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RSHM Timeline

Founded by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary

The name “Marymount” has long been associated with excellence in education. The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, founders of Marymount University, provide Marymount with a heritage, spirit, and tradition that date back all the way to the founding of the RSHM Order in Béziers, France, in 1849 by Father Pierre Jean Antoine Gailhac and the first RSHM member, Mother St. Jean. The learning institutions they began would evolve into a worldwide network of schools and colleges, including Marymount University. The roots of Marymount’s founding Congregation reflect a commitment to education and to serving those in need – a commitment that remains vital at Marymount today.
historical timeline
1948 Lodge Hall


“From the most tender years of my youth, God filled me with his sacred fire. My heart never wanted to live for anything but love. But this is not all. I always felt the need to make him loved.” – Father Gailhac
Fr. Gailhac was born in Béziers, France. He devoted his life towards improving the lives of everyone around him, no matter who they were or where they came from. In this spirit, he founded the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) to ensure all the most vulnerable members of society are taken care of and valued.


As a child, Fr. Gailhac’s mother raised him to live a charitable life and taught him the importance of personal sacrifice. He worked tirelessly to help other children who were less fortunate than himself, even giving away his own clothes and shoes to the impoverished children who lived on the streets. [1]
Mother Gerard Phelan, RSHM
Sister Berchmans Walsh, RSHM

Fr. Gailhac continued his life of service, enrolling in Seminary School in Montpellier. [2]



Fr. Gailhac was ordained.

Fr. Gailhac became a chaplain at the Béziers military hospital.
incorporated as Marymount College of Virginia


While working as a chaplain, Fr. Gailhac helped women who suffered while living as prostitutes. He realized there were few opportunities available to them, and their choice was a product of a neglectful and uncaring environment. Fr. Gailhac understood they often had no one to turn to for support, and he believed it was his mission to rehabilitate their lives. He used his own money and resources to pay for them to attend a refuge in Montpellier and provide them a better life. [3]

Not long after Fr. Gailhac completed seminary school, a cholera epidemic hit France and claimed the lives of 100,000 people. He continued his ministry work in the countryside, but stayed at the Béziers military hospital as a chaplain. This selfless decision nearly resulted in his death – Fr. Gailhac worked so tirelessly that he developed pleurisy, which worsened as he pushed himself to care for the sick. 

Eventually, Fr. Gailhac created his own women’s refuge – the Good Shepherd – using both his meager earnings and the contributions of his wealthy friend, Appollonie Cure. This refuge allowed him to help an even greater number of women recover from a life of abuse and hardship, but it came at a great personal cost. Even as a clergyman, working to help former prostitutes endangered his reputation and made him vulnerable to attacks from unfounded rumors. Fr. Gailhac insisted that all people are God’s children, and fearlessly continued his mission regardless of the reputational damage.

Bishop John J. Russell



Several months after the death of her husband, Appollonie Cure received permission from Bishop Charles Thibault to help Father Gailhac and commit herself to serving others. 

On February 24, 1849, Cure moved to the Good Shepherd, where she and five companions became the first members of the RSHM. As co-foundress and first superior, Cure, now known as Mother St. Jean, worked closely with Fr. Gailhac and governed the order until her death. During her time as superior, the shelter for women was transformed into boarding school for young girls at risk.


Mother Marie Joseph Butler became a novice in the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary (SHM) in Béziers, France.

Mother Butler was sent as a teacher to the order's convent school in Oporto, Portugal, where she would enter into full membership in the order.


Mother Butler was directed to take charge of the order's school in Sag Harbor, New York. She also was responsible for expanding the work of the order in the United States as a whole.


The RSHM was granted legal status in 1856 by decree of the Emperor Napoleon.


Mother Butler becomes superior within the SHM.

Marymount’s Ballston Center


Mother Butler was elected Mother General of the SHM, making her the first American head of a European-based Catholic order.

Mother Butler continued to serve as Mother Superior General until her death.


Mother Butler opened Marymount School in Tarrytown, New York, a college for Catholic women. Under her guidance, it became a leader in Catholic higher education on a global scale. During her lifetime, other Marymount schools were established around the world in cities such as Los Angeles, Paris, and Rome.In all, Mother Butler helped open 14 schools (three of them colleges) in the U.S., as well as 23 schools and institutions abroad. She promoted an educational policy that emphasized social and physical training, along with religious and intellectual pursuits. She also established courses in political science and law to help train students to become active and informed citizens.



Mother Gerard Phelan becomes the new Mother Superior General. During her lifetime, she was responsible for drastically increasing the number of RSHM schools, nearly doubling the order’s global presence. She firmly believed that, “the world never needed women’s intelligence and sympathy more than it does today.”
  1. "Français : La place couverte à Béziers" by Charles Labor is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
  2. "Untitled" by grego1402 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  3. "Montpellier Cathedral" by Christian Ferrer is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0