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Happy Feast Day: Oct. 3, 2008

Statue of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Happy Feast Day!

We are blessed to celebrate together this feast of Saint Mother Theodore for the second time since her canonization.

What a wonderful day for all Sisters of Providence to remember in grateful prayer each Sister of Providence — past, present and future; each Providence Associate and associate candidate; all Providence Volunteer Ministers and other volunteers at our motherhouse; all with whom we now minister or have ministered; generations of our families and friends; as well as everyone who has come to know us throughout our 168 years of life and mission!

We all have in common love for the woman we celebrate today, Anne Therese Guerin, Saint Mother Theodore, a woman for all time.

But is gratitude for Mother Theodore and for all whom her life has touched the only reason for today’s celebration?

We know better.

We know that the saints are to remind us how to live our lives and to encourage us to follow the path Providence has marked out for each of us.

And most of us here have known from our earliest days that we are in fact created to “know, love and serve God in this life and to be happy with God in the next.”

In other words, we are created to become fully ourselves in communion with all of life, to be saints of God.

And how do we become fully ourselves in communion with all of life? How do we become saints?

Mother Theodore’s answer is clear. We read it on the plaque here at the shrine. We read it on the home page of our Web site. I’ve quoted it countless times in community gatherings, reflections and letters.

“What have we to do in order to become saints? Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than we do everyday. Only do it for [God’s] love.”

What do we do to become saints? “Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than we do everyday.”

I’m starting to wonder if I return to this quote so often because I’ve been trying to figure out if I buy it or not. It seems to me that Mother Theodore underplays how just-plain-hard it is to become a saint.

For me, becoming a saint is like committing myself to daily physical exercise — there’s always a compelling reason not to do it. I know daily exercise is good for me; and I know the discipline and resolve required to overcome my inertia.

While I’m certain I’d like to live the life of a holy, a whole person, I can’t help but feel that living that way takes a bit more than ordinary effort. I mean, saints, wherever we find them are pretty extraordinary people. Aren’t they? Or is that just a cop out?

What must we do in order to become saints? Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than we do everyday. Only do it for [God’s] love.

We go about our daily lives within all the relationships that weave the pattern of our commitments and routine activities. Ministries, professions, school, leisure, prayer, worship, housework, yard work — these shape the days and years of our ordinary lives.

Herein, if Mother Theodore is right, are our opportunities to become saints.

How does it happen? All of us here are the ones whom the reading from Sirach describes as those who “come forward to serve God.”

What accompanies one who comes forward to serve God in one’s ordinary life? Again, according to Sirach, that one can expect temptation, times of calamity, changes that humble a person, and testing in the fire of humiliation — evidently all these come in the midst of ordinary lives lived for God and for God’s mission.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians lets us know if we come forward to serve God we can expect — in our everyday, ordinary lives — to “suffer the loss of all things,” not to possess “any righteousness of [our] own,” and to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

Perhaps what Mother Theodore urges us to recognize then is that we will find in our ordinary, everyday lives all the opportunities needed to become saints. We don’t need to look anywhere else.

I, for instance, will find every chance I will ever need to do all things for the love of the God of Providence in my ordinary interactions with the general officers, the sisters of Corbe House where I live, the sisters I meet here or out on the missions, in the Sisters of Providence and Providence Health Care staffs with whom I interact, the college students I see coming and going across campus, the cashier at Kroger, the many people I encounter when I travel or go to meetings, the wonderful circle of my family and friends. My times of prayer, of leisure, of housecleaning, laundry, cooking — yes, even those darn times of physical exercise — have the potential to help me become a saint.

What’s your list of everyday doings and people? Where and among whom do you find your chances to become a saint?

And let’s not kid ourselves. Just because Mother Theodore believed we become saints in the midst of the everyday, doing all things for [God’s] love wasn’t easy for her and it isn’t easy for us.

We need to continually pray and work to be open to the transforming actions of Providence in our lives; we need to be determined to see the good in ourselves and others; we need to be willing to serve courageously and to suffer the loss of all things for the sake of God’s mission.

If we’re serious about becoming saints like our Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, then we’re going to have to help one another do it. No one of us can live a loving life without God’s grace coming to us in the love and support of others.

So as we continue this Eucharistic Liturgy, let’s pray for ourselves and for one another that we may, all days and in all ways, help one another become saints.

In Providence,

Sister Denise Wilkinson
General Superior

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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