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Society of the Sacred Heart known for exceptional schools

March 27, 2015
Therese Fink Meyerhoff
Director of Communications, Society of the Sacred Heart

Catholic San Francisco is featuring one religious congregation from the archdiocese in each installment of this periodic column marking the Vatican’s Year of Consecrated Life.

As around the world, in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the Society of the Sacred Heart is best known for education. The society has two exceptional schools in this archdiocese: Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco (established on Bush Street in 1887, now on Broadway) and Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton (established in 1898 in Menlo Park). Both educate boys and girls, from the very young through high school. In addition, in 1930, the Society of the Sacred Heart founded the San Francisco College for Women as an outreach of the Academy in San Francisco. In 1970, the school became known as Lone Mountain College; it is now part of the University of San Francisco. Theresa Moser, RSCJ, served as assistant dean at USF and now serves at St. Ignatius Parish on campus, continuing the society’s relationship with the university.

The Society’s newest community, Sophia House, is a welcoming place for young adults in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Located in Berkeley, it is home to five Religious of the Sacred Heart (commonly referred to by their initials, RSCJ) and a gathering place for prayer, retreats, discernment weekends and cultural celebrations. The community at Sophia House emphasizes simplicity of life, care for the environment, contemplation and community.

Regardless of the setting, all that RSCJ do they do with the heart of an educator. In 2009, the Society committed to taking action against human trafficking. Since then several RSCJ in the Bay Area have immersed themselves in fighting slavery – beginning with efforts to educate others. Sister Fran Tobin is actively engaged with STOP SLAVERY: Northern California Coalition of Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking, which works with faith-based communities, civic organizations and government agencies to educate, advocate for legislation and take specific actions against human trafficking. Retired Sophia University professor and psychologist Sister Virginia Dennehy counsels victims of trafficking who have found shelter in safe houses. She also works with the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition and with Love Never Fails, which has developed curricula for grades seven-12.

For many years, San Francisco native Irma Dillard, RSCJ, served at St. Boniface Parish in the heart of the city, working with programs designed to assist people dealing with poverty and homelessness. She recently moved to Most Holy Redeemer Parish in the Castro District where she serves as director of mission, working to develop strong pastoral leadership, further evangelization efforts and plan for the future.

The San Francisco archdiocese is also home to Oakwood, the society’s retirement community in Atherton. With 52 residents, it is the largest community in the province and the last on a Sacred Heart school campus. Several of the Oakwood RSCJ volunteer at SHS-Atherton and various other organizations in the wider community.

Other RSCJ teach at Sacred Heart and parish schools and the Franciscan School of Theology. Several RSCJ work in nursing and psychotherapy; two in hospice care. There’s even an iconographer!

After 127 years, the Society of the Sacred Heart remains vibrant and committed to revealing God’s love in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.


Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Full name: Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, United States-Canada Province

Founding: Paris, France, 1800, by Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat

Date of arrival in Archdiocese of San Francisco: 1887

Original ministry: Education, specifically boarding and day schools, elementary and secondary

Current ministries: Varied, including Sophia House, a welcoming community in Berkeley

Number of RSCJ in Archdiocese of San Francisco: 76

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