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Sister Mary Ligouri Tiercin : a founding Sister of Providence

Illustration by Phil Velikan from the children's book “Saint Theodora and her Promise to God,” depicting the scene on the ship traveling to the United States where Sister Ligouri falls upon Mother Theodore.

Illustration by Phil Velikan from the children’s book “Saint Theodora and her Promise to God,” depicting the scene on the ship traveling to the United States where Sister Ligouri falls upon Mother Theodore.

In the Sisters of Providence Mission Advancement office, Sister Liguori is a bit of a legend. She was the object of one of Mother Theodore’s funniest journal lines. During a storm on the Atlantic, Mother Theodore wrote:

“The vessel rolled around like a nut on the sea. Our dear plump Sister Liguori fell against me with all her weight. I thought I was killed.”

Poor Sister Liguori may have only seemed “plump” due to her age and recent station in life. As the youngest member of the group, she was born of well-to-do, cultivated parents and received an excellent education. The others had, for at least a few years (if not many), experienced the privations of professed life. After a mere two months in formation, Sister Liguori received the habit of a novice on July 12, the day the party left Ruillé.

Though the youngest and the first to die, Sister Liguori made her mark on the history of the Sisters of Providence. She copied Mother Theodore’s journals to be sent to sisters and friends in France. Her beautiful handwriting helped preserve the history of the new order — a history which helped establish Mother Theodore as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

Sister Liguori learned English quickly and was put in charge of the first little school opened in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village. In just two years — still just 22 — she was transferred with an American novice to open a mission at St. Francisville, Illinois. Her indefatigable spirit overcame harsh conditions. The pastor gave the sisters his own log cabin for home and school, and a cow for milk. Despite great financial hardship, she kept a hopeful attitude. “The parents whom we see often are much pleased with their children at home,” she said. “All show attachments to us. With kindness, and above all with the assistance of divine grace, we shall gain the affection of these good people.”

After several more years in impoverished and difficult missions, Sister Liguori contracted consumption during a devastating flood in Madison, Indiana, in 1846. She soon returned home for medical care, but she could not be saved. The young woman who was seen most likely to succeed the foundress as general superior died on Jan. 16, 1847. Mother Theodore herself wrote the obituary. In a letter to Ruillé, she said, “all our sisters are overcome by the death of our dear Sister St. Liguori.”

(Originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Rosie Blankenship

Rosie Blankenship is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She previously served in positions for the Sisters of Providence as the web site manager and annual giving manager.

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