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Building and healing: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin moment

Construction work on reassembling the log cabin chapel at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 2012.

Sister Mary Montgomery, SP, loves fresh air and walking. So it was not surprising to find her outside on a Sunday afternoon enjoying the beauty of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. It proved to be no ordinary walk.

She encountered four men who were very eager to learn more about the history of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. That eagerness was all Sister Mary needed, as she launched into the “foundation and arrival story.” When she asked if they had seen the Log Cabin Chapel yet, three of the men responded in unison, proudly and humbly, “We helped build it.”

Sister Mary came to find out that this was a reunion of sorts for the three men who were inmates in 2012 at the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute. The fourth man was their driver who transported them to the Woods each day they worked on the cabin. Before their release, they vowed to return to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for a visit, and this weekend was that moment. The three builders, Ryan, Danny and Kelly, now live in Indiana, Missouri and Michigan, while Bud the driver is local. They went on to explain what coming to the Woods for this project had meant to them, recalling the peacefulness of the place and the kindness of the sisters. They felt honored that their careful work had resulted in something so meaningful to the sisters, and now to all visitors, and they became captivated by Mother Theodore’s story.

The Sisters of Providence Log Cabin Chapel at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

Sister Mary gave the four men a full-fledged tour and then turned them over to Sister Florence Norton, who guided them through the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Shrine for the next hour. Upon finishing the tour, one of the men pointed to a large photo of the sisters and the Providence Associates. “There’s our favorite sister,” he said, as he pointed to Sister Denise Wilkinson, SP, former General Superior. They all shook their heads in agreement.

It’s safe to say that all involved in this story experienced a Saint Mother Theodore Guerin moment that day!

(Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper, SP, retired as the executive director for Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and currently serves as minister of Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Sister Ann has ministered in various scholastic and administrative positions in Indiana and North Carolina. She also was a member of the General Council, serving as General Secretary.

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