A “Woodsie” reflects: Mari Bennett
Mari Bennett is a freshman at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She is pursuing a psychology major and a minor in art. She is also a recipient of the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Scholarship. Her first year here at the Woods has taught her a lot about Mother Theodore and Mari feels her presence each time she travels to class. Mari’s first journey to the Woods is still clear:
It was a crisp fall day and trees lining the campus had gorgeous amber and gold leaves. With the windows down, I breathed in the fresh air of the Woods and looked on toward the front gate. I felt like royalty pulling up to the Avenue, which stretched into the distance. My heart pounded as my father drove the long path before us, the beautiful buildings reflecting off the windows of our old Jeep. I was still unsure of what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. Yet, this overwhelming sense of peace overcame me at the moment we arrived. I knew this was where I needed to be.
Fast-forward a year. I was sitting in my Woods Core Honors class, hearing about Mother Theodore and her five companions’ first journey to the Woods. In previous months, I’d heard from other students about how that trek was “extremely difficult,” but those conversations hadn’t gone much further than that. Luckily, my professor introduced our class to a book: Faith is a Substance, by Katherine Burton. Burton detailed the thoughts of Mother Theodore during the last portion of their voyage from France to the Woods:
The sisters had endured long hours in a horse-drawn wagon that shook violently, often knocking them onto the floor. (Yikes!) Deep water covered many roads, and the horses plodded through thick mud. The sisters held onto the wagon’s sides, desperately hoping not to be shaken off. As the horses went further, the waters deepened, and all that was visible of the animals were their heads; the wagon was taking on water — and the sisters still had two more miles to go!
Eventually (and finally), they heard the sweet words from Father Buteux, “Come down, Sisters, we have arrived.” At first, Mother Theodore was disheartened at the sight their new home. They were in the midst of a deep forest and the chapel where they would pray was a poorly constructed and rather small log cabin. However, a vision came to her of an even smaller cottage in France called La Petite Providence, and she had a spark of encouragement for the woods. She knew that God was in this place, the home to which He had called her.
Later, Mother Theodore considered that moment her “conversion.” She was cold, tired, disappointed, and afraid. Yet, a grace entered her soul that reassured her that Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was where she was meant to be.
“Yet, a grace entered her soul that reassured her that
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was where she was meant to be.”
I know now that Mother Theodore’s first journey to the Woods was much different from mine. She worried that no girls would be drawn to her academy, that this wasn’t the right place, or that they would never find funds to start a free school. Now, 175 years later, The Woods is still going strong. Young women still feel a spark, as Mother Theodore did, each time they enter the campus gates, their future ahead of them.