Jean Gailhac was born in Beziers, France, on November 13, 1802. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Montpellier in 1826. Shortly after his Ordination, he requested of his Bishop placement as chaplain of the civil and military hospital in the city of Beziers. This work, which he continued until the foundation of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary on February 24, 1849, put him in contact with the most needy and marginalized of his society. A group of women gathered together to form a community dedicated to the works of Father Gailhac. The Institute grew rapidly and each member of the group brought her own talents and capabilities; each one assumed responsibility for some aspect of their common mission. Led by Mother St. Jean, first superior, they sought to be followers of Jesus who came that “all may have life” (Jn 10:10) and to grow in knowledge and love of God.
The desire of the community to make God known and loved led them to focus their eyes on other shores expanding first in Europe and then eventually to the United States.
Nearly 165 years after the creation of the RSHM, we celebrate the lives of the countless women around the world, following the order of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. These women spent their lives, as Father Jean Gailhac did, in ministering to the needs of people in many countries and situations.
Members of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary came to the United States in 1877 and established their first ministry in Sag Harbor, New York. Mother Joseph Butler, RSHM, was assigned to the United States. Her keen sense and foresight allowed her to quickly expand the RSHM work into parochial and private schools. Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York was founded December 8, 1907. Continuing to expand, Marymount School in New York City was founded in 1926 and in Arlington, Virginia Marymount University was founded in 1950.
As they responded to the needs of their times and reflected on the gospel and the origins of their Institute, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary began to diversify their work beyond schools into social, pastoral, and educational ministries. Cormaria Retreat House opened Thanksgiving weekend, 1949.
All of these ministries continue to flourish today. Since 1849 to the present, the Sisters have been committed to different ministries in sixteen countries spanning four continents.
The lives of the Religious continue to be rooted in the gospel, in faith and zeal for Christ’s work in this world, to be filled with joy and hope and on fire with the love of the Risen Christ.