Sophie’s Charism — A Gift to us All

September 17, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

This week we celebrated the 203rd anniversary of the founding of the Academy of the Sacred Heart by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and her four companions: Eugenie Aude, Octavie Berthold, Catherine Lamarre and Marguerite Manteau. These courageous and faith-filled Religious of the Sacred Heart came to an outpost town, the launching point for westward exploration, and opened the first free school west of the Mississippi. Challenged at every turn, they established the Academy and set in motion the founding of houses (schools) across the country and south into Cuba and South America.

To honor that tradition of going beyond boundaries, students at the Academy participated in a Commissioning Mass to honor their commitment to others. With their parents present, Eighth Class students were recognized individually with the gift of a Philippine medal.

While following in the footsteps of Philippine, students were reminded that Philippine’s work was done in support of the charism given to and shared by her friend, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat. A charism is considered “the extraordinary graces given by God to an individual for the good of others.” Sophie’s charism came about as she recognized the situation in her homeland following the French Revolution — she knew she needed to do something to make a difference in the lives of others. She sought to make known the love of God present in the heart of Jesus to help people come to know they are loved by God.

This past Sunday, we read from the letter of St. James wherein he reminds us that having faith is not enough . . . it is through deeds (good acts) that faith is demonstrated. This summer I learned that 82% — nearly 2,000 charisms recognized by the Catholic Church — are no longer active. These extraordinary graces, these gifts, are no longer being experienced. This fact makes the Academy’s Commissioning Mass even more significant, as through the commissioning, students pledge to hold Sophie’s spirit, her charism, her gift in trust . . . ensuring that it will be carried forward.

Each of us, whether parents, alumni, teachers, staff, administrators or friends of the Academy, has the opportunity to choose, as these students did, to discover the graces God shares with us and reveal them to the world for the good of others. When we cooperate with the Spirit dwelling within, we see opportunities everyday to love God and our neighbor. Through this our lives become “an eloquent lesson to the world.”

Caritas vincit omnia. Love conquers all.

United in mission,
Dr. Susan Dempf


An Unexpected Growth Opportunity

September 10, 2021

It was harvest time in the Academy garden earlier this week . . . or at least that is what I thought. I was excited to see that the carrots planted last year by Mrs. Murray and Mrs. Pearce had come to maturity. I envisioned surprising the students with a snack of carrot sticks that they had grown. That was the plan.

I was shocked by the result! The stem was broad and strong and the leaves were at least a foot or more in length . . . the top of the carrot as it peered out of the garden bed looked bright orange. Every indication was that this carrot was ‘ready.’ So, I pulled, and pulled . . . and this is what revealed itself!


Your Heart is Not Your Own

September 2, 2021

Greetings Academy families and friends,

Thank you to all who attended last night’s Back-to-School Night! We were so happy to offer this event once again in person, and it was terrific to see so many in attendance. Your participation is a wonderful affirmation of the partnership between parent and teacher, parent and school on behalf of your children. Thank you again for your presence.

Recently, a line from a television ad caught my attention. It was an advertisement for some medication — I have no idea which one . . . and while the product did not catch my attention the final line of the script did. It went something like ‘after all — your heart is not your own.” This thought has stuck with me, and I invite you to ponder it as well.

‘Your heart is not your own.’ There is truth to this. We who belong to this community of Christ’s heart understand this deeply. In each encounter with those we love, a little portion of our heart is given to them. In return, they share their heart with us. This giving and receiving comes in the form of shared ideas, dreams, and desires. It comes in the form of shared loss and longing. We trust in each other to safeguard and cherish that bit of our heart and the love we share.


Welcome Back!

August 20, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

What a great first week back! It has been so nice to hear the sounds of active, happy children throughout the buildings.

It seems hard to believe that it was more than a week ago that we greeted faculty and staff for the 2021-2022 academic year. We began our opening day with mass celebrated in the Shrine of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne. At the conclusion of our liturgy, I offered the following words of reflection with the Summer Olympics as conduit:

I will admit, I am a bit sleep deprived these days. You see, I love the Olympics!
Since the Opening Ceremonies, I have been drawn to watch the events of the day or night in Tokyo . . . Beyond the political intrigue and drama, the Olympics allow me to appreciate the commitment of the athletes and their families . . . So when one of the commentators noted that an athlete’s “life” came down to what happened in a 90-second performance, it got me thinking . . . is that really so different from each us?

When we look back at our greatest opportunities, are they not really a series of moments in which we made wise choices?


Mission Day Reflection

May 17, 2021

Please enjoy Dr. Dempf’s Reflection on Mission Day which she shared with the children at the conclusion of the Mission Day Prayer Service. 

On May 25 we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, the foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart. We honor her because we are recipients of Madeleine Sophie’s vision. Her understanding of the love present in the heart of Jesus and her unwavering trust and belief in the value of education form the foundation of all we do at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. She understood that through education her students would be better equipped to help those in France suffering in the aftermath of the revolution.

Sophie’s belief in rigorous education for all, and in her time that meant schooling for girls as well as boys, offered students the ability to think, discern and act. These were and remain the tools each of still needs to come to understand that we are God’s beloved and as such, we are the ones who must carry forward into the world hope- hope that comes from love.


The Blending of Intellect and Faith

April 22, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

It has been a busy week at the Academy as we have worked to support the formation of ‘master thinkers.’ Our teachers, whom we will recognize as the Honorary Chairs at Chemin de Fer are professional nurturers of thought. They help students to find their voice and grow in courage and confidence to use that voice for good. By instilling skills that enhance critical thinking and compassionate action, our teachers and staff ready students for the purpose that God will reveal as their own unique gift to this world.


Solemnity of the Annunciation

March 25, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation.  On this day we recognize the Blessed Mother’s ‘yes.’  Visited by the archangel Gabriel, Mary is invited by God to become the mother of his only Son Jesus.  The Word made flesh.  The moment, through which, each of us became one with God, united in our humanity.


A Year Ago This Week…

March 11, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

A year ago this week the bell was being rung to sound the impending arrival of COVID-19 in our region. As a school community we benefited from our membership in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools as colleagues in New York, Seattle and San Francisco shared what was happening in their areas. Their already lived reality helped us to prepare and shape our response.

Today I wish to express my gratitude to all and specifically signal the teachers who in the waning time before Spring Break gathered materials and prepared the students as well as themselves for the possibility of a mandated shutdown.


Beginning our Lenten Journey

February 12, 2021

Dear Academy families and friends,

On my desk I have a prayer card given at the 200th Anniversary Eucharistic Celebration of the establishment of the Society of the Sacred Heart in the United States (and the founding of our school). It reads from a letter sent by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne: “I am where God wills me to be, and so I have found rest and security. His wisdom governs me, His power defends me, His grace sanctifies me, His joy sustains me and all will go well with me.” Philippine knew in the depths of her soul that she was loved by God. Her faith is an example to each of us and the confidence that we associate with her comes from that absolute trust.


Joyful Advent Calendar

November 20, 2020

Dear Academy families,

In my home parish in New York there was a great tradition of following an Advent calendar to help us all prepare for the coming of Baby Jesus on Christmas Day. With so many traditions being put on hold due to COVID-19 precautions, I thought it might be nice to share this Advent activity as a way of bringing us together in prayer and joyful anticipation of the coming of Christ into the world.