November 17, 2006

First deanery celebration honoring St. Theodora set for Nov. 29

A banner of St. Theodora Guérin hangs from the facade at St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 15 for the liturgy during which Pope Benedict XVI declared her Indiana’s first saint. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Photo caption: A banner of St. Theodora Guérin hangs from the facade at St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 15 for the liturgy during which Pope Benedict XVI declared her Indiana’s first saint. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

(Listen to the reporter read this story)

When he canonized her on Oct. 15 at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI gave St. Theodora Guérin to the world as an example of sanctity.

But from the time that she arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840 to the present day, she has had a special connection to the Church in central and southern Indiana.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein will initiate a series of Masses honoring Indiana’s first saint at 7 p.m. on Nov. 29 at St. Joan of Arc Church in the Indianapolis North Deanery. The archbishop will celebrate 11 Masses, one in each deanery, over the coming year where the faithful of the archdiocese will be invited to rejoice in St. Theodora’s holiness. (See future dates of Masses)

“There’s something very appropriate about a local saint being celebrated locally, in the different areas of the archdiocese,” said Charles Gardner, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship.

“She belongs now to the universal Church and, in a

special way, to the whole archdiocese.”

All are invited to participate in the first Mass, especially members of Indianapolis North Deanery parishes.

Gardner highlighted the fact that the liturgies to celebrate St. Theodora will bring together all elements of the archdiocesan Church: laity, religious, priests and the


Father Gerald Kirkhoff, dean of the Indianapolis North Deanery, described the Masses as “an archdiocesan

celebration on the road.”

But he also noted that many of the Masses, including

the first one, will be a time to celebrate the legacy of St. Theodora in the educational ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the order she founded.

“The Sisters of Providence have a tremendous history

in the North Deanery,” Father Kirkhoff said. “They were pervasive throughout the North Deanery.”

According to Father Kirkhoff, the Sisters of Providence at one time taught at five parish schools in the deanery.

They also founded St. Agnes Academy across from SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral and Ladywood Academy on East 56th Street. Those schools became Ladywood-St. Agnes, then merged with Cathedral High School at 5225 E. 56th St. in Indianapolis.

Some of the liturgies in the coming year will focus on St. Theodora’s connection to education. They will be

celebrated during the day and will include students at archdiocesan Catholic schools.

Father Kirkhoff acknowledged that some deaneries, such as the Batesville or Tell City deaneries, don’t have as close of a connection to St. Theodora as others because the Sisters of Providence have little or no history of ministering there.

But he said that those Masses will be a chance to emphasize the archbishop’s role as a teacher.

“It’s an opportunity for him to do what bishops are here for, that is, to teach, to teach all of us about the faith and to take this … saint and concretize [the faith],” Father Kirkhoff said.

Gardner said he hoped that those who will attend the Masses will gain “a greater appreciation for what saints in the Catholic tradition mean, especially when there is one that we’re so closely associated with, that is not remote.

“I would hope that there would be a greater sense of identity with [her] story, of being reminded of the story of her life,” he said. “This is a saint with special meaning for us.” †

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