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Former general superior finishes new book filled with details about the life of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Former General Superior Sister Diane Ris has a devout relationship with Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

More than a dozen years ago, Sister Diane was asked by Sister Ann Kathleen Brawley (RIP), a former Congregation archivist, to read through a stack of papers. “She never said anything more than that,” Sister Diane recalled. “I said to her that I would read through those papers that night.”
What Sister Diane read was “wonderful. I asked Sister Ann Kathleen to come to my office. When she arrived, she asked me another question. She said, ‘Will you finish it?’”

“It” is a book titled Saint Mother Theodore Guerin: Woman of Providence. It had been started by Sister Joseph Eleanor Ryan before her death in 1991 and Sister Ann Kathleen wanted to find someone to finish the in-depth story about Saint Mother Theodore from birth to death.

“She knew I had great devotion to Mother Theodore,” Sister Diane said. “My term as general superior was nearing an end and I was scheduled for a year-long sabbatical. So, I said to her I would finish the book, but it would need to wait until after my sabbatical.”

The result is a 277-page book with another 35 pages of notes and information that provides a buffet of luscious details, many of which are being shared for the first time. Sister Joseph Eleanor had the opportunity to visit Saint Mother Theodore’s homeland in France and study the French archives. Sister Diane forged through years of extensive research of her own to learn as much about the Congregation’s foundress as possible.

“I wanted to tell a complete story. I had Mother Theodore’s picture in front of me on the desk in my writing room. I had her first-class relic in front of the picture. I had a candle glowing. There was not one day when I didn’t want to continue working on the book. I was eager to do it,” Sister Diane explained.

“I have a deep love for Mother Theodore. I have so much respect for what she was going through, all that she experienced from birth to death. What a holy woman she was! In the words of Pope John Paul II at her beatification, ‘not only was she holy, but she was fully human.’ Put those two things together and you have a saint,” Sister Diane added.

Being chosen by the Congregation to become Saint Mother Theodore’s 15th successor became an opportunity for Sister Diane to be deeply acquainted with her foundress. Still, her research allowed her to learn even more about the woman who came here from France in 1840 and touched so many lives through generations of sisters who followed her.

“Her suffering was a very big thing. At heart, she was a very joyful person. Things happened to her that were very, very hard for her. She would try to hide it from others, keep it to herself and present only her joyful self. What wonderful gifts she had. There is abundant proof why she had great love for the cross with the burdens she bore,” Sister Diane said.

Sister Diane served as general superior from 1996 to 2001. She is a native of Port Chester, N.Y. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a bachelor’s degree in education. She received a master’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University and a doctorate in elementary education from Ball State University.

Sister Diane entered the Sisters of Providence July 21, 1951, from Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, D.C. She professed perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1959.

She served as associate professor and professor of education at Morehead State University for 20 years. She also served as interim director of Global Education Associates of New York in 1995. Prior to those ministries, Sister Diane taught in schools in Evansville, Plainfield, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis in Indiana; Chicago; and in Lansdowne, Md. She now ministers as a volunteer on the Health Care Services staff at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin: Woman of Providence was published through AuthorHouse of Bloomington, Ind. It is available for $22.95 in The Gift Shop at Providence Center at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The Gift Shop can be contacted in various ways: giftshop@spsmw.org, www.spgiftshop.com, 812-535-2947 or 866-996-2947.

Ministry assignments for Sister Diane Ris:

Evansville, Ind.: teacher, Sacred Heart School (1954 and 1962-1964).
Chicago: teacher, Our Lady of Sorrows School (1954-1958), Our Lady of Mercy School (1964-1965), St. Francis Borgia School (1965-1967)
Plainfield, Ind.: teacher, St. Suzanna School (1958-1959).
Lansdowne, Md.: teacher, St. Clement School (1959-1962).
Fort Wayne, Ind.: teacher, St. Patrick School (1967-1969).
Indianapolis: teacher, St. Patrick School (1969-1975).
Morehead, Ky.: assistant professor and professor, Morehead State University (1977-1996).
Indiana: Provincial, St. Gabriel Province (1986-1990).
New York, N.Y.: interim director, Global Education Associates (1995).
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods: General superior (1996-2001), Health Care Services (2002-present).

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Sisters of Providence

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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