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Spreading the mission of Providence

This article is reprinted from summer 2006 issue of HOPE.


Ah, yes, another acronym to clutter the collection of letter-laced configurations.

But just What Would Mother Theodore Guerin Think about all this attention shining upon her life and accomplishments? What would she think about undergoing so much scrutiny? What would she think about being called a saint?

Today, as her heart rests at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and her soul continues to watch over the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence that she founded in 1840, just what would she think about her coming canonization, the highest honor the Roman Catholic Church can bestow on an individual?

Excitement rose to a feverish pitch on the morning of Feb. 21 when the Congregation received word that the Ordinary Congregation of the Cardinals in Rome had made a positive declaration concerning a second miracle attributed to Mother Theodore’s intercession. The way is now open for her canonization.

General Superior Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara made the formal announcement to the Congregation and staff during an afternoon celebratory prayer ritual. The next day, Sister Ann Margaret made a public announcement during a news conference. She was joined for questions by Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, vice postulator, and Phil McCord, director of facilities management, who received the gift of healing through Mother Theodore’s intercession.

“I think Mother Theodore would smile and want us to use every opportunity to spread the mission of Providence. She would urge us to give ourselves with all our hearts to the God who loves us. She would ask others to support our mission of Providence in the same way that she did in approaching the Queen of France for her Indiana mission,” said Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara.

Spreading the word has not been a problem. Dozens of media companies have reported about Mother Theodore and the canonization, potentially scheduled for the fall of this year. Some of those are The Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, MSNBC, Indianapolis media, America magazine and the Catholic News Service.

Readers and viewers must be paying attention.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, who has served as promoter of Mother Theodore’s Cause and vice postulator for 10 years. “It’s constant. We’re getting letters, phone calls and e-mails every day.”

Anticipation began building a few days before the announcement when Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, the postulator for Mother Theodore’s Cause, visited Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on a trip to the United States from Rome.

“Mother Theodore is the classical, strong woman,” Andrea said, through his interpreter, Heather Milligan. About his visit to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Andrea said, “I am always impressed. The sisters have great interest and passion for Mother Theodore’s Cause. They have great desire, interest and tenacity in bringing the Cause forward and moving the Cause along.”

Andrea has worked with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for about 35 years and has been involved in 300 or so cases. He and his staff have had success in moving all of those causes forward.

His work gives him a unique perspective on what it takes to become a saint. “Miracles can happen to people who are Catholic or non-Catholic. They can happen where Catholicism doesn’t even exist. It reveals the extraordinary depth of God’s plan. In East Timor, where there is war and a lot of strife, a miracle occurred,” he said, again through his interpreter.

Miracles are part of the mystery of God’s loving plan for all of humanity. While they are often hard to understand because of a lack of tangible reasoning, they are easy to embrace because of the excitement and faith they generate.

But Sister Marie Kevin says there is more to the story.

“What is really important is the way Mother Theodore lived her life. She had total dedication to God and to the people of God. Her life has been proven to be one of heroic virtue with strong Godlike qualities. If her life didn’t exemplify strong virtue, then the Church would not be going through this process [toward canonization],” Sister Marie Kevin said.

The Church accepts miracles as a sign from God that God approves of the way an individual has lived his or her life.

“It’s important to remember that saints don’t work miracles. We believe they are close to God and they are able to ask God for special favors,” Sister Marie Kevin said.

As a recipient of one of those favors, Phil said he has had some difficulty in understanding everything that has happened. While waiting for a corneal transplant, Phil visited the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and asked Mother Theodore to help him with the strength and courage to face the surgery. The next morning, inflammation around his eye was gone. After examination, his surgeon said a transplant was no longer necessary. With a minor procedure, his eyesight was restored to 20/20.

Phil is grateful for the healing, but he says the greater message is Mother Theodore’s presence. “What I hope happens now is that people will take a look at this healing and use it as a reason to look at Mother Theodore’s life, what she accomplished and what she continues to accomplish, and to look at what the sisters stand for and what they do,” Phil said.

Sister Ann Margaret said the pending canonization reminds us that Mother Theodore is a woman for all time. She said people of all faiths are welcome to learn more about the virtues Mother Theodore embraced.

“After all, she, herself, was a very public person in her time in business and the greater civic community. She was a leader in the Church in the Diocese of Vincennes at the time. She valued her relationships with the broader community.”

And that may be a clue to what Mother Theodore might be thinking.

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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