March 5, 1999

Video and books tell Mother Theodore’s story

By Ann Ryan
Special to The Criterion

SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS—The excitement at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods over the beatification of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin last October is not subsiding.

The Sisters of Providence are continuing their official year of celebration, which began on Oct. 25, 1998, with the beatification of their foundress by Pope John Paul II in Rome.

Media attention and public awareness of that event have generated a growing interest in the life of Mother Theodore. Inquiries from individuals and the media are coming in via mail, phone and
the World Wide Web. Teachers are arranging class trips to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to learn more about Mother Theodore’s role in Indiana history and Church history. Prayer requests and stories
of Mother Theodore’s intercessions are arriving from around the world. Parish and civic groups are requesting that Providence sisters come and speak about their foundress.

These varied requests for information about Mother Theodore prompted the Sisters of Providence to produce a new video which they hope will make her story more accessible to all audiences. The
result is Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin: Her Journey of Faith and Courage.

The video utilizes excerpts from Mother Theodore Guérin’s own travel journals and letters and includes rare historical images, photographs and re-creations.

Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin founded the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., in 1840. Born Anne-Thérèse Guérin in the wake of the French Revolution, Mother Theodore journeyed to the Indiana wilderness in 1840 to establish a religious congregation and an educational academy, now Saint Mary-of-the- Woods College.

Faced with overwhelming challenges— poverty, ill health, discrimination against Catholics and women, and the barriers of an unfamiliar language and culture—she succeeded in bringing religion and education to Indiana women and children.

The video was originally planned to be an in-house piece. The staff of Providence Center, which is the welcoming facility for the Sisters of Providence, wanted a video to show to pilgrimage and tour groups.

“Our hope was to create a quality piece that would introduce Mother Theodore to all who come to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods,” said Providence Sister Margaret Kern, shrine spiritual program director.
“But as we talked about and developed the project, the variety of possible uses for the video expanded. We want to make it available to parishes, individuals and schools as a resource they can use.”

Sister Margaret said the 29-minute video also will air on some public television stations.

“We chose to do a video because we wanted various audiences to, in some way, ‘meet’ Mother Theodore, and we believe the video successfully does that,” Sister Margaret said. “Hearing her words and learning her story in this visual way will put the fire of a love for Mother Theodore in the hearts of new audiences, and it will rekindle it in the hearts of those who already know and love her.”

Providence Center selected Nineteenth Star, LLC., an Emmy Award-winning Indianapolis video company, and Ann Ryan Communications, Inc. to produce it.

“The entire production team really fell in love with Mother Theodore’s story, and it shows in the video,” Sister Margaret said. “They have captured the story of her life—and all of its challenges and its graces—in a warm, moving way.”

Since Mother Theodore’s story is interwoven in Indiana history, the production company taped on location at the Old Cathedral in Vincennes, as well as in Madison, New Albany, Indianapolis and
several locations in Vigo County. The grounds and buildings at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods also help to convey Mother Theodore’s legacy.

The Sisters of Providence Archives yielded many treasures, some of which have seldom been on
public display. Indianapolis actress Priscilla Lindsey voices Mother Theodore’s words in a French accent.

Highlights from the beatification ceremonies in Rome and from the Sisters of Providence celebrations at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods are included in the video.

“It is quite moving to see the pope, the cardinals and bishops, the sisters and the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square celebrating Mother Theodore’s life and legacy,” Sister Margaret said. “She truly was an ordinary woman who is honored for her extraordinary faith, hope and love.”

Sister Margaret said she hopes that as people view the video they also will become interested in learning more about Blessed Mother Theodore.

The video complements the recently produced biography, Mother Theodore Guérin: A Woman for Our Time, and the children’s book and audio tape of The Story of Anne-Thérèse.

“Mother Theodore’s story is an important part of Indiana history, Church history and women’s history,” Sister Margaret said.

Funding for the video was provided by the Sisters of Providence Congregational Advancement Fund and Our Sunday Visitor Institute.

(Copies of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin: Her Journey of Faith and Courage are available for $19.95 plus $4.05 for shipping and handling, from the Gift Shop at Providence Center by telephone at 812- 535-3131, ext. 143, or by e-mail at Providence Center is scheduling spring and summer tours and pilgrimages highlighting the life of Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin. For information, call 812-535-3131, ext. 147, or e-mail Ann Ryan is media relations coordinator for Providence Center.) †

The information may be out of date; call the Sisters of Providence for more information.


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