Barbara and Kathy Kothlow: Keeping Alive Saint Mother Theodore’s Story of Faith
Saint Mother Theodore Guerin — now that she’s been canonized by the Catholic Church, how do people keep the story of her faith and trust in Providence alive? For Barbara (Curtis) Kothlow of Riverside, Calif., and her daughter, Kathy, it’s kept alive by sharing her story with the children and adults of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Riverside. Barbara and Kathy made the pilgrimage to Rome for the canonization as they did for the beatification in 1998.
“Kathy is very active in church liturgy and this was truly a learning experience for both of us. Not too many people have the privilege of attending such a great thing as a canonization,” said 77-year-old Barbara. Kathy has been a teacher in their parish’s school for 30 years.
This deep-seated desire to share Mother Theodore’s journey of faith began long ago, even before the birth of Barbara. “My mother and her four sisters went to Our Lady of Sorrows School and Providence High School,” said Barbara, referring to two Sisters of Providence schools in Chicago. “My four aunts graduated from the Woods,” she continued, referring to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Barbara herself was briefly taught by the Sisters of Providence in Chicago at St. Angela Grade School before her family moved. A few years later she also attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College before transferring to Rosary College in River Forest, Ill., and graduating with a degree in early childhood education.
“When I first attended Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, I became very fond of [the late] Sister Mechtilde [Schaaf], the head of the Home Economics Department. She was a second mother to me. Believe it or not, Dick and I stopped to see her on the day after we were married when we were on our way to Florida,” said Barbara.
In 1951, Barbara married Richard “Dick” Kothlow.
“We were married 25 years when he was struck with lung cancer and cancer of the bone. We had six children — Richard, Mary, Kathy, John, Kevin and Steven. Kevin and Steven were in the fourth and second grades when their dad died,” shared Barbara.
In the midst of this great loss, Barbara turned her energies to founding the first Catholic preschool in her diocese. Like Mother Theodore, she saw a need and responded.
“Until then, I had been a stay-at-home mom,” said Barbara, who serves her parish in a variety of ways including as an extraordinary minister.
“I love to read quotes from Mother Theodore’s writings. It gives me an inner lift. She cared so much for all her sisters. I like Saint Mother Theodore’s thought about women in the family, and them being the better half. She was truly a modern woman. She knew the real influence women have in this world,” continued Barbara.
And so, with all this connection to Mother Theodore and her daughters of the Woods, Barbara and Kathy share the Providence story with others.
“We are sharing the experience of Rome with our parish. Sister Joan [Zlogar, planned giving manager for the Congregation] sent us [prayer] cards which were passed out to all the children on All Saints Day. Kathy gave a talk on the process of the canonization and told the children how special we are to have a new saint in our country and how special she is and to pray to her.”
Barbara, too, shares her experiences with others. But her story is made even more personal because of the time she spent at the Woods.
“The canonization makes me feel special that I have walked on the same path Saint Mother Theodore has at the Woods,” said Barbara.
Barbara also shares the Providence journey with people she will never know by generously giving to the Congregation. She financially assists the Sisters of Providence twice a year, and she has remembered the Congregation in her will.
“I think they do so much for so many and their work is more like — how would I say it — for the people. It’s just not prayers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they seem to do so much with so many different types of people [and] for the Church,” shared Barbara.
So this, then, is how the story of Saint Mother Theodore and her faith and trust in Providence will be kept alive — one person at a time modeling her/his life after the newest proclaimed saint in the United States.