What would Saint Mother Theodore want to say to pilgrims as they pray at her simple wooden coffin in the new permanent shrine now under construction in her honor at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods?
This is the question the General Council of the Sisters of Providence set out to answer as the shrine designers and architects finished creating the plans for the chapel area of the shrine and for the limestone platform that will support the coffin holding her remains in that space.
Besides inscribing her name on that platform, they have allowed room for a quote. What one quote from among her myriad number of letters, circular letters and other instructions should be chosen?
The council issued an invitation to sisters and associates to offer their suggestions. But when those submissions arrived, the decision wasn’t any easier. In fact, the favored quote was one that is already inscribed on Mother Theodore’s Celtic Cross marker in the convent cemetery, “I sleep but my heart watches over this house which I have built.”
Mother Theodore didn’t say this; its source is scripture. That quote is about her, not written by her. What would Mother Theodore herself say?
We have learned that a shrine should point the pilgrim toward God. We want the last thought pilgrims take with them to be how to live like Mother Theodore, and she lived with unfailing trust in Providence. In fact, Providence themes will predominate her permanent shrine from the time pilgrims begin their “Journey with a Saint” at the front door of Providence Center till they enter the chapel area of the shrine to pray at her coffin.
With that inspiration, the following will be inscribed on the platform with her remains:
“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.”
Interestingly enough, the quote comes from a letter written by Mother Theodore, dated March 27, 1854, to Cecile (Le Fer De La Motte) Choisnet, the younger sister of Sisters Mary Joseph and St. Francis Xavier. It is hoped that the encouragement Mother Theodore offers her “beloved Cecile” will provide inspiration for all who visit her shrine.
“You will not be offended, and you will allow me to say, and repeat, that you ought not to give way to uneasiness about the future. Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to Him and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph, you will see that all will be well.”
—Saint Mother Theodore Guerin
You can view photo updates of the shrine construction progress here.