The history of Duchesne Academy begins in 1800 when the Society of the Sacred Heart was founded. Madeleine Sophie Barat, the foundress, grew up during the French Revolution and received an extraordinary education. Her great desire was to spread the love of Jesus Christ. For this purpose she and her first companions opened a school in response to the needs of the chaotic times in which they lived. As the Society grew, its apostolic works extended into other countries. One of her first companions was another French woman named Philippine Duchesne, the Society’s pioneer missionary. She started the first Sacred Heart School in America (1818) in the frontier village of St. Charles, Missouri. The year 1881 marked the opening of the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Omaha.
In 1881, Mother Margaret Dunne and three Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ) came from Manhattanville in New York to assess the possibility of establishing a Sacred Heart school in Omaha. Bishop James O’Connor took them by carriage to a part of the city called Park Place which was located far to the north and west of the city. The roads were rut-filled and dusty and there was not a home in sight. The land was a mass of tangled weeds setting high on a hill looking down at the city.
In spite of the roughness of the terrain and the primitiveness of this frontier town, Mother Dunne returned to Omaha to found the Academy of the Sacred Heart. In October of 1881 school began with an enrollment of three students. By Christmas enrollment grew to 15.
In the first 10 years enrollment grew to 150 students. One historic event occurred on Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913, when a devastating tornado demolished the north wing of the school. Reconstruction took a full year and changed the front entrance to the present circle drive.
In addition to the Academy, the Religious of the Sacred Heart operated and staffed Duchesne College and an elementary school for more than 60 years. The college closed in 1968 and the elementary school was phased out in the mid-1970’s, having educated thousands of students from preschool through college.
Duchesne Preschool reopened in 1999 to boys and girls.
Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat
Madeleine Sophie Barat was the foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Born in Joigny, France in 1779, she founded the Society in 1800 and sent the Religious of the Sacred Heart to establish schools in America in 1818. She was canonized in 1925 and her feast day is celebrated on May 25.
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne
Saint Philippine Duchesne was the first Religious of the Sacred Heart to bring the Society to the United States. She stopped in New Orleans in 1818 on her way up the Mississippi to St. Louis. From there, Bishop DuBourg sent her to St. Charles, Missouri where she founded the first Sacred Heart school in North America. Our school is named in her honor. She was beatified in 1940 and canonized July 3, l988. We celebrate her feast on November 18.