July 7, 2006

Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin
to be canonized on Oct. 15

By Sean Gallagher

The answer to a century of prayers is within sight.

On July 1, Pope Benedict XVI announced in a ceremony at the Vatican that on Oct. 15 he will solemnly declare to be a saint Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin, the 19th-century foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods.

Upon her canonization, she will become the first saint from Indiana and the eighth American saint. (See more information on Blessed Mother Theodore here)

The announcement occurred during a consistory where the pope met with approximately 30 cardinals and other bishops who serve in Rome.

Providence Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, the vice postulator of Blessed Mother Theodore’s canonization cause, was there to hear the pope’s proclamation.

“It was a solemn ceremony in a beautiful room,” she said in a statement released by the Sisters of Providence. “This announcement signifies the culmination of the great effort of the congregation for almost 100 years. It was a wonderful feeling, truly a moment to be celebrated.”

Celebration erupted at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods near Terre Haute where sisters offered a standing ovation when they heard the news.

“We celebrate this extraordinary honor in a special fashion since we are all gathered for our General Chapter which happens only every five years,” said Providence Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, the order’s superior general. “It feels like the spirit of Mother Theodore is so alive in everything that we do with the anticipation and excitement and the joy that comes with the canonization.”

The Sisters of Providence have been praying for the canonization of their foundress since her cause was launched early in the 20th century.

Since then, many of the children they have taught in Catholic schools across the archdiocese have prayed with them that Mother Theodore would become a saint.

One such student was Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, archdiocesan vicar general.

“It’s so exciting to think that we’re going to have a canonized saint from Indiana, especially somebody that we’re so familiar with,” he said. “I’ve been familiar with Mother Theodore and her life since the sisters taught me [at the former Bishop Chartrand High School in Indianapolis].”

More than just learning about Blessed Mother Theodore and praying for her canonization, Msgr. Schaedel has incorporated her spirituality of dependence on God’s providence into his own, closing his letters with “sincerely in the providence that will not fail us.”

Msgr. Frederick Easton, archdiocesan vicar judicial, was likewise taught by the Sisters of Providence when he was a student at St. Charles Borromeo School in Bloomington.

As an expert in canon law and the leader of the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal, Msgr. Easton played an important role in Blessed Mother Theodore’s canonization process.

He oversaw the local investigation in 2003 of the miracle that opened the way to her being named a saint. In February, officials at the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints affirmed that the curing of an eye ailment of Philip McCord, an employee of the Sisters of Providence, was a miracle that occurred through the Blessed Mother Theodore’s intercession. The first miracle attributed to her intercession, the curing of a fellow Sister of Providence from cancer, occurred in 1908.

“It’s kind of an awesome situation,” Msgr. Easton said. “I never thought that I would be dealing with this kind of thing when I was studying canon law.”

But like Msgr. Schaedel, the example of Blessed Mother Theodore has significance for Msgr. Easton at a personal level.

“It was the notion of providence that was with me so closely on July 15 and 16 last year when my nephew [Father Justin Martin] was dying and we knew it was bad, and we were putting him in God’s providential hands,” he said.

“Prayers to Mother Theodore for her intercession were there. But that brought to mind—and this may be what she got for us—the sense of giving him to God. And that led us to have a sense of peace with it all.”

Blessed Mother Theodore continues to inspire the faithful of the archdiocese 150 years after her death.

But at the time of her canonization, she will become a role model for Catholics around the world.

“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when we are actually standing in the piazza of St. Peter in Rome for the canonization,” said Sister Marie Kevin, “and we realize that Blessed Mother Theodore is declared for the universal Church and the world as someone whose life we can look to for encouragement and inspiration.”

In addition to Blessed Mother Theodore, two men and a woman will also be canonized at the Oct. 15 papal liturgy, which is expected to be celebrated in St. Peter’s Square.

Blessed Rafael Guizar Valencia (1878-1938) was a Mexican bishop. Filippo Smaldone (1848-1923) was an Italian priest who founded the Institute of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart. And Rosa Venerini (1656-1728) was the foundress of the Congregation of the “Maestre Pie Venerini.”

(More information about this most recent development can be found on the website of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.) †


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