March 5, 1999

Sisters feel Mother Theodore’s inspiration

Providence sisters try to parallel their lives to example of
Mother Theodore, who was devoted to Mary and Eucharist

By Sarah Gardner
Special to The Criterion

“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.”

“Our hope is in the Providence of God, which has protectedus until the present, and which will still provide, somehow, for our future needs.”

These and other journal entries by Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, are included in her diaries, which are being studied by
Providence Sister Eileen Ann Kelley, an archivist for Mother Theodore’s artifacts.

Sister Eileen Ann said her journey of becoming a Sister of Providence and an archivist for the congregation was much like the message of one of Blessed Mother Theodore’s journals. It was a journey of Providence.

“My vocation was really a gift from God,” Sister Eileen Ann said. “I fought my vocation; it kept nagging me, and the Lord kept pursuing me.”

Sister Eileen Ann said she believes it was Mother Theodore’s spirit, through other Providence sisters who taught her, that eventually led her to become a Sister of Providence.

“The history didn’t touch me as much as the spirit of the teachers did through the heritage of Mother Theodore Guérin,” Sister Eileen Ann said. “They embodied Mother Theodore’s spirit, and I was influenced by that. And that spirit still lives today, among us, so that today Mother Theodore is very much alive to me.”

Sister Eileen Ann said her work as an archivist is a wonderful ministry because she can preserve and share the heritage of the Sisters of Providence.

Providence Sister Jeanne Knoerle, chancellor of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, said she relied on Mother Theodore’s spirit to help her through many struggles as a past president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Sister Jeanne, who served her congregation as president of the college from 1968 to 1983, said she believes she was influenced by the congregation’s foundress through the changing times of society she experienced as college president, especially through the late 1960s.

“It was during that period,” Sister Jeanne said, “that I would get to know her [through her journal writings]. Whenever I faced difficulties, I could always find some strength in her [life and ministry].”

Sister Jeanne said this strength influenced her to become a Sister of Providence. It has been within her since she was 18, she said, and sustains her in her ministry to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and beyond.

Mother Theodore “came from a different culture into the wilds of Indiana,” Sister Jeanne said. “She was able to establish a women’s college.”

Providence Sister Mary Pius Regnier, who served as general superior of the congregation from 1966-1976, recalled the story of how Mother Theodore Guérin miraculously intervened through God to heal Providence Sister Mary Theodosia Mug, an educator and writer who suffered from neuritis and cancer.

On Oct. 30, 1908, Sister Mary Pius said, Sister Mary Theodosia prayed at Mother Theodore’s tomb. On that evening, Sister Mary Theodosia asked herself whether Mother Theodore Guérin really did have intervention with God, then she heard an inner voice answer, “She does.”

The next morning, Sister Mary Theodosia woke up to find that she could now tie her habit all the way around her once swollen and sickly body, Sister Mary Pius said. It was later determined that Sister Mary Theodosia had been cured of both diseases.

Sister Mary Pius said documentation of this miracle was the first step toward sainthood for Mother Theodore, and one that is truly inspiring.

Now retired, Sister Mary Pius said she has especially felt Mother Theodore’s presence since retiring to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on Aug. 13, 1993.

“I have been here for six years,” Sister Mary Pius said. “We always call St. Mary’s home.”

She said the Sisters of Providence try to parallel their lives to the example of Mother Theodore, who was devoted to the Blessed Virgin, the Blessed Sacrament and the guardian angels.

Providence Sister Marie Kevin Tighe has worked to promote Mother Theodore’s cause by coordinating events and correspondence to further the sainthood process. Sister Marie Kevin said she remembers how a Providence sister who was her eighth-grade teacher inspired her to join the congregation.

Sister Marie Kevin said she later realized that this teacher embodied the spirit of Mother Theodore Guérin’s life and ministry within her. She said the Feb. 28 Mass honoring Mother Theodore helped further promote her life of missionary service.

“To be the Church,” Sister Marie Kevin said, “we have to be in mission all the time—reaching out to serve.”

(Sarah Gardner is a senior at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College at St. Mary-of-the-Woods.) †


Local site Links: