by Jill Ragar Esfeld
MOUND CITY — There is a legend about St. Rose Philippine Duchesne whose shrine is part of Sacred Heart Parish here.
It recounts how the Potawatomi Indians, when they retired at night, would always see her kneeling in prayer. When they woke the next morning, there she still would be.
Not believing she could pray all night long, one evening they sneaked acorns onto the hem of her skirt. The next morning, the acorns were still there.
And so that is why the Potawatomi tribe called St. Philippine “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad” — or “Woman Who Prays Always.”
The legend is particularly fitting this year as the Little Sisters of the Community of the Lamb were presented with the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award.
Anyone familiar with the Little Sisters, a mendicant order located in Kansas City, Kansas, would say they, also, are “women who pray always.”
“Every year,” said Sacred Heart pastor Father Reginald Saldanha, “we try to look for a candidate who has been manifesting the spirit of Duchesne in the field of education or prayer or promoting Duchesne devotion.”
But before they even knew of the shrine here, the French Sisters had an affinity with the famous saint.
When the Little Sisters were invited to establish their order in this archdiocese, a Jesuit friend, Father Joseph Carola, suggested they pray to St. Philippine.
“He told us to entrust our future foundation to her,” said Little Sister Bénédicte. “And she helped us.
“Before we arrived, we prayed through her intercession to get our visas and, yes, we started to love her.”
The Little Sisters were honored to receive an award named for a saint they consider a patron.
“The Sisters have a lot in common with Sister Duchesne,” said Father Saldanha. “They have followed that spirit of prayer.
“And Sister Duchesne, even though she didn’t know anything about the Indians here and their culture and language, she wanted to come and just be a witness by her presence and prayer.
“And that’s what I’ve learned about these Sisters and the ministry they do. They just want to evangelize through their presence.”
Also, like St. Rose Philippine, the Little Sisters have their origin in France.
“Yes, she was French,” said Little Sister Bénédicte. “But also what touched us is her life of prayer, her concern for children, and her desire to live among the poor and those who were despised at that time.
“We feel a connection with her because it’s really also our call to a life of prayer and to a life in the midst of the poor and the little ones — to walk with them.”
The Little Sisters are frequent visitors to the shrine of St. Philippine Duchesne.
“At least once a month,” said Father Saldanha, “they come down to Mound City and celebrate Mass, bringing their one priest, and also visit the Duchesne park and pray.”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann presented the award at a Mass at which the Little Sisters sang at Sacred Heart Church Nov. 23.
A reception followed the Mass.
About the 2014 Duchesne Award recipients
The Little Sisters of the Community of the Lamb, a branch of the Dominican order, was founded in the 1980s by Little Sister Marie in France. The community espouses a life of contemplative prayer and poverty. The basis of its ministry flows from its poverty, which requires members to go out and beg for their daily bread and, in the process, share the Gospel with those they meet. For more information, visit the website at: www.communautedelagneau. org. (Click on “Little sisters,” then “USA: Kansas City.”)
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
Born in France in 1769, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne is known as the first female saint west of the Mississippi River. She was a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
In 1841, Jesuit priests asked the society to join them in a new mission with the Potawatomi tribe in eastern Kansas, along Sugar Creek.
Though she was 72 and physically weak, Sister Rose Philippine joined the group and assured the success of the mission by praying constantly.
She worked at Sugar Creek Mission for only one year, but the Potawatomi never forgot her.
St. Rose died on Nov. 18, 1852. She was beatified on May 12, 1940, and canonized by Pope John Paul II on July 3, 1988.
The original site of the Sugar Creek Mission has been preserved as a park and shrine.
To learn more about the Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne or schedule a visit, go to the website at: www. sacredheartmoundcity.org or call (913) 755-2652