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The gift that is Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

Isn’t it a great feeling the first time you see people discover something you already treasure? It’s like watching someone open a gift you already know they are going to love. You are as excited as they are while they unwrap their present. For those of us who already know how special Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is, that same feeling occurs when we see visitors pass through the gates and step on to these historic grounds.

Pilgrims who walked from Indianapolis to saint Mary-of-the Woods this June are treated to a tour by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin (aka Sister Rosemary Nudd)

Pilgrims are treated to a tour by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin (aka Sister Rosemary Nudd).

The Sisters of Providence have been blessed to have a steady stream of visitors, tourists and pilgrims make their way to the place Saint Mother Theodore and her companions journeyed to so long ago. This year, there were school groups, bus tours, walking pilgrims, church groups, families and travel clubs – all who got to experience the natural beauty, rich history and thriving community present here.

Since 2014, the year the shrine opened, close to 10,000 people have come to tour the grounds, shrines and sacred spaces at Saint Mary-of-the- Woods. Groups are also able to watch a movie about Saint Mother Theodore and the Sisters of Providence, dine with the sisters in their home, attend daily Mass and shop for remembrances of their visit at Linden Leaf Gifts. Guests who come on Sundays can also enjoy  the award winning Sunday Brunch in the historic O’Shaughnessy Dining Room.

2nd Grade students from St. Pat's meet the alpacas on their tour of the grounds.

Second-grade students from St. Patrick’s School meet the alpacas on their tour of the grounds.

Perhaps some of the most endearing moments occur when school children tour the grounds and learn about the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. With boundless energy, students walk and often run from all the sites which include the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Saint Anne Shell Chapel, Log Cabin Chapel and the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

A popular stop on the tour is always White Violet Center for Eco-Justice where children and adults can learn about sustainability, see the organic gardens and meet the herd of alpacas. This year White Violet Center is celebrating their 20th anniversary. They recently welcomed two new members to the herd with the birth of Providence Sullivan (Sully) and Providence Lilah.

Of course, as much as children love interacting with alpacas, they also enjoy meeting the sisters, hearing their stories and learning about life in the Congregation. One student was astounded by the fact that sisters do not marry and quizzed them several times to make sure she had heard correctly. The sisters equally enjoy their interaction with the students, many of them having been educators at several of the schools that visit.

Sister Rosemary tells students the story of Saint Anne Shell Chapel.

Sister Rosemary tells students the story of the Saint Anne Shell Chapel.


When is the best time to visit? It’s always a good time to journey to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods! Each season is beautiful in a special way. Even in the dead of winter you will discover things that may be hidden by the lush foliage that surrounds us in summer.

Group tours should be scheduled in advance with Rita O’Donohue, manager of tours at 812-535-2945 or rodonohue@spsmw.org. All faith traditions are welcome.

Perhaps  you have never been here or maybe it has been a while since you passed through the gates. Why don’t you make your way back? In Saint Mother Theodore’s own words, “Come then to refresh your souls alone with your God.”

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Mary Riley

Mary Riley is the marketing manager for some ministries of the Sisters of Providence including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice and the Volunteer Services.

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