September 1, 2006

What’s in a name? Upon canonization, Blessed Mother Theodore’s name will change

By Sean Gallagher

Many people across the archdiocese first learned about “Mother Theodore” when they were young students in Catholic schools staffed by the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Since the 1998 beatification of the foundress of this religious community, she has been known in the archdiocese as Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin.

But upon her canonization on Oct. 15 at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, she will be referred to—at least in official archdiocesan communications—as St. Theodora Guérin.

Why the change?

There are some important reasons for it, according to Msgr. Frederick Easton. As archdiocesan vicar judicial, he oversaw the hearing in which evidence was collected regarding the miracle that led to Blessed Mother Theodore’s canonization.

After she is declared a saint, devotion to Blessed Mother Theodore will be approved for the entire universal Church. And so it is fitting that there be one name by which she is known to all Catholics.

Her title of “Mother” will not be used because her sanctity extends beyond the ministry that she carried out as the foundress and first leader of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, according to Msgr. Easton.

Such a dropping of titles in the names of saints is not unusual. For example, Padre Pio, upon his canonization, became, at least officially, St. Pio of Pietreclina. Similarly, upon her beatification, Mother Teresa became known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

According to the Web site of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Blessed Mother Theodore, at the time of her 1998 beatification, was officially known as Blessed Theodora Guérin.

However, according to Msgr. Easton, since a beatification only permits official devotion to a holy man or woman at a local and not universal level, reference to her as “Blessed Mother Theodore” was more generally allowed.

The Holy See, according to Providence Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, the vice postulator of the canonization cause of Blessed Mother Theodore, has given permission to the Sisters of Providence to refer to their foundress as St. Mother Theodore Guérin upon her canonization.

This is appropriate for the Sisters of Providence, she noted, because of the deep, heartfelt connection that they have to their founder, whom they have always known as their “mother.” †


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