Founding the way: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s five companions
If you have known the Sisters of Providence for any time at all, you know about the Congregation’s foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Through her prolific writings in journals and letters, it feels possible to come to know her well. She had amazing character, deep spirituality and faith, compassion, humor, courage and more. Much of the draw to her story lies in the “ordinary” — the trials she suffered throughout life and the strength she exhibited in the face of challenges.
Five other women accompanied her on her journey across the ocean to establish the academy and novitiate at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Sisters of Providence refer to all these women as foundresses.
Even today, one can look around secluded Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and imagine the harsh realities these women faced 175 years ago. Isolated from “civilization,” they would have labored in freezing winters, through heavy snows. In summer’s humidity they would have been in the gardens, sweltering in their black habits. They struggled to learn a new language while teaching in that language. They fought illness without easy access to doctors and hospitals. They tended to the vast needs of impoverished settlers.
Mother Theodore recognized the strengths and, in her elegant and straightforward French way, the weaknesses of her sister companions. Humble to the end, she credited her sisters with the foundation’s success.
The portraits below are from a 1990 article by Sister Joseph Eleanor Ryan (RIP) in the former SP publication Community. We share the profiles of these sisters — each extraordinary in her own way — in celebration of all who devoted themselves to the work of Providence. These women were the roots of our tomorrow.
(Read the full profiles from the original article at Fall 2014 issue of HOPE.)
Sister St. Vincent Ferrer
(Victorie Adelaide Gagé)
Sister (St.) Liguori sometimes called Mary Liguori
Sister Mary Xavier