June 5, 2009

Like St. Theodora Guérin, performer to become a missionary this summer

By Mary Ann Wyand

Like St. Theodora Guérin, St. Lawrence parishioner and actress Sandra Hartlieb of Indianapolis, who often portrays Indiana’s first saint, will become a missionary later this summer.

Hartlieb will spend two weeks in Kenya during August to perform Bible stories with Sisterhood Christian Drama Ministry, her family’s theatrical troupe.

In recent months, Hartlieb has presented St. Theodora’s story at Catholic parishes and schools as well as at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.

The saint’s life story “really connects with me very much,” Hartlieb said. “I am volunteering right now once a month at Miracle Place, a Sisters of Providence ministry on the near-east side of Indianapolis. When I’m there, I hear echoes of Mother Theodore saying, ‘Love the children first and then teach them.’ And that’s what they do at Miracle Place.”

Sisterhood Christian Drama Ministry productions are a collaborative effort with Hartlieb’s sisters—Nora Pritchett of Sellersburg and Peggy Young of Louisville—and her brother, Bob Braden of Louisville, as well as her husband, Ron, and Pritchett’s husband, Alan. Another sister, Bibiana Richardson of Lillington, N.C., helps write their scripts.

As Hartlieb completed plans for their two weeks in Africa and tried to calm her nerves about this ambitious undertaking, she could hear Mother Theodore saying, “Lean with all your weight upon Providence.”

“The Holy Spirit was pushing us to go to Kenya,” Hartlieb said. “Some missionaries go to Africa to build houses or dig wells. We’re going to Kenya to tell stories about God. We will have programs for the adults and children, and want to provide a meal for them every day. That’s part of our ministry. We’ll be feeding their bodies then we’ll feed their souls.”

To prepare for their mission trip, Hartlieb and two of her sisters, Nora Pritchett and Peggy Young, plan to make a silent retreat, “Come Away and Rest Awhile,” at Fatima Retreat House in July.

Hartlieb often asks for St. Theodora’s intercession during prayer time.

“She is with me every day,” Hartlieb said. “She really is. I just talk with her a lot of times. I’ve even said a quick petition—‘Mother Theodore, pray for me’—at different times. I read her journals a bit and then have a conversation with her. She’s very much a part of my prayer life. I feel like she’s part of my family.”

(For more information about Sisterhood Christian Drama Ministry, log on to www.sisterhoodfour.org.)

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