Since we were children, educated in a Sacred Heart school, we learnt to recognize the name of Philippine Duchesne as the first missionary of the congregation, without many details, but we knew of whom we were speaking.
Now, as a religious, the invocation of this outstanding woman is embedded in my heart; she was courageous in feeling herself insignificant, the good sister of the community who hastened to offer her services without being noticed, who tenderly welcomed the little ones in the school and who made up for the difficulty of making herself understood in a language that she never mastered.
One wonders how she was able to pass just as one among others, without the gift of a foreign language, but the Potawatomi give us the clue: she was the woman who prays always. That is her great gift, not just to our congregation but to the Church and the world of today. She gave that powerful witness of being the woman in whom people felt and experienced the presence of God.
The truly effective witness is that of a life in which the greatness of the humility of God vibrates. The deep and effective lesson of total self-giving in Jesus, who accepted to become one of us: limited but not worthless, powerless but not useless, close to us yet containing all the potential of the Trinitarian God, is what Philippine understood and what we and all the family of the Sacred Heart feel and love.
Philippine: the woman who prays always
Allow us to draw near very quietly,
While you pray, caught up in this thirsting world
And to learn as you did, the wise way
Of serving the water that springs up from the Eternal.
May we be always watchful
And allow God to pour forth his torrent
And reinvigorate the development of a people
Who are seeking solutions in the puddles
And are unable to find in our lives
The overflowing selflessness of God.
Help us to pray as you did
To pay the price of silence
And to receive joyfully the gift of a prayer
In which God’s gift of self
Overflows among God’s people.
Estela Henao, RSCJ, Province of Colombia
Image: Milton Frenzel