One of the saints that I have gotten to learn more about in my time in Kansas is St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. You won’t find her in a lot of saint books but she is truly an inspiring saint. She was a woman of prayer, earning her the name “Woman Who Prays Always” from the Potawatomi Indians.
Born in Grenoble, France, Philippine always wanted to be a missionary. From reading a few of her letters I realized the zeal for which she felt this call. It was a burning desire in her heart to minister to the native people of the new world. She served in the underground church during the French Revolution and then joined of the Society of the Sacred Heart. It wasn’t until the age of 49 that she was finally able to come to America in 1818, just 14 years after the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Not only was she a saint but a pioneer paving the way for us all! I find her a woman of great heart much in imitation and with devotion to our Lord’s most Sacred Heart. Fearless and brave, she found herself in charge of five struggling convents in the new world.
In 1841 the order was asked to join Jesuit Priests in their work with the Potawatomi at Sugar Creek Mission. The Potawatomi Tribe had been forced to leave their home in Indiana in 1837 to cross 4 states and finally settle in eastern Kansas at Sugar Creek. This evacuation is known as The Trail of Death. Like the Cherokee Trail of Tears the conditions on the trail were horrible and many did not survive. Life at the mission was difficult. Many of the provisions originally promised by the government were either never provided or only later provided through the missionaries.
Though Pilippine was much too old to do the work the missions required, she had a great influence on the Potawatomi. She prayed fervently and unceasing for the mission. This is why they named her the Woman Who Prays Always. They wondered if she ever moved during her all night vigils. So one day, they decided to test this. They placed pebbles and such on her while in prayer. They came back the next day to see if the leaves and stones had been moved and they found them undisturbed.
We were able to visit three sites dedicated to Saint Rose: St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park in Centerville Kansas, Her Shrine: Sacred Heart Church in Mound City, Kansas and finally her burial Shrine in St. Charles, Mo.
All of them were beautiful places. My favorite part of our trip was the actual site of the Mission. There was a spirit of peace there that made me feel a close connection to the place where St. Philippine loved most. The collage below shows pictures from all three.