Our Founding Mothers
Madeleine Sophie Barat
Daughter of Jacques Barat, a cooper and vine grower. Naturally bright, she was educated by her older brother Louis who, at that time, was an unordained cleric. At the age of ten, France underwent its Revolution with its suppression of Christian schools. The education of the young, particularly young girls, was in a troubled state. As Sophie grew older, her brother felt she needed a wider field than Joigny in which to develop her intellectual gifts, and so he brought her to Paris with him. She wanted to be a Carmelite lay sister, but with Father Joseph Varin and three other postulants, she founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1801, who are devoted to the Sacred Heart, and dedicated to teaching girls.
She became Superior General of the Society at age 23, and held the position for 63 years. Receiving papal approval of the Society in 1826, she founded 105 houses in many countries; Saint Rose Phillippine Duchesne and four companions brought the Society to the United States.
Mother Barat died in Paris. She was canonized on May 24, 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Her feast day is May 25th.
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Virgin (Feast day - November 18) Born in Grenoble, France, in 1769, Rose joined the Society of the Sacred Heart. In 1818, when she was forty-nine years old, Rose was sent to the United States. She founded a boarding school for daughters of pioneers near St. Louis and opened the first free school west of the Missouri. At the age of seventy-one, she began a school for Indians, who soon came to call her "the woman who is always praying". Her biographers have also stressed her courage in frontier conditions, her singlemindedness in pursuing her dream of serving Native Americans, and her self-acceptance. This holy servant of God was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1940 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
Janet Erskine Stuart
Janet Erskine Stuart was born November 11, 1857 in the Anglican Rectory of Cottesmore, Rutland, England. As a child of thirteen, she set out on a solitary search for Truth, having been urged to this venture by a casual remark of one of her brothers that every rational creature must have a last end. The search for this last end took, she said, seven years and brought her to the Catholic Church at the age of twenty-one. In 1882, she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton, outside of London, where she was to spend 30 years of her religious life. Named Mistress of Novices soon after her profession, she became Superior in 1894, and 17 years later was elected the sixth Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart. While Superior General, Janet Stuart set as a goal to know all the religious personally and visited every community in the Society throughout the world.
Janet Stuart's influence extends throughout the world primarily through her writings. Religious of the Sacred Heart as well as many other congregations and individuals committed to spiritual growth and educational excellence have been inspired by her conferences, essays, and poetry. Among Stuart's best known works are Highways and Byways of the Spiritual Life, (1909) and The Education of Catholic Girls (1912).
Janet Stuart died a few months after the outbreak of World War I, on October 21, 1914.