by Jill Ragar Esfeld
MOUND CITY — There were two relics of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne at a Mass recently celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in the park here named for her.
One was displayed in a monstrance beside the outdoor altar.
The other was enclosed in the archbishop’s pectoral cross.
St. Rose founded the first convents of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the United States.
In 1841, she traveled to St. Mary’s Mission here in Kansas, where she ministered to Native Americans of the Potawatomi Tribe after they walked the famous Trail of Death.
St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park is built on the site of the mission.
The Mass was celebrated in honor of St. Rose at the completion of a two-day hiking pilgrimage made by young adults and members of the Community of the Lamb of the archdiocese.
An altar was set up in front of crosses bearing the names of the 600 Potawatomi buried there.
The lawn in front of the altar, which the archbishop referred to as the “green cathedral,” was filled with Brothers and Sisters of the Community of the Lamb, young adult pilgrims and parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in nearby Mound City.
Father Barry Clayton, pastor of Sacred Heart, concelebrated, along with Little Brother Christophe.
The Community of the Lamb, like St. Rose, has its home in France, and the Little Sisters prayed to the saint when discerning their move to Kansas.
Archbishop Naumann has a unique bond with the community through a shared devotion to the saint.
When the archbishop addressed the crowd in his homily, he recounted the story of his own relic of St. Rose.
Referring to his cross he said, “The archbishop of St. Louis gave this to me at the time I was ordained.
“It had a reliquary in it, but it didn’t have a relic.”
The archbishop’s mother has always had a deep devotion to St. Rose.
“As a child, she was instructed by Sisters from the Sacred Heart community,” he said. “That’s actually who taught her catechism.
“After my father died, and she wanted to go back to school to become a teacher, she was given a St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Scholarship to go to college.”
Louise Naumann attended Maryville College of St. Louis, where she received the relic now preserved in his pectoral cross.
And she did become a teacher. As a matter of fact, she was the archbishop’s kindergarten teacher.
In 1988, the archbishop and his mother flew together to Rome to attend the canonization of St. Rose.
When he assigned from St. Louis to this archdiocese, said the archbishop, he saw the hand of God at work.
“One of the things I believe was very providential is that this is the one other place, besides the Archdiocese of St. Louis, where St. Rose Philippine Duchesne lived and ministered,” he said.
Along with the Community of the Lamb and Sacred Heart parishioners, the archbishop has a deep appreciation for the memorial park
“I’ve always felt it was a great blessing to be at this place,” he said. “And it is a blessing to have this special place here in the archdiocese.
“This is where St. Philippine Duchesne realized an ambition she had even before she came to the United States — this desire to preach the Gospel and share the good news of Jesus Christ with Native Americans.”
Archbishop Naumann encouraged the audience, and especially the youth who just completed the pilgrimage, to continue in the footsteps of the park’s great namesake.
“Let us pray,” he said, “that, just as these days you’ve walked with the Lord and you’ve made this pilgrimage with him and with one another, we will be faithful in this pilgrimage of life.
“Pray that we will accept our mission to bring his love to the world and to witness to that love even when the cross is present in our lives.”