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Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore coming to life

Diorama No. 7 depicts the First Academy, which opened in July 1841. It was the Sisters of Providence first school for girls at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind. The dioramas are located in the entry way to the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

The majority of the heavy lifting has been completed, but Sister Jan Craven said a punch list more than three pages long still remains.

Since November 2013, construction crews have been hard at work creating a permanent shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

Sister Jan, director of the Shrine and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Providence, compared the process to ocean waves.

“We’ve had high tide and low tide,” Sister Jan said. “But the tide never stops. It seems as if we’re always at high tide.”

Sister Jan said Chief Architect for construction, Jack Kelly of McBride Kelley Baurer, Chicago, and Father Mark Joseph Costello of Liturgical Consulting and Design, Chicago, who served as the artistic consultant, were recently on the grounds soon to conduct a walk-through of the shrine.

Garmong Construction Services job superintendent Mark Ross said the company has completed its work and will be away from the site until August.

“It went well,” Ross said. “It went well for the tight quarters we’re in. There were some design changes as we went along, but we’re used to that. This is special. I’ve always thought the building is for the sisters whom we pass in the hallway. We created a place for them to come to.”

“They’ve worked so hard,” Sister Jan said.

The company plans to come back to the site in August to begin the carpeting process among other items.

Until then, there are still things to do in order for the shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin to be prepared for an open house, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 25.

“Our recent annual meeting of the sisters was the A-ha moment of, ‘It’s coming,’” Sister Jan said. “We’re that close.”
Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, a member of the Sisters of Providence General Council and the liaison to the project, echoed those sentiments.

“For me, personally, I feel like everything is coming together,” Sister Dawn said. “I love it. In many ways, the whole project has gone beyond everyone’s expectations. The legacy of Mother Theodore is alive and well.”

Sister Dawn said major construction has been completed and now work will begin in the installations of items within the shrine, which will continue through August.

She added the sisters also have plans for renovating the bathrooms at the entrance of Providence Spirituality and Conference Center to coincide with the renovations of Linden Leaf Gifts, formerly the Gift Shop.

Sister Dawn said the “shrine experience” begins at the entrance of the center, emphasizing recent renovations of Linden Leaf Gifts.
“Linden Leaf Gifts foreshadows what you’ll see in the shrine,” she said.

Sister Jan said additional landscaping in front of the center will also take place.

“The whole place has been reconstructed,” she said. “I think it will be a beautiful experience.”

The main exhibit area of the shrine is located under the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which is between Providence Center and the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Visitors and pilgrims will pass through a series of rooms and display areas depicting the Sisters of Providence foundation in France, the 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.

The chapel area will enable pilgrims and visitors to pray in a quiet, private space.

“I really feel like you’re walking her journey, walking her path,” Sister Dawn said. “This is an entry now, our way of sharing this place. You’re going to feel like you’re there. We are honoring her legacy.”

The sisters plan to have the shrine completed by October. Sister Jan added the remains of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin are scheduled to be moved to the shrine on Oct. 3, which coincides with her feast day.

The Saturday, Oct. 25, open house has been scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m.  It is open to the public.

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.

About Providence Spirituality & Conference Center

Providence Spirituality & Conference Center at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., serves as a welcoming center for the Sisters of Providence motherhouse and offers outreach to the community through tours, facility rentals, spiritual programs and retreats, and Sunday Brunch. It exists to provide people of all faith traditions, diverse cultures and ages an invitation to gather, to learn, to meet and to share in a spirit of hope and healing. More information about Providence Spirituality & Conference may be found at ProvCenter.org.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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