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Meet the 2020 St. Madeleine Sophie Barat Award Recipient: Sr. Jan Dunn, RSCJ

When asked what Sacred Heart means to her, Sr. Jan Dunn, RSCJ answers, “It is my life. It is the way I have tried to live my life, and will continue to live it.” She was first introduced to the Society of the Sacred when her family moved back to Houston when she was entering her sophomore year in high school.  The Religious of the Sacred Heart had just opened Duchesne Academy for girls there, and her parents enrolled both her and her sister. Sr. Dunn says, “Being accepted to its inaugural class changed my life. Although I could not have said that at the time, the Sacred Heart resonated in my heart, and I felt at home there.”

Sr. Dunn continued her education attending Maryville College in St. Louis, and then St. Louis University to earn her Master’s in English. She received her Master’s in Administration from the University of Houston. Sr. Dunn has taught several subjects at the Rosary, and is currently serving as the Upper School religion teacher. 

She feels that a Sacred Heart education provides all who embrace it with a "wide and broad" vision of the world—a vision that calls to mind the Sacred Heart statue with arms extended welcoming all. Duchesne Academy in Houston embraced Jan Dunn as a sophomore in high school, now, she and her fellow faculty members continue that tradition today for students at the Rosary. She says, “No matter what our role is at Sacred Heart, we welcome the students and love them so that they know that they are loved by God. We do the same for each other.”

Sr. Dunn has served in Sacred Heart Network Schools for over 50 years.  She was appointed Headmistress at our schools in Omaha and Houston and was interim Head of the Network twice.  During her long tenure, she has worked at 91st Street in New York, Grand Coteau, the Rosary twice, and Villa Duchesne in St. Louis.

Being a native Houstonian, she appreciates the Joie de Vivre spirit of New Orleanians. She says one of her favorite memories of the Rosary was the year she turned 40. The students discovered her birthdate and her age and placed signs on the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground announcing, "Sister Dunn is 40!" That morning they also filled her office with balloons!

Sr. Dunn’s favorite tradition is celebrating Mater’s Feast with the liturgy and tableau which is strictly a New Orleans tradition. Every year, a senior who most exemplifies the qualities of Mary is selected by her class to dress as Mater in the tableau. It is an honor to be nominated and selected by classmates and ratified by faculty. On Mater’s feast day, which is celebrated on October 20 with a Mass, the entire school anticipates the curtains being drawn back revealing who the senior chosen to be Mater will be.

Another memory from the Rosary in the 1980s was the tradition of Congé. This was a day of fun planned by students during a school day. The grade in charge that year produced the play “Peter Pan.”  In it, they sang the song, “I Won’t Grow Up,” and weeks later they were still singing it in the halls.

When asked what her favorite goal is, Sr. Dunn explains, “I heard someone speak of the Goals as fingers on a hand. They are interconnected, and really cannot be separated. I believe that is true. It is impossible for me to choose one.  All are equally important, and each one informs the others.  They articulate for today the vision of St. Madeleine Sophie, and inform who we are as Sacred Heart students and faculty.”

In closing, Sister says, “It is a joy and an honor to be at the Rosary and to be a member this blessed community.”

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