Shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin opens
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, welcomed hundreds of visitors from all walks of life on Saturday as the Shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was officially opened, giving people the opportunity to “Journey with a Saint.”
An open house took place from 1 to 4 p.m., during which visitors could tour the shrine. A Taizé-style prayer gathering also took place at 4 p.m., near the Log Cabin Chapel.
“We are ecstatic that these crowds have come,” said Sister Jan Craven, director of the shrine. “We’re so happy. We couldn’t be more joyful.”
Sister Martine Meuwissen, general superior for the Sisters of Providence of Ruille Sur Loir, France, the Congregation which sent Saint Mother Theodore to establish the Indiana mission, was here for the occasion.
“We are deeply touched,” Sister Martine said. “So many people are praying to her. It is very emotional.”
The visit was Sister Martine’s first to the United States.
“Arriving here was like a dream,” she said. “To be at the place itself, it is powerful. You feel the spirit of the place.
“The message Saint Mother Theodore had, trust in Providence, is still a message for people today.”
In addition, Sister Theresa Wang, general superior for the Missionary Sisters of Providence in Taiwan, also attended the event.
“When I saw it, I was so surprised,” Sister Theresa said. “It is gorgeous. There is so much history. It’s so beautiful.”
Jack Kelley, an architect from McBride Kelley Baurer Architects, Chicago, played a big role in the building of the shrine.
Kelley said he and Father Mark Joseph Costello, liturgical design consultant, were sent a Request for Proposal by the Sisters of Providence due to their previous “religious project experience.”
“Our firm and Father Mark Joseph submitted our proposal, were interviewed and then selected as the designer and architect for the project,” Kelley said. “That was seven years ago.
“We have done many religious projects, but not a shrine for a saint,” Kelley continued. “It has been an incredible opportunity for me personally, as both a Catholic and an architect. The sisters have been the perfect client.”
Kelley added the finished result made him feel “proud and humbled at the same time.”
“Even though I have been an architect for 30 years, it still amazes me to see and consider the ‘before and after’ of a large renovation like this project,” Kelley said. “While we visited the site about once a month during construction and were able to see the progression of its development, it was only during the final visit, when everything was installed and in place, that the sense of accomplishment hit me. Seeing Mother Theodore in her final resting place on the tomb platform in the Chapel, with the glowing natural light all around her, was emotional for me.”
Father Mark Joseph added working on the project was different from others he has been involved with.
“It really was very different,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that the average parish with whom I work is not engaged in their story and project, but with the Sisters of Providence, the engagement is very deep and comes from a lived experience.
“This place really is special to me,” Father Mark Joseph continued. “I think there is an immediateness in the visual world that we have created that matches the immediateness that the sisters seem to radiate about their relationship to Saint Mother Theodore.”
The shrine celebrates the life and mission of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. The first room depicts Saint Mother Theodore’s life in France. The “ship” room displays the cabin she and her five companions traveled in across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. Other rooms offer educational displays and various artifacts.
In addition, the chapel area serves as the final resting place for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
A walnut wood canopy etched with Linden leaves rests above Saint Mother Theodore’s coffin. Custom woodworker Mike Jagielo created the piece.
Jagielo said the canopy is 5-feet 4-inches in width by 11-feet 5-inches in length. It also has a 24-foot 10 and 3/8-inch radius curve on the underside.
“A scattering of Linden leaves are relief carved into the underside,” Jagielo said. “The canopy is made of select walnut and the entire project took approximately 400 hours.
“Overall, I feel the shrine canopy was a significant piece that warranted close attention to detail and construction. I find great satisfaction in producing pieces that are appreciated and will be around for generations to come.”
The public is welcome to visit the shrine daily, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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.