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Struggles of a saint: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

smtg-moment-mtg-lockWhy do you admire Saint Mother Theodore Guerin? Perhaps because she was brave? Down-to-earth? A valiant woman of God?

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was not only successful in her mission, she also has served as an inspiration to many.

But no person’s success comes without struggle.

Do you know the story of Saint Mother Theodore’s painful relationship with the Bishop Cèlestine de la Hailandière of Vincennes, Indiana?

The bishop tried to exercise all authority over the community, overlooking Saint Mother Theodore’s role as leader of the community. This created a lot of tension between him and Mother Theodore. Mother Theodore remained steadfast in what she knew was best for the Congregation. She considered resigning many times, so he would leave the community in peace, but her sisters would hear nothing of it. They believed she was the only person who could lead their mission.

Locked up for a day

At one point Bishop de la Hailandière went so far as to lock Saint Mother Theodore in the room and excommunicate her from the Congregation.

It came after a disagreement at Vincennes between the bishop and Mother Theodore over whether or not elections should be held and who would decide who entered the community. He wanted her to comply with his changes for the community, changes that she knew would hurt the Congregation. When Mother Theodore refused to agree with everything, he locked her in the room for punishment.

He did not return until after his dinner later that evening when other sisters questioned him on Mother Theodore’s whereabouts. When he re-entered, Mother Theodore fell to her knees and begged for his blessing. He then declared that she was no longer the superior or a Sister of Providence. In fact, he forbade her from communicating with any Sister of Providence.

In the weeks to follow, Mother Theodore fell extremely ill (perhaps stress sparked the severity of the illness). She had to remain in Vincennes until she was well enough to depart. In the meantime, Father Corbe relayed the news of Mother Theodore’s being removed from the Congregation to the rest of the community. The community came together, from the sisters to the people who worked for them, and agreed they would follow Mother Theodore wherever she would go. Soon after, the Bishop resigned and Mother Theodore was able to return to the Woods after all.

(Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Jena Thralls

Jena graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 2012 with a degree in journalism. She worked for the Sisters of Providence as a Marketing Manager.

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