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Truly a masterpiece

“Souvenir of the Fiftieth Anniversary, or Golden Jubilee, of St. Mary’s Academic Institute, St. Mary of the Woods, Vigo Co., Ind.” written by a former pupil and published in 1891, describes how the inside of St. Anne Shell Chapel was designed by Sister Mary Joseph Le Fer de la Motte. (Please note, this book refers to St. Anne as St. Ann.)

Eventually the old log structure had to be replaced. This is the description of the new chapel:

“Time spares not the work of those we love best, and after the lapse of some years it became necessary to replace the log chapel by one more substantial. On the same site, and of exactly the same dimensions, a stone structure was erected. This is unique of its kind, and is one of the special attractions connected with St. Mary’s. The inside is literally lined with shells from the Wabash, arranged in effective and artistic designs: the altar, the candlesticks, the holy-water font, the flowers, vases, etc., even the crown of the statue, are all made of shells in their natural colors. There is a representation of the ship tossed by the waves and Mother Theodore praying, a map of Indiana, and many other pretty designs. It has been said by persons who spent years in Europe and Asia that they had nowhere seen a prettier shrine. …

“Zeal to have St. Ann loved and honored induced Sister M. [Mary] Joseph to spend many laborious days, though in most delicate health, inventing those artistic designs, and placing the shells with her own hands. It is a masterpiece of ingenuity, a true monument, a fitting tribute to the memory of one whose heroic deeds and holy life her friends love to recall.” (pp. 38-40)

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The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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