Friday, September 7, 2018
Saint Philippine Duchesne's Arrival in St. Charles
On September 7, 1818, two hundred years ago, St. Philippine Duchesne finally arrived to begin the first school of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the new world. She opened the first free school west of the Mississippi and then the boarding school. I was so fortunate to have been able to spend my four years of high school there as a boarder. It is a holy place and many come on pilgrimage so I was privileged to be there and will always be grateful that my parents allowed me to go. At that time, the city of St. Charles seemed far away as there was only the old Rock Road, no highway connection yet, and the one narrow bridge. Now St. Charles is easy to get to from St. Louis, Philippine had a long journey in a coach and then had to transfer to a ferry boat to land at St. Charles in 1818.
The Bishop had rented a house for them; it was not ready and really not suitable as it had only one large room and six small rooms; there were more doors than windows. Somehow, our Saint Philippine and her four companions made it work. They suffered so much the first year that the Bishop said they could not remain. He moved them to Florissant, but in 1828 the Academy of the Sacred Heart was reopened in St. Charles in the same unsuitable house.
We tried to watch the reenactment of Philippine's arrival this morning, but it was not clear, probably due to the storm which had moved it from the river bank into the big gym at the Duchesne High School. They expected over 2,200 students plus the other guests who wanted to celebrate this memorial day!