November 10, 2006

Be Our Guest / Sister Denise Wilkinson, S.P.

St. Mother Theodore Guérin is a woman for all of us

The international spotlight has shined on the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. We always knew the potential existed for this remarkable event to occur, but few of us ever imagined that we would be able to witness it and take part in it.

As you know by now, our foundress, St. Mother Theodore Guérin, was canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on Oct. 15. More than 1,200 people made the pilgrimage to Rome for the ceremony conducted by Pope Benedict XVI.

Thousands more joined with us in spirit. We took with us a registry of names that listed more than 3,000 people who wanted to be part of the experience.

For several weeks now, we have had a steady stream of visitors and tour groups to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, where St. Mother Theodore’s shrine is located. As the celebrations were taking place in Rome, many people gathered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to honor St. Mother Theodore. Many others recognized the special moment in history in their own individual way, with friends or with their own parish groups.

We are eternally grateful for the shared spirit of excitement, the encouragement, the support and the hope for the future that we have felt from so many. We are especially thankful to the media throughout Indiana, Illinois and across the nation that shared St. Mother Theodore’s story with people of all faith traditions.

Also, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the tremendous assistance we received from civic and governmental leaders in Indiana and in the Terre Haute area, including security personnel who helped with much of the extensive planning for local celebrations.

As we embrace the historical significance of Indiana’s first saint and the eighth such honor ever bestowed on a person from the United States, we want to emphasize that St. Mother Theodore is a woman for all of us, for all time, not just for Catholics. We all would benefit by learning more about her exemplary life.

She devoted her life to serving God’s people through works of love, mercy and justice. She did not discriminate against anyone whom she perceived needed assistance.

She devoted herself to educating Indiana’s children, but she said, “Love the children first, then teach them.” She was respectful to everyone, even those who could have been perceived as enemies. She found good in everyone she met.

Without those and many other qualities with which she was blessed, sainthood probably would not have been possible. The first examination in the sainthood process is a thorough study of the life, the writings and the teachings of the person under consideration.

As we now cherish the historical significance of St. Mother Theodore’s life that led to her canonization, we invite everyone of all faiths to learn more about her. You can do that by visiting our Web site at or by visiting Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in person, where you can enjoy the natural beauty of our wooded grounds.

Let us also rededicate our lives to love and respect for ourselves, all humankind, our nations and the gifts that Earth gives to each of us. Let us do all we can to help one another become saints.

(Providence Sister Denise Wilkinson is the general superior of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, ) †

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