From the beginning, Madeleine Sophie saw that one of the best ways of sharing her experience of God as a 'God of Love' was through the work of formal education.
A small boarding school was offered to her in 1801 and the first school of the Sacred Heart began on October 17th of that year.
Madeleine Sophie, who was very sensitive and caring, wanted to extend this education to as many students as possible, irrespective of their financial situation, so a free school was opened in January, 1802.
This pattern was followed in Grenoble in 1804 and 1805, and in Poitiers in 1806 and 1807, and was always a characteristic of Sacred Heart formal education until public education rendered private free schools unnecessary
At the time of Madeleine Sophie's death there were 84 Sacred Heart boarding schools and 74 free schools. This incredible expansion was due to some extent to the fact that school education had become a great need in France after the French Revolution, during which most of the religious orders had been suppressed.
In 1808, the Society of the Sacred Heart established a foundation in Belgium and this was the beginning of a movement that was to bring the Society to the whole world.
In particular, the years between 1815 and 1846 were marked by a significant expansion of the missions of the Society. From 1816 to 1829 alone the number of houses of the Society increased form 5 to 24, most of these in France with two in Italy and the most remarkable of all being that of a house in Louisiana in 1818 in what was then called the New World. 1842 saw foundations in Canada, England, and Ireland; 1843 in Poland; and in 1846, in Spain and Austria-Hungary. After 1846, new foundations continued. In 1848, Holland welcomed the Society of the Sacred Heart and in 1854, the great continent of South America with a first house in Chile to be followed by one in Argentina in 1880. At the same time as this last foundation, a small group of sisters set out for New Zealand. Australia was the next in 1882.
The society of the Sacred Heart came to Asia and Africa in 1908 with foundations in Tokyo and Cairo. Since then, the Society has spread to India, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia in Asia; and to Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Chad in Africa. A foundation was made in Shangai in 1926 but our sisters had to leave China in 1950.
This incredible expansion has been 'Spirit-filled' and everywhere the sisters of the Sacred Heart have tried to spread the Good News that 'God is a God of Love'. Calls for new foundations are still heard from many countries as today's world is thirsting for love, affirmation, caring, and the right kind of challenge.
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