Celebrating the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
For Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the Friday which follows the second Sunday after Pentecost has had special meaning for decades. It is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As a child, I remember the picture of the Sacred Heart that hung in our home. As a student in Sisters of Providence schools, I remember seeing the image in our classrooms. As a teenager, I remember hearing from my Sister of Providence teachers about the devotion to the Sacred Heart that was part of the heritage that they had brought with them from France.
I learned that it could be traced back to the early Fathers of the Church like St. Ambrose, St. Augustine of Hippo and martyrs like St. Justin and St. Cyprian.
The devotion spread even further through the revelations of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
The church encouraged the spread of the devotion by granting approval of texts for liturgical use throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Saint Mother Theodore may have encountered the devotion while she was teaching at Rennes.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart became an integral dimension of the spirituality of the Sisters of Providence and images of the Sacred Heart became commonplace in chapels and homes where they lived and prayed.
In the late 1960s when the Sisters of Providence developed provinces, they named the geographic area surrounding the Motherhouse in central and western Indiana, Sacred Heart Province.
St. Raphael was dubbed patron of the East all the way to New England, St. Gabriel, patron of Indiana and territory stretching southeast to Florida, St. Joseph, patron of Illinois and contiguous regions, and St. Michael was patron of the missions in the West.
Eventually, as the congregation evolved in the 90s, the sisters decided to end the “province” governance model and returned to the more centralized model that they had had throughout most of their history.
Even though provinces no longer exist, Sisters of Providence will pause to celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart this Friday, June 11.