St. Charles, Missouri
Rose Philippine Duchesne was one of the first important Catholic missionaries to serve on the American frontier. A member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, she founded the first Sacred Heart school in the United States, and became famous both for her work with Native Americans in the area as well for the establishment of many of the earliest Catholic Schools west of the Mississippi River. Based primarily at the settlement of St. Charles, Duchesne died and was buried here. Her shrine is located on the grounds of one of the schools which she founded.
Rose Philippine Duchesne was a French nun who was born in 1769 in Grenoble, France. Upon reaching adulthood, she dedicated herself to a life in the Church and joined the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. She was active doing the works of the Church until the French Revolution began to convulse Europe. In 1792 her convent was shut down, leaving Duchesne and the other members of her order to seek new forms of service.
In 1804, she joined the Order of the Sacred Heart, and served the Church with distinction throughout the Napoleanic Wars. In 1815 she received a commission to found a Sacred Heart school in Paris. As life in Europe returned to normal, the importance her work and that of the Sacred Heart began to spread to the New World.
By 1818, Rose Philippine Duchesne began to seek new challenges for her well established talents. She relocated to the United States, which had recently acquired the largely French-speaking Louisiana Territory. Exploring the Mississippi River, she ultimately settled on St. Charles, a small community outside of St. Louis, in which to begin her work. There she established the first Sacred Heart School outside of France.
For the rest of her life, Duchesne worked diligently to establish new schools in the burgeoning American frontier. She also found herself devoted to the local Native American tribes, caring for their sick and establishing schools for their children as well. Her ministry lasted for over three decades, during which time she effectively established a major education network in the St. Louis-St. Charles area. Sister Duchesne died in 1852 and was canonized in 1988.
The Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne is located on the grounds of the first academy she founded in St. Charles. Originally buried in a small, simple crypt, her remains were found to be miraculously preserved nearly a century after her death. In 1951, a new church was constructed to house her remains. That church was completed 10 years later. Although small, the structure is and serene in its historic surrounding.
The church interior is a mix of traditional American church features and modern style. It is both warm and functional, and designed for contemplation. The focal point of the church is near the altar where the saint’s remains are interred. Also on the grounds of the shrine is the original crypt where Duchesne was buried.
The Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne is located just north of downtown St. Charles, approximataely twenty miles northwest of the city of St. Louis. It is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:00am-3:00pm and some Saturdays (10:00am-3:00pm) and Sundays (Noon-3:00pm). It is closed daily for two hours for lunch. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Web: http://duchesneshrine.org (official website).
Close to the shrine are some of the buildings of the original School of the Sacred Heart, where the cell where Duchesne spent the last few years of her life can be found. Nearby in St. Louis is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, one of the largest and most historic churches along the central Mississippi River.