St. Rose Philippine Duchesne was a pioneer missionary of the Society of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ) who came to St. Charles, Missouri, from France and founded the first free school west of the Mississippi River in September 1818. Her journey with four companions from France to the New World was the beginning of the international outreach of the Society, now in 41 countries. Since 18 November 2017 the RSCJ community has been celebrating a Bicentennial Year of Prayer honoring Philippine’s life and work. On Sunday, 18 November 2018 at 2:30 PM in the St. Louis Cathedral the RSCJ community will conclude the Year of Prayer by celebrating a Mass for her feast day. Archbishop Robert Carlson will preside over the celebration.
As one component of their bicentennial celebration, the RSCJs commissioned me to write a Mass and hymn in honor of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne to be premiered at the conclusion of the year of prayer. Scored for assembly, cantor, SATB choir and chamber orchestra, the Mass and hymn will form part of a live stream of the event that should remain up at the community’s website for 24 hours from 2:30 PM CST on. Live stream access should be available here.
Philippine was especially interested in spreading the gospel and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus among many ethnic and racial groups. At age 72, at the specific request of Fr. Peter Verhaegen, the Jesuit in charge of the mission, she went with three other Religious of the Sacred Heart to Sugar Creek, Kansas, to establish a school for Potawatomi girls. Although she was too frail for much of the physical work and could not learn the native American language, she spent much of her time in prayer, gaining the title among the Potawatomi of “Woman Who Prays Always.” To reflect in some way Philippine’s pioneering spirit, the various movements of the Mass offer motifs reminiscent of 19th C. black spirituals (“Lord, have mercy”) and native American chants (“Lamb of God”) in addition to Taize-styled mantras (“Universal Prayer”) and contemporary quartal harmonies (the Gospel and Eucharistic Acclamations). The “Glory to God” and the hymn “O God of Ev’ry Nation” are both written as vigorous quasi-processionals.
All those who might be in the St. Louis area ca. 2:30 PM on this coming Sunday are invited to the St. Louis Cathedral to join in the celebration. Those in other areas might want to watch the event through the live stream mentioned above for 24 hours after the event. In any event, please join in prayer to God in thanksgiving for the powerful example of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and the faith and good works maintained by the international Society of the Sacred Heart she helped to found.