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Saint Mother Theodore Guerin: bearing the light still today

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin (personified by Sister Ann Casper) participates as a torchbearer in the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay in Vigo County this past September.

There was a familiar habited figure among the Indiana bicentennial relay torchbearers in Terre Haute on Sept. 21, 2016. Our own Saint Mother Theodore Guerin carried the flame for the state of Indiana as one of 2,000 Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay torchbearers who helped celebrate Indiana’s 200 years.

Torchbearers were selected for being people of public service who excelled in their professions and showed acts of heroism or volunteer service in their area.

The committee agreed that Saint Mother Theodore was all these things and selected her posthumously to be one of 21 to bear a torch along a route in Vigo County.

Sister Ann Casper, SP (formerly Sister Kenneth Ann) represented Saint Mother Theodore during the relay.

“Anytime I portray Mother Theodore it is almost sacred. It is a profound experience each time that I do it,” she said.

Sisters of Providence and supporters at right cheer on Saint Mother Theodore as she bears the torch during the relay.

Sister Ann says that Saint Mother Theodore is very much alive among the Congregation and those who know her.

“It is as if she is still with us. She is so present. I sense her presence.

“And her story is still very relevant today. She was an immigrant. She came to a foreign land where she didn’t know the language and where there was a lot of prejudice and bias toward Catholics and toward women. There are just so many parallels to what she faced and what she endured that are still around today. She’s a great model and mentor.”

A new follower

The newest woman to join the Sisters of Providence, 28-year-old Emily TeKolste, is getting to know Saint Mother Theodore better right now.

Postulant Emily shows off the “positio” as she learns more about Saint Mother Theodore.

As part of her volunteer ministry with the Congregation as a postulant she is helping in the Mission Advancement office, sharing the story of Saint Mother Theodore. You might find her carrying around the big, black, bound “Positio.” The book contains interviews and quotes from people who knew Mother Theodore and stories from her life.

“I think Mother Theodore is a great example. She keeps going. Keeps striving when things are difficult, when things seem about to fail. She looks at the goal and doesn’t give up,” Emily said.

“Her perseverance inspires me. She faced seemingly insurmountable challenges. Things that I don’t have any way to identify with. Hunger — not being able to eat normal foods with the rest of the community. But also fear of hunger for the people she was in charge of caring for. To imagine — these people are your responsibility and you can’t even feed them. It must have weighed heavily on her.

“Mother Theodore’s community is the legacy that she left. And they have just been phenomenal actors in our world. Phenomenal inspiration. And phenomenal support in helping me to work toward my best self. I have a long way to go. But I’m just starting the journey.

“It’s inspiring the way Mother Theodore lived her life so faithfully and how all the people we see today continue that legacy,” Emily said.

Support for the people

Sister Jan Craven, SP, director of shrines for Providence Spirituality and Conference Center, is moved by the people who visit Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s shrine at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Sister Jan Craven with the book of intentions in the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Of the intentions written in the intention book there, she says, “It’s an outpouring of people’s faith and love of her power in their life. People go on and on and on about their families and their ailments. And that alone says to me she’s still alive in a lot of peoples’ lives.”

She picks up the intention pages and reads a few passages:

“Thank you Mother Theodore for all of your love and help.”

“Please let the lump in my daughter’s neck be completely healed. We ask your help and blessing.”

“From all of those who have come after you. From all of us who have followed in your footsteps, we say thank you. For all the lives you’ve touched and made better. Your life of service is a blessing to all of us.”

“This lifts me up,” Sister Jan said.

“Saint Mother Theodore was the glue. She was the light that kept the community going,” she says.

Saint Mother Theodore continues today to lift up and keep people going.

What are people seeking when they come to her shrine? What do they find there?

“Peace,” Sister Jan said.

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

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Advancement Services office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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