ANNA DU ROUSIER RSCJ 1806 -1880
Anna was French, the eldest of five children; she was only eight when her father was murdered, and became a shy, anxious child. She attended a Sacred Heart boarding school, where, aged 12, she met the Society’s first missionary, Philippine Duchesne when she was en route to America. Anna was inspired by her words and bearing, and decided to become a nun and missionary. She entered five years later, despite her mother’s opposition.
She was sent to a new foundation in Turin, where she eventually became headmistress and superior, and also had overall responsibility for the other communities in northern Italy. However, in the 1840s Piedmont, and its capital Turin, were at the centre of the struggle for Italian unification, and the Sacred Heart convents, patronised by the queen, were a particular target of the dissidents. During the 1848 uprisings the Jesuits and Sacred Heart sisters were expelled from the region, and Anna returned to France, convinced she had somehow been at fault and failed her communities.
In 1852, after four years in charge of a school in Paris, Anna was sent to the USA to visit all the houses on behalf of the foundress and superior general, Sophie Barat . During this time she had the joy of a reunion with Philippine, shortly before her death, and received her blessing for her next mission – to make a foundation in Chile, thus taking the Society to Latin America.
Anna and two sisters travelled to Chile in 1853, a long, hazardous journey by ship and mule back, on bad roads, during which she had a serious accident and became ill. Living conditions in Chile were tough and spartan, but their teacher training college and schools thrived, and Chilean women soon started to enter. Before her death Anna was also able to oversee foundations in Peru and Argentina. She was a quiet, composed, gentle woman, who had somehow overcome her shyness and who died as she had lived, working hard and carrying out her mission until the very end.
Today there are about 75 Chilean RSCJ, as well as almost 500 in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela.