Room 1: The Beginning
Backstory and Context
The Society of the Sacred Heart was founded in France in 1800. After only eighteen years, five religious set sail from France to make the first foundation outside Europe. Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne was trusted by the foundress Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat to lead this small group to St. Charles, Missouri. In 1820, Philippine learned of a widow, Mary Sentee Smith, who was willing to build a school and pay the transportation of the nuns to come to Grand Coteau, Louisiana.
Permission was received from St. Madeleine Sophie to begin this foundation and Sisters Eugénie Audé and Mary Layton boarded the Rapide for the trip down the Mississippi River. After a three week trip, they arrived August 1821. They were expecting reinforcements from France: funds, supplies, and additional sisters; however, this would not arrive until February 1822.
Setting out with only about $100 (500 Francs), Sisters Audé and Layton were already in debt after they arrived in Louisiana. The house provided them was unfurnished with no locks on the doors or windows. Sleeping on floors and working through heat and sickness, the two sisters (with assistance from Mrs. Smith) were able to secure furniture, school and prayer books, and enough provisions to open their doors in October of 1821 to eight girls.