A story takes on a whole new meaning when you can see it! In Providence Center at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, you can take a look at history in the form of twelve dioramas telling the story of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
A diorama is a 3-D representation of a scene, usually with objects and figures in front of a painted background. The word itself means “see through.” Dioramas can be large scale, like the life-size dioramas you see in museums, or in miniature, with little figures and buildings all done to scale. First popular in the early 1930s, dioramas are different from miniature models in that they are usually in a case, are lit from the inside, and are meant to be viewed only from one side.
The dioramas at the Woods are miniatures, with the people and places based on sketches and photographs of the different time periods. Henri Marchand, an artist from France who made dioramas for places like the New York State Museum, made the first diorama for the Sisters of Providence. He then assigned the project to one of his workers, Gregory Kamka. The dioramas were all completed by 1940, the 100th anniversary of the Sisters of Providence in Indiana.
Starting with a scene in the countryside of Ruillé-sur-Loir, France, in 1806, the dioramas follow the timeline of the Sisters of Providence. In every diorama, the buildings, trees and people have been carefully constructed to represent the scene accurately. There are three dioramas depicting France, one of the ship that brought the sisters to America, and eight that show Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.
Before. Original title/caption: Father Dujarie, Mother Theodore’s Precursor, Envisions the Future. Little Providence, the Cradle of the Present Community of the Sisters of Providence, Countryside near Ruillé-sur-Loire, France. 1806.
“La Petite Providence”. After: additional color and landscapes are added. Father Dujarié, founder of the Sisters of Providence in France, and others build their first house, “Little Providence,” in the countryside of Ruillé. Little Providence, the Cradle of the Present Community of the Sisters of Providence, Countryside near Ruillé-sur-Loire, France. 1806.
The convent at Ruillé that Anne-Therese entered.
“Prayer of Reunion”. After: additional colors and landscape are added. Father Dujarié pauses with the sisters to say a short prayer to “keep in touch” with the sisters wherever they may be. This tradition continues today.
Mother Theodore and her companions prepare to leave their convent home in France
“Farewell to France”. After: additional color and landscape added. Six sisters, including their leader Sister St. Theodore Guerin, bid farewell to their dear Providence of Ruille and begin the missionary trip to America.
Before. Original title/caption: Mother Theodore and Sister Companions Have First Glimpse of America From the Deck of the Cincinnati.
Before. Original title/caption: Mother Theodore Leads Her Mission Band Through the Dense Woods To the Feet of the Master. Journey’s End! Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, October 22, 1840. The First Chapel of the Sisters of Providence in America.
“Journey’s End”. After: additional color and landscape added. Upon arrival, Mother Theodore and her companions recommit themselves to the mission of Providence at the humble log cabin chapel.
Before. Original title/caption: Mother Theodore Encourages Her Daughters During the First Hard Winter. The Thralls’ House Become the “First Providence” at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. Winter of 1840-41.
The first winter. Even the bread was frozen!
The First Academy, (now Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College), opened in July 1841.
Before. Original title/caption: Mother Theodore Vindicates the Right of the Sisters to Live Their Rule at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. The First Providence. June, 1847.
By 1843 a spacious convent is built, to which Mother Theodore joyfully returns after her troubles with the Bishop of Vincennes.
Before. Original title/caption: Mother Theodore Stimulates Education Progress at St. Mary’s by Conferring Awards. The Second Institute (or Academy), Distribution of Prizes, July, 1848.
“St. Mary’s Female Institute”. After: additional color and landscape added. Prizes are awarded during commencement exercises July 31, 1848.
Before. Original title/caption: Mother Theodore’s Sturdy House for Her Daughters Looks Down on the St. Anne Procession Which She Established. Second Providence. July 25, 1875.
“Saint Anne Procession”. After: additional colors and landscape added. The annual July 25 procession makes its way to the Saint Anne Shell Chapel, built in thanksgiving by Mother Theodore for safe passage in a raging storm.
“Fire of 1889”. No original. A fire completely destroys all of the first Providence Convent on Feb. 7, 1889.
Before. Original title/caption: Another Dream of Mother Theodore is Realized — Workmen Place Foundations of the Present Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.
“Church of the Immaculate Conception”. After: additional colors, landscape and sand added. Under the watchful eye of the sisters, workers lay the foundation for the present Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1885.