Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in Joigny, a small town in northern France, on December 12, 1779. She grew up in the simple home of a barrel-maker where her brother, Louis, unable to complete his training for the priesthood, because of the political, social and religious upheaval of the French Revolution, gave her a remarkable intellectual formation for a young girl of the time. He introduced her to ancient history, the classics, literature and languages. At the age of sixteen, she went with Louis to Paris where she continued her studies in philosophy, theology and scripture.
It was in Paris that she learned of plans to form a new congregation of women whose end would be to make known the universal and unconditional love of God revealed in the person of Jesus. On November 21, 1800, Madeleine Sophie and three others consecrated their lives to God in the Society of the Sacred Heart. In this act, they committed themselves to a way of life that would be both contemplative and active, deeply rooted in prayer and devoted to the service of others in union with Jesus through the power of his Spirit.
In the aftermath of the French Revolution, Madeleine Sophie saw the education of women as the primary means by which the Society would enable others to come to know God’s love and be empowered to bring about social change within their particular areas of influence. Gradually, she opened schools throughout France and Europe. In 1818, Mother Barat sent Philippine Duchesne to North America. From St. Charles, Missouri, the Society spread through the United States, Canada, the Antilles, Mexico and South America.
Today, Religious of the Sacred Heart represent a diversity of cultures and races and serve in more than forty-one countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central America and South America. Since 1906, Religious of the Sacred Heart have served in the Archdiocese of Seattle. In addition to staffing Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart on Somerset, others in the community minister in parishes, social service agencies, health care facilities, educational institutions and spiritual development programs.
Madeleine Sophie Barat died on May 25, 1865. She was beatified in 1908 and canonized in 1925 at which time the Church recognized her virtues of wisdom, humility and charity. Philippine Duchesne, her pioneer friend and follower, was canonized in 1988.