Construction on shrine running smoothly
Construction of the permanent shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, themed “Journey with a Saint,” at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., is close to completion.
“The whole project is coming together better than we ever dreamed possible,” Sister Dawn Tomaszewski said.
Sister Dawn, a member of the Sisters of Providence General Council and the liaison to the project, said the shrine will provide both a spiritual and educational experience.
“We believe that visitors and pilgrims will be able both to learn about Mother Theodore and be inspired by her,” she said.
Construction on the shrine officially began Nov. 8, 2013, after a blessing provided by the sisters. Sister Dawn said planning for the shrine started in 2006, following the canonization of Mother Theodore as the eighth American saint.
The shrine experience actually begins at the front door of the Providence Spirituality and Conference Center, which has served as the hospitality center and entrance to O’Shaughnessy Dining Room at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The main exhibit area is located under the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which is adjacent to Providence Center and just down the hall from the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
Visitors will pass through a series of rooms and display areas depicting the Sisters of Providence foundation in France, the long ship voyage to the United States by Mother Theodore and her five sister companions, and the arrival in the midst of a forest in Indiana. These displays lead to the centerpiece of the Shrine – the tomb of Mother Theodore and her admonition to her small community – “Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.”
This chapel area will enable pilgrims to pray in a quiet, private space.
“The exhibits will be highly visual and interactive,” Sister Dawn said. “Questions for reflection, scripture and Saint Mother Theodore quotes will be part of the exhibit.
“I also feel like we’re bringing the beauty of the outdoors (at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods) inside. It’s going to be the hallmark of the shrine. Everywhere you will sit, you will be able to experience that presence.”
Chief architect for the construction was Jack Kelly of McBride Kelley Baurer, Chicago. Father Mark Joseph Costello of Liturgical Consulting and Design, Chicago, has served as the artistic consultant and Garmong Construction Services is currently working on the project.
Garmong Construction job superintendent Mark Ross said work on the shrine has gone smoothly.
“It’s going well,” Ross said. “We started a little slow, but it’s coming together now.”
Ross added the severe weather during the winter months did not hinder construction of the project, on which 10 crew members are working.
“It wasn’t a major issue,” Ross said. “We’re moving along very well.”
Sister Dawn said creating the shrine is a way for the sisters to share Mother Theodore with everyone – not just persons of the Catholic faith.
“This is not just a Catholic place. This is a spiritual place,” she said. “The goal is to make this saint alive for all people.”
Ross said for the members of the construction crew, that rings true.
“I’m sure the guys have thought about that,” he said. “From a personal standpoint, this is big.”
Supporters of the project donated more than $1.85 million for the project.
According to Sister Dawn, an open house for the shrine has been tentatively scheduled for 1-4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25. While construction is slated to end in July, the installation of all the exhibits will take place until October.
About the Sisters of Providence
The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.