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CNN shares Mother Theodore’s journey to sainthood

This article is reprinted from the summer 2012 issue of HOPE.

Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, vice postulator and promoter of the Cause for Saint Mother Theodore, is shown being photographed by CNN photo journalist Leon Jobe. Jen Christensen, producer for CNN Presents, is pictured at left.

Cable News Network (CNN) searches worldwide for intriguing stories to share with its millions of viewers. So, when CNN contacted the Congregation in October 2011 to inquire about sharing Saint Mother Theodore’s gripping journey to sainthood, the welcome mat was rolled out.

CNN producer Jen Christensen said the goal was to share with viewers the requirements necessary to become a saint; the mystery, the science, the financials, all of which play major roles. The story would be part of a documentary package on a future weekly program called “CNN Presents.” (That program was televised on March 4 and was rebroadcast on March 10. It was nearly 12 minutes in length.)

Jen, and a team of photojournalists and technicians, made three trips to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to document Saint Mother Theodore’s story. Correspondent Drew Griffin also made a visit. Each time, through a series of emails, a list of needs was prepared. People were on standby for potential interviews, places were prepared for video documentation, and materials in Archives were hauled out, dusted off and made available.

Without Archives, which has preserved highly detailed information for more than 170 years, this connection may not have been possible. The precise detail of Saint Mother Theodore’s life was a key factor in her canonization, and that material was of keen interest to CNN. They visited Archives twice where Sisters Mary Ryan, Marianne Mader, Marie Grace Molloy, Marie Esther Sivertsen and Donna Butler had documents, pictures and memorabilia at the ready.

“I felt very energized by Jen and Drew because of their enthusiasm for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods,” said Sister Mary, archivist. “They were interested in all the Archives had on Mother Theodore. I felt they portrayed Archives in a very positive way.”

Sister Marianne, who did medical research to support the cause for canonization, agreed.

“I was impressed by their interest in being historically correct. They asked for specific items, including many pictures. I found them to be very professional and friendly. I was proud that we could provide the historical documents and research for their documentary. This is what Archives is all about. We are the keepers of the story!” she said.

Jen was impressed by her time at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“People are interested in this mysterious and unusual process. I don’t know how I got to be so fortunate to do be able to do this [story]. It’s been really wonderful in so many ways. I hope people come [to visit Saint Mary-of-the-Woods]. It’s a wonderful story to tell. The work you do here is really important for the world to know about,” she said.

“This is Heaven on Earth. I’ve never been to such a beautiful place, not just the land, but the spirit here. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been. I’ve been very fortunate to travel the world and to see the best and the worst of humanity. This is singular. The sisters here are amazing. It makes me emotional. That’s how much I really love it here. It’s clear to me that this woman was a saint without the Vatican’s blessing,” she added.

In the days after the program was shown on television, Sister Jan Craven, coordinator for the Office of the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, said there was a large increase in requests for prayers and information.

To view the story, visit http://cnnpresents.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/08/the-business-of-making-saints/.

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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