The Society of the Sacred Heart is an international Roman Catholic religious congregation for women founded in France in 1800 by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat. The Society was founded in the aftermath of the French Revolution to provide educational opportunities for girls. In 1797, while living in Paris with her brother Louis, 18 year old Sophie decided to become a Carmelite nun. This not being possible, since the revolutionary state had abolished most religious communities, Sophie taught catechism in secret to the children of the area. In 1800, at the age of 21, Sophie abandoned her dream of becoming a Carmelite nun and, along with three other women took her vows as one of the first members of a new religious congregation, marking the foundation of the Society of the Sacred Heart. However, because the French authorities had prohibited devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the society was initially known as Dames de la Foi (“Women of Faith”) or de l’Instruction chrétienne (Christian instructors). The purpose of the Society was to make known the love of God revealed in the Heart of Christ, and take part in the restoration of Christian life in France through the education of young women of the rich and poor classes. Members of the society use the suffix “RSCJ” which stands for Religieuses du Sacré Cœur de Jésus or Religiosa Sanctissimi Cordis Jesu (Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).
From its inception, the Society of the Sacred Heart opened its doors to any girl, regardless of circumstance, who desired a Sacred Heart education. Moreover, Sophie did not see her mission solely in terms of preparing young girls to be good wives and mothers or to enter a religious congregation. Her schools would provide an education that would inspire young women to be agents of social transformation in their own times. The first school was opened at Amiens in 1801. The Society quickly expanded within Europe and beyond. In 1802, at the age of twenty-three, Sophie became Superior of
the Society of the Sacred Heart. She remained superior general of the Society from 1806 until her death in 1865.
The Sacred Heart School on Atwater Ave., is the sixth home of the school since its inception in 1861.The four story building was built by architect David Jerome Spence in 1928 . Since it opened its doors on Atwater in 1928, City House is a building rich in history and equipped for today’s students. The building was run by the nuns of the Sacred Heart Society until 1982, when the Convent became The Sacred Heart School of Montreal. Rooted in tradition, but always evolving, the Sacred Heart School of Montreal aims to instill the values that Saint Madeleine Sophie so valued all the while promoting creative education and leadership based on the five goals of a Sacred Heart education: 1- Educate to a personal and active faith in God. 2- Educate to a deep respect for intellectual values. 3- Educate to a social awareness which impels to action. 4- Educate to the building of community as a Christian value. 5- Educate to a personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.
Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on May 25, 1925.
In 2010-2011 the school celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Source: Sacred Heart School of Montreal / Soc. of the Sacred Heart / Catholic Online