October 23, 1998


Rely on Providence and all will be well

This Sunday, Oct. 25, Venerable Mother Theodore Guérin will be proclaimed “blessed” by Pope John Paul II.

What a great day for the Church in Indiana!

Born in 1798 in the village of Étables, Brittany, France, Anne-Thérèse Guérin entered the Sisters of Providence at Ruillé-sur-Loire, in the Diocese of Le Mans, at the age of 25.

In 1840, Mother Theodore, known then as Sister St. Theodore, answered the request of Bishop Célestine de la Hailandière for missionary sisters for his Diocese of Vincennes (later to be known as the Archdiocese of Indianapolis). Then a 42-year-old woman of somewhat frail health who
had been recognized by the French government as an accomplished teacher, Mother Theodore came with five other sisters to the wilderness of Indiana. Here she founded the Congregation of
the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Within a year of arriving in the Indiana forest, she and her sisters had established an academy for young women that was later to grow into Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the first Catholic liberal arts college for women in the United States.

Mother Theodore died in 1856 at the age of 57.

Even during her lifetime, many people thought Mother Theodore was a saint. And after her death, her sisters and others who knew her or who knew of her would invoke her intercession with God.

In 1909, Providence Sister Mary Theodosia Mugg, who had had a mastectomy because of breast cancer, was spontaneously healed of severe neuritis in one of her arms and of an abdominal tumor after praying to Mother Theodore. Even her eyesight was improved! It is this cure that has
led to the beatification of Mother Theodore.

But perhaps more important than evidence of miracles—as impressive as those can be—in considering Mother Theodore’s holiness is simply the example of her life, the way she overcame
obstacles in her service to God and the Church, the wisdom found in her writings, and her spirituality that centered itself upon reliance on Divine Providence.

“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence,” she said. … “Love all in God and for God, and all will be well.”

These are brave words for a middleaged woman living in a forest in an area of the New World not particularly welcoming to Roman Catholics, responsible for a newly founded congregation of religious women, and in charge of a new academy for the education of young daughters of pioneers.

Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin was pressed on all sides by monumental administrative and leadership responsibilities, by challenges of the harsh environment, and by difficulties arising from
both anti-Catholic “Know-Nothings” and even, at times, from her own bishop.

But she relied on Providence, a Providence she said that never failed her, groping along slowly when the way was not clear to her or her sisters.

Surely, this woman speaks to us today. She is truly, as Providence General Superior Sister Diane Ris said, “a woman for our time” and an appropriate role model for all of us to follow.

— William R. Bruns


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