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Retired sisters share Saint Mother Theodore and her home

Sister Nancy Nolan leads a tour group through the French room in the shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Sister Nancy Nolan leads a tour group through the French room in the shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Several Sisters of Providence volunteer in their retirement sharing the life and mission of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin with others as tour guides at her shrine at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Among them are Sisters Nancy Nolan, Florence Norton and Rosemary Nudd.

Sister Nancy Nolan

Sister Nancy Nolan, who led the Sisters of Providence as General Superior from 1986-1996, finds inspiration in giving guided tours of the shrine. Sister Nancy says she has been devoted to Mother Theodore for many years. “It is a joy for me to share her faith and virtues, as well as her sense of humor with others.” She sees her experiences in the shrine as a passageway into the future. She is particularly fond of the room that describes Mother Theodore’s arrival at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She notes the quote on the wall, “It is astonishing that this remote solitude has been chosen for a novitiate and especially for an academy. All appearances are against it.”

“When I think of the challenges facing our Congregation today … it may seem like all appearances are against a vibrant future. I am called to remember what the six founding sisters faced, and that deepens my faith and trust in Providence.”

Sister Florence Norton

Mother Theodore came to these woods with little knowledge of the English language. In her first years here, communication was required of her and was very challenging. Sister Florence Norton, a former teacher, has been volunteering with guided tours of the grounds for five years. She has been a Sister of Providence for 71 years. Sister Florence understands the challenges of communicating with others who speak a different language. She served as a missionary teacher in Peru for seven years from 1969-1976. Sister Florence says she enjoys when she is able to speak her second language, Spanish, while giving tours.

“There isn’t always much opportunity to speak Spanish to groups, but when I do, it’s fun to see the faces of the people light up. They might not expect a woman my age to be able to speak their native language [fluently].”

Sister Rosemary Nudd leads a tour for students from Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, Indiana.

Sister Rosemary Nudd leads a tour for students from Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, Indiana.

Sister Rosemary Nudd

Walking through the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin today, a person can relive the foundation story of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The work of many makes this possible, among them Sister Rosemary Nudd. Sister Rosemary is freshly retired from teaching English at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) and she has always been passionate about giving tours of the grounds. She did so during her ministry at SMWC and spends even more time with it now.

In 2011 Sister Rosemary was asked to help write the storyline that is embedded on the walls of the shrine today.

“I was surprised, thrilled, and honored, and said ‘yes’ right away,” she said. Part of this writing includes the “consider how” statements, which are short blurbs that challenge guests to enter in with their lives by considering how Providence works in their lives.

“While I was working on the storyline, I was focused on the task. Since that time, in every tour I give and everything I read about our saint, I grow in awareness and amazement of her love: love of God and, inseparable from that, love of God’s people, God’s creation, God’s mission. As a result, I pray more to follow in her footsteps, and I love her more as well,” Sister Rosemary said.

(Originally published in the Fall 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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