Founded in 1800, in France, by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779 - 1865), the Society of the Sacred Heart now has a little less than 2,000 nuns (or « rscj ») in the world, divided into 27 provinces covering 41 countries. Each Province is itself attached to a Region (approximately, a continent). In 2016, the rscj were still 280 in Asia, 140 in Africa, 400 in Latin America, 370 in Australia-New Zealand-US-Canada (« Canzus ») et 1 000 in Europe.
The internationality of the Society of the Sacred Heart, mainly inaugurated by the sending of St. Philippine Duchesne (1769 - 1852) to America in 1818, is a strong element of its identity.
The vocation of the rscj is to discover and manifest the love of the heart of Jesus through the service of education, a notion to be understood in a broad sense, as « the way to make the person grow in his human dignity and child of god » (Constitutions § 7, 8, 11 and 30), which includes both formal education (that of schools), and informal education, such as the training of women for autonomy, etc.
According to the needs (or « calls ») of their countries and their own skills, the RSCJ are spiritual accompaniers, nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers ... Others work in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or UN.
The supreme authority within the Society of the Sacred Heart devolves to its General Chapter (Constitutions, § 631). Composed of delegates from each province, and preceded by a consultation of all rscj communities in the world, it meets every 8 years since chapter 2000. It elects the next Superior General and her council, and decides new orientations made necessary by the evolution of the Society and the calls of the world and the Church, in fidelity with the intuitions of the founder.
The General Council, which resides at the Mother House of Rome, headed by the Superior General, is « a community of discernment » (see Acts of Chapter 2008, p.37). She « exercises spiritual leadership and promotes communion and unity in the Society » and has a mission to ensure the implementation of the various resolutions of the chapter.