St. Madeleine Sophie Barat & Our Educational Heritage

The Society of the Sacred Heart was founded by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat on the 21st November 1800. The first school of the Society was opened in Amiens in 1801. Madeleine Sophie died on 25th May 1865 and was canonised in 1925. Her feast day is celebrated on the 25th of May each year.

The Heart of Christ was the main focus of St. Madeleine Sophie’s life. With a mystic’s insight, she knew that each child is deeply loved by Christ. The perspectives of faith imbued her educational philosophy. She believed that the formation of the whole person reaches its full depth only when faith informs the entire process.

She saw education as a response to the needs of society. She was convinced that education flourishes in an atmosphere of mutual trust and that the best education takes place through relationships.

She wanted every pupil’s faith to deepen through the curriculum, through formation of character and through the ethos of the school.

She sought to make sure that qualities of heart and intellect developed in harmony.

In spite of the restrictions of the 19th century conventions she believed that the influence of a woman was incalculable, not only in the family, but also in the wider world.

As a pioneer of educational thinking, she insisted on a vigorous intellectual formation for women. She herself studied at home under the direction of her brother Louis and, by the age of twenty-one, she had received an education far in advance of what was normal for a girl of her time. In later life she said ‘I would have founded the Society for the sake of one child.’

The mission of the Sacred Heart Schools was influenced by the insights and vision of Madeleine Sophie’s early companions. The combined faith, interaction and reflection shared among our school communities, management, staff and pupils shape the mission of our schools for the 21st century. Through our Sacred Heart philosophy of education, of educating the whole person as a member of society, confident of personal worth and actively living out Christ’s call to know and share his love, we must ensure that our pupils gain self-knowledge, energy, purpose and conviction.

The quality of relationship has always been key to our Sacred Heart Schools and is still central to our educational philosophy today.

Never be afraid to ask your question. The most simple questions, asked humbly and honestly, lead to understanding.
Thérèse Day, Lecturer in Education, St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Dublin, former pupil, Mount Anville
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