September 29, 2006

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Take a pilgrimage with family this fall

Labor Day has come and gone. And now the crisp feel of autumn is in the air.

Why not go on a road trip?

This isn’t the usual reaction to this time of year when summer gives way to fall. In addition to the climate changes that preclude many typical outdoor activities, there are also ordinarily a rising number of commitments for families once school begins in August.

But fall can be a good time for parents and their kids to take a trip, even for a day somewhere here in central or southern Indiana.

This year in particular may give us even more motivation to do so and to make those trips into pilgrimages.

In just a couple of weeks, Pope Benedict XVI will solemnly declare Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin, the 19th-century foundress of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, as the first saint from Indiana.

While hundreds of people from our state will make a pilgrimage to Rome for the Oct. 15 canonization Mass, most Catholics in the archdiocese will remain here at home.

But that does not mean that they cannot participate in the festivities in a spiritually significant way.

First, the archdiocesan-sponsored pilgrimage will have prayer intentions for each day of the pilgrimage. These will be publicized in the Oct. 6 edition of The Criterion and can be viewed at Catholics remaining in Indiana can join with the pilgrims in praying for these causes.

Second, people in Indiana—as well as those interested across the country and around the world—can read about the pilgrimage and view pictures of it while it is happening on the pilgrimage’s Web log. A link to it will be on The Criterion’s homepage when the pilgrimage starts on Oct. 11.

But families who will be in their homes on the day of the canonization can still make a pilgrimage of their own here in the state.

Most appropriate this year would be a spiritual journey to St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

There, families can pray together at the tomb of Blessed Mother Theodore. They can learn about her and view her personal effects in the Heritage Museum at Providence Center.

Finally, they can give thanks and praise to God for the beauty of his creation, especially in the fall’s colorful leaves while walking through the grounds of the Sisters of Providence’s motherhouse.

A particularly special time to visit St. Mary-of-the-Woods will be on Oct. 21-22.

Oct. 22 is the anniversary of the day on which Blessed Mother Theodore arrived at her western Indiana home. Thus, it has been historically celebrated by the Sisters of Providence as their “Foundation Day.”

On Oct. 22 this year, there will be a festive public celebration of Blessed Mother Theodore’s canonization.

For more information about the events at St. Mary-of-the-Woods that weekend, go to the Sisters of Providence’s Web site at and click on the link in the box on the homepage titled “Celebrate.”

Catholic families in the archdiocese have much to be thankful for in every season. But this fall will be a special time for all of us.

And, for families, it can be a blessed season when the youngest Catholics in central and southern Indiana can learn about a holy woman who helped lay the foundation for our local Church. †


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