March 5, 1999

Church in Indiana honors
Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin

Statewide gathering celebrates the life and ministry of the foundress of the Sisters of Providence
of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

By Mary Ann Wyand

SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS—Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, was honored as a courageous and inspirational woman of faith Feb. 28 at the motherhouse church during the Indiana celebration of her life and ministries.

The 3 p.m. eucharistic liturgy continued the celebration of her Oct. 25 beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome, and highlighted her love for God and the brave missionary spirit that brought her to the wilderness of west-central Indiana on Oct. 22, 1840, to found a congregation, mission and academy.

Providence Sister Diane Ris, general superior of the congregation, welcomed Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, four Indiana bishops, Benedictine Archabbot Lambert Reilly, major superiors of various orders of Indiana religious women and men, and other guests to the Mass in honor of Blessed Mother Theodore.

“All are welcome to share this holy ground with us,” Sister Diane said in her opening remarks. “Blessed Mother Theodore said on her return from France, ‘With inexpressible joy I saw once more my Indiana. I would have loved to kiss its soil. This land was no longer for me the land of exile; it was the portion of my inheritance, and in it I hope to dwell all the days of my life.’ ”

In 1840, Sister Diane said, “when Mother Theodore came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, it was a wilderness. Day after day she spent herself transforming the land for the mission of education, the establishment of her new community of the Sisters of Providence, and the mission of love, mercy and justice for all of God’s people.”

With Mother Theodore’s guidance, Sister Diane said, Providence sisters began schools, provided education, ministered to the sick and brought God’s love and compassion to people throughout

“Pope John Paul II and the whole universal Church publicly recognized Mother Theodore’s holiness by declaring her blessed on Oct. 25, 1998,” Sister Diane said. “The ceremonies at St. Peter’s
[Square] in Rome and here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods were very joyous celebrations for all of us who shared in them. Today the Church of Indiana has come together to honor this holy woman of God who is ours in many special ways.”

Blessed Mother Theodore loved Indiana, Sister Diane said. “She loved its people. She knew, and made known, God’s presence here, in life and in death. She rests here in her tomb in this church and in her shrine at the entrance to the church. In her own words, ‘I sleep but my heart watches
over this house which I have built.’ ”

The legacy of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin continues, the general superior said.“We have her here with us today, blessing us, as we bless her for her trust in the Providence of God that never failed her. May her life touch ours in very special ways on our journey of life.”

Joining Archbishop Buechlein for the Mass in honor of Blessed Mother Theodore were Bishop William L. Higi of Lafayette, Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger of Evansville, Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary, Bishop John M. D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and Benedictine Archabbot Lambert Reilly of Saint Meinrad.

In his homily, Archbishop Buechlein praised Blessed Mother Theodore as “a model of authenticity ... a model of spiritual courage ... a model of devout prayer ... a model of balance in everyday life ...
a model of zeal for missionary evangelization ... [and] a model of patience in sickness.”

Blessed Mother Theodore gave “herself over to the Providence of God,” the archbishop said, and “truly spent all of her life to make Jesus Christ known and loved.”

Blessed Mother Theodore also was “a major figure in establishing Catholic schools as a unique treasure in the Church in the United States,” Archbishop Buechlein said. “Through the trying years of her pioneering work in missionary education, she struggled with physical illness much of the time,” yet unfailingly demonstrated “perseverance and hope in the face of suffering ... a sure mark of holiness.”

Concluding his remarks, Archbishop Buechlein asked the faithful to “find a friend and intercessor in our new and special patroness” and “make her story our story.” †


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