Friday, November 13, 2009
Gate to Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles
I have fond memories of both entering and leaving this gate at St. Charles as a child carrying a suitcase as I was a weekly boarder for my four years of high school there.
Now to continue with the Jane Cannon's little account of St. Philippine Duchesne returning to open the convent in St. Charles and the consecration of the new Jesuit church in 1828.
"When the consecration of the church began at ten o'clock all the towns-people were waiting in the church yard for the procession to begin. The nuns recalled several of the awkward things that occurred during the service. One priest asked for a little piece of cotton (probably to blot the holy oils.) A nun brought him a knife (the French word for knife is similar to the word for cotton.) A little later the priests notices that, in place of wine, the cruet had been filled with vinegar. One of the priests said, "Mother Mathevon, you have given us vinegar; now give us some wine!"
After the ceremony the bishop and all the dignitaries came to the log cabin for breakfast. The nuns tried to receive them as graciously as they could with their poor provisions. A cup of coffee was the best beverage they could offer. Mother Duchesne, wishing to give the best, hastened to sweeten it, and put two large spoonfuls of salt into it. When the bishop tasted it he exclaimed, "Oh Ladies, but it is salty!" All the other nuns realized immediately what mistake she had made for they had wondered earlier, "Where did Mother Duchesne get that beautiful white sugar?"
The next day, August 14, the bishop and two of the nuns went back to Florissant and Mothers Mathevon and O'Connor were left to struggle with their new environment. They soon put themselves to work to fulfill the roles of carpenter, painter, mason; and in fifteen days, they made the house unrecognizable. School opened October 24 for seven pupils. By November they had twelve; and by December, sixteen.
The nuns reported to their families and superiors in France, "We have been for some time the object of real curiosity, not only to the people of St. Charles, but to those of all the surrounding districts, who come in crowds to look at us. And one lady amongst others, after having looked us up and down with much care, said, in a very pleased way, 'But they are just like other people!'"
Imagine how they started the Academy that now has over 700 boys and girls who are receiving a wonderful education and are known for their politeness. We no longer have the high school but the school has excelled in so many ways. It is good to remember how the nuns began - no furniture to speak of, no beds, no running water, and lots of rats!!