Mademoiselle Duchesne: Mere Duchesne, RSCJ
by Theresa Riley Shaw
Diamond Media Press

"Philippine would wear worn out clothing and was said to be a sight to behold. Her patched habit and veil were her joy."

Born in France in 1769, young Rose Philippine Duchesne was entranced by stories of Jesuit missionaries, studied at a nearby convent, and, when twelve, took sacred vows. However, her wish to reside in a convent was frustrated by the French Revolution, so she visited the sick, taught catechism to poor children, and practiced daily religious disciplines. Later, Philippine would improve and repair the war-ravaged convent building, perform hard physical labor, and receive girls there for religious study. Becoming allied with Mother Barat, she followed her inner calling, traveling to America to assist Native Americans and others as part of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Traveling often through newly founded American territories along the Mississippi River, she helped establish schools, convents, and churches. At the end of her life and gravely ill, Philippine was revered as a spiritual presence in the St. Charles Catholic community. She was canonized in 1988.

Author Shaw presents the life of this vibrant and determined woman compellingly, accompanying the narrative with line drawings and other graphic materials. She emphasizes the extreme humility of Mademoiselle Duchesne, who was always willing to take on the most taxing jobs—sweeping up the rubble of war, caring for swine, working ceaselessly despite many illnesses, sewing for the children, nursing the sick, and always feeling that she deserved and wished for no better. The author insightfully shows how by accepting her simple status, Philippine attracted appreciation from companions for her example of stalwart, prayerful persistence. She was seen to kneel in prayer for hours at a time and recited the Latin responses to Mass “to the very last days of her life.” Shaw also offers the text of prayers written by Philippine, and a record of her spoken words, helping create a stirring portrait of this spiritually stalwart female for modern readers to admire.

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