serve.
Nearly 500 RSCJ live outside the country of their birth. Our central administration in Rome fosters our international communion and gives leadership and direction for the Society's mission. The 34 provinces of the Society seek to discern God's calls to us and in concrete ways to respond to these calls in our local settings.
The Society was founded in France in 1800 by a young Burgundian woman, Madeleine Sophie Barat. Her original inspiration was to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus and spread his love through efforts to fill the educational vacuum that resulted from the French Revolution. She and her first companions opened schools for girls, both rich and poor, throughout France. In 1818 she sent one of those first companions Philippine Duchesne with four others to the Diocese of Louisiana. Their first intention was to work with Native Americans, but the bishop sent them to work with white children in St. Charles, Missouri, whence the Society’s mission spread throughout the United States and Canada. Subsequently the Society spread to the other continents.
Philippine Duchesne realized her ambition to serve the Native Americans only in the last years of her life when she spent a year among the Potawatomi in Sugar Creek, Kansas. She died in St. Charles in 1852 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988. Her shrine in St. Charles is a place of pilgrimage.
Madeleine Sophie Barat governed the Society as superior general until her death in 1865; she was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.
Mission Statement of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, United States Province
The Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an international community of women in the Catholic Church, founded in 1800 by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. Sharing her vision and mission, we are convinced of the centrality of prayer and contemplation in our lives. We are committed to discover, live and announce God’s love through the service of education for transformation, in diverse ministries, particularly addressing the needs of children, young people, women and those in society who are marginalized.
What the Mission Entails
The love of Christ impels us: