A Woodsie reflects: Shannon Sonderman
Shannon Sonderman, of Jasper, Indiana, is a student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College seeking a degree in elementary education. She is also a top recipient of the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Scholarship, a scholarship that is awarded to students who embody the spirit and virtues of Mother Theodore herself through leadership and community involvement.
Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was a marvelous woman ahead of her time. We students (and some alums), lovingly refer to her as “Mama Teddy” (as she is our “mother”). We will always have her to talk to in a time of need.
In my mind, I can’t imagine the amount of strength and devotion to God that Mother Theodore and her companions must have had when they began their mission. Such strong devotion, that they would leave their home in France and travel thousands of miles to a rural forest west of small Terre Haute, Indiana. She did this without checking Google to see what was in the area, and trusted Providence that she would find her calling in this new world. She simply took the word of the Bishop that there would be a school built and a place for the sisters to live. She did not know exactly what their accommodations would be when they first arrived. In fact, she didn’t know if she and her sisters would have a place to sleep at all. However, they ended up sharing a home with a nearby farming family until their own house was built for them months later. In times of fear, she would often remain calm and assure fellow sisters that the God of Providence had helped them through the past and so he would be there in the future. The faith and compassion that she lived her life by is inspirational.
When I am having a hard time in my daily life, I look to the life of Mama Teddy. She was able to accomplish so much and she went through a lot of struggles to accomplish her mission. If a middle-aged, harassed religious woman in the 1800’s can overcome her worst fears, travel over the ocean and through the american wilderness in harsh conditions, and start up a school and a community of sisters in the midst of a forest (on little to no funds), then I think I can get through my daily trials today. Mother Theodore always pointed to our Provident God when her fellow sisters were in a time of crisis and that inspires me to try to do this as well.
“Show kindness to them (children) and be attentive to their spiritual and physical needs.”-Saint Mother Theodore Guerin
I want to be a window to God in my everyday life and I think that is what Mama Teddy was doing all through her life. She was working hard to make education for women a reality. I am also trying to make education for everyone a reality. My future profession is to be a teacher and I hope that I will be able to inspire my students to be the best that they can be. Mother Theodore worked with children to inspire them to be at their best through not only education and learning, but spirituality and faith. She once stated, “Show kindness to them (children) and be attentive to their spiritual and physical needs.” She was very passionate about helping students grow as well as encouraging others around her to inspire the students through positive reinforcement. Mother Theodore’s passion for education is evident in Journals and Letters. For those of us who read and reflect, we will find great inspiration through her words.
Shannon, you certainly have imbibed the spirit of the Woods and of MotherTheodore. This is a very thoughtful and touching reflection. S. Denise
Shannon, your reflections – like your beautiful voice – truly reflect Mama Teddy’s courageous and compassionate spirit. Thanks for sharing, and hope you have a wonderful summer!
Inspiring words. It is good to know how much her Woodsies love St. Mother Guerin. I only went to the Woods my freshman year, but I regard Mother Guerin as my spiritual mother and try with occasional success to rely as she did on God’s Providence. I am sure you are doing and will good work of many sorts.