The history of the Catholic Church is made up of not only the traditions and teachings, but also of the people who lived it out.
St. Mother Theodore Guerin is one of our patrons for a reason; she's the 8th canonized from the U.S., but she was also a Hoosier. So who was she?
She was born in France, and after entering the Sisters of Providence at 25, she was requested to come to the then Diocese of Vincennes. The then Bishop of Indiana asked her to come and bring her sisters here. She arrived in Indiana when it was only 24 years old, in the city of Terre Haute. After a rough boat voyage, their log cabin became their headquarters for mass and home with their priest.
She was a tough woman who had tenacity; her father worked for Napoleon's Army and had been murdered by bandits. Her brothers both died in a horrific fire, and she was left to take care of both her mom and sister. She didn't want to come to Indiana, because she was a woman who never had great health; but she came anyway, trusting as she always did in God's Providence.
Two years after they got settled in Indiana, after the harsh winters that took out their food rations, and the fire that destroyed their Church, St. Mary of the Woods School got established. It was originally just to teach all kinds of kids, but then it became an all girl college.
On top of that, she had to deal with prejudice from the then bishop; not only was she locked in her room, but the bishop threatened to have them all kicked out of the state. They were actually packing their things when the new bishop took over and told them to stay!
In 1846 St. Mary of the Woods became its own city; 10 years after that, St. Mother Theodore died.
St. John Paul the Great said this about her during her beatification.
"Her love for God totally filled her being. From that love came her deep caring for people in their sufferings and in their joys. Her love embraced even those who caused her pain and anguish. She transformed the hardest hearts by her inspired words. Mother Theodore was truly a humble woman of God. While she possessed all the gifts necessary for leadership and used them brilliantly, she was always humble and gave God credit for all the good she did. Her trust in her provident God was ever present in her life. In founding the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, she called upon God’s Providence in all things. In her words, ‘Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.’ She recognized that all she did was in God’s loving care."
Hopefully in April, we can take a group over there, so you can see the beautiful shrine where St. Mother Theodore (or Mamma Teddy as some of us in Terre Haute called her) resides. St. Mother Theodore Guerin, pray for us!
This is a replica of the cabin that St. Mother Theodore probably stayed in.
A fun tradition new students of St. Mary of the Woods do is take a selfie with the statue of Mother Theodore that is not far from the main church on campus. I've done it many times, but I'm looking forward to when we can all go!