October 20, 2006

St. Theodora Guérin Keepsake Edition

Updated version of St. Theodora biography to be released

Guerin painting

Photo caption: This painting displayed at the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods depicts St. Theodora Guérin teaching children with Our Lady of Providence looking down on them. An updated popular biography about St. Theodora’s life and ministry will be available for sale in December at the Providence Center gift shop at the motherhouse or on the congregation’s Web site.

By Mary Ann Wyand

Just in time for Christmas, the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods expect to release an updated version of a popular biography of St. Theodora Guérin.

Mother Theodore Guérin—A Woman for All Time, a Saint of God, written by Penny Blaker Mitchell, is a revised edition of Mother Theodore Guérin—A Woman for Our Time, which was published shortly before her beatification by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 25, 1998, at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Now a member of St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg and an employee of Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries in Georgetown, Mitchell wrote the first book in 1998 when she worked for the sisters’ Office of Congregational Advancement at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“When we were preparing for the beatification,” Mitchell explained in a recent telephone interview, “it became known that we needed what they call a popular biography … so most anyone could read it and understand who Mother Theodore was and how important she could be in anyone’s life.”

The congregation’s officers asked her to write the book on rather short notice.

“I only had a little bit less than six months to get it done,” she recalled. “I was also on the committee planning the beatification, and I did most of the reporting for the congregation’s publications on the beatification. I was pretty busy. It had to be done prior to the beatification so we had to have it to the printer in mid-summer [of 1998].”

She believes St. Theodora—who the Sisters of Providence prefer to call St. Mother Theodore—helped her research, write and edit the biography on time in addition to all of her other responsibilities.

“I felt inspired by her presence,” Mitchell said. “I think she was working through me. I firmly believe that. I couldn’t have done it otherwise, especially in six months.”

While writing the book, Mitchell said she wanted people to come to know and love the French-born sister who founded the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 20 states, the District of Columbia, Taiwan and China.

“I think my main goal at the time was that people would have an opportunity to know her because she was such a wonderful person,” Mitchell said. “Thank heaven and thank Mother Theodore because she was such a gifted writer, and wrote hundreds of letters and kept journals. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to know her the way we do today.”

Mitchell said she never doubted that Blessed Mother Theodore would be canonized as a saint of God.

“The foreword and introductory chapters in the book have been updated because there have been changes in the congregation and the programs and ministries since 1998,” she said. “The new part [of the book] is almost everything that has happened since the beatification.”

She said the updated book also includes information about ways that people have honored St. Theodora, including St. Mother Theodore Guérin High School in the Lafayette Diocese and the Providence Housing Corporation in West Terre Haute.

“There’s also a chapter on some of the requests for prayers that the sisters have received as petitions in her name,” she said. “They’re from all over the world. And there’s a chapter on the second miracle of the healing of Philip McCord’s [right] eye that led to her canonization. The last chapter is about the canonization and includes events from the past few weeks.”

Mitchell said she enjoyed reading Mother’s Theodore’s letters and journals.

“She was an excellent writer, and one thing that makes her so easy to relate to is her sense of humor,” Mitchell said. “She had health problems, but was still able to maintain her sense of hope and sense of humor and to do everything she did in her life.”

St. Theodora can be “such a source of strength and inspiration for any woman,” she said, “but I think especially for a woman trying to raise a family alone because in essence that’s what she was doing with the congregation. She didn’t have any money, she didn’t have any support, and the sisters were often cold and hungry.

“They had to trust in God for everything and use their wits to survive,” Mitchell said, “and heaven knows Mother Theodore had a lot of wit. She didn’t know how to speak English [when she arrived in Indiana]. She wasn’t a young woman. She was sick. But look what she accomplished because she believed she was doing what God wanted her to do.”

Mitchell recommends that people who are in need of spiritual inspiration take time to read about St. Theodora’s life and reflect on her journal entries excerpted in the book.

“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence,” St. Theodora advised her sisters. “… Well, my daughters, ours is a preparation for the generation that will succeed us, and eminent good will be done this way by us. You may not live to see it, but you will have sown the seed, and your sisters will come to reap what will have been sown.”

(Copies of St. Theodora’s popular biography will be available in December at the Providence Center gift shop at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods or can be ordered online at the Sisters of Providence Web site at www.sistersofprovidence.org. The price had not been determined at press time.) †


Local site Links: