‘In the Footsteps of a Saint’
You all know the story by now, but it’s worth repeating.
On October 22, 1840, six Sisters of Providence from Ruille sur-Loir, France, journeyed to Indiana at the request of the bishop of Vincennes to help educate the many Catholic immigrants who were settling in the area.
The sisters – including Saint Mother Theodore Guerin – established the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and in less than a year, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was born.
Only two years after coming to America, the Sisters of Providence were asked by Father Joseph Kundek to help educate girls at the St. Joseph Parish in Jasper, a very strong Catholic area which includes the Holy Family and Precious Blood churches. At the time, Father Kundek’s congregation included mostly immigrants from Germany.
From 1842 to 2002 (160 years!), the sisters ministered at the parish.
And on Saturday, March 18, the church will recognize the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin during its 175th anniversary, aptly named “In the Footsteps of a Saint.”
According to information provided by the church, a total of 218 Sisters of Providence have ministered at Saint Joseph Parish, as well as Precious Blood, Holy Family, 5th Street School, 10th Street School and Jasper Middle School.
More than 70 Sisters of Providence are from Dubois County – where Jasper is located – or its neighbor, Spencer County (see list below). Sixty-five of those sisters were from Saint Joseph Parish!
Sister Mary Ann Lechner attended Saint Joseph School prior to becoming a Sister of Providence in 1947. She said the sisters’ presence at the school encouraged her to become a women religious.
“I always loved and admired the sisters,” Sister Mary Ann said. “I think becoming a Sister of Providence was for me.”
Sister Mary Ann added that 11 of the Sisters of Providence who attended Saint Joseph School are still living, including herself and Sisters Ruth Ellen Doane, Mildred Giesler, Betty Hopf, Mary Beth Klingel, Lucille Lechner, Margaret Norris, Dorothy Rasche, Annette Schipp, Louise Schroeder and Marie David Schroeder.
According to Saint Joseph Parish history, 189 Sisters of Providence ministered in the parish from 1937-2002. Of those sisters, 13 taught more than 10 years there. The church does not have the number of sisters who taught there from 1842-1937.
Sister Margaret Norris taught at the school for 33 years, while Sister Ann Clementine Lee (RIP) taught there for 32 years. In addition, Sister Winifred Mary Sullivan taught at the school for 25 years.
The school has since closed and the last academic year a Sister of Providence ministered there was 2001-02. However, Sister Carolyn Bouchard ministers as the director of Healing at the church.
Many events will take place during the March 18 ceremony. At 2 p.m., Providence Associate Sandra Hartleib will present “In Her Own Words,” a dramatic presentation based on “The Journals and Letters of Mother Theodore.”
Mass will take place at 4 p.m., with Bishop Charles C. Thompson serving as the celebrant, and a dedication of a statue of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin will take place following Mass. The statue was sculpted by Jasper resident Nick Ring.
Sisters of Providence who entered from Dubois and Spencer Counties
Notes: * indicates a sister who is still living
Sisters’ Names (formerly known as) Surnames Entrance-Death
Victorie Eckert 1847-1884
Clare Kiefer 1847-1913
Felicita Melchoir 1847-1889
St. Ange Denning 1850-1870
Mary Louise Jochim 1855-1915
Mary Blandine Morgenroth 1860-1928
Raphael Eberhard 1862-1916
Rosina Baumert 1866-1935
Ann Therese Kunkler 1969-1918
Mary Fidelia Sermersheim 1969-1936
Mary Albertine Sonderman 1970-1923
Symphorosa Fischer 1870-1936
St. Fidelis Ackerman 1870-1920
Mary Aline Friedman 1871-1873
Otillia Eckert 1873-1941
Clarissa Kuebler 1877-1945
Mary Aquila de Bruler 1883-1915
Augusta Sonderman 1885-1934
Mary Georgina Mehringer 1885-1945
Ann Elizabeth Baumert 1886-1924
Herman Joseph Eck or Egg 1888-1945
Mary Gervase Pfeffer 1891-1942
Mathilda Mundy 1892-1942
Ann Fidelia Werner 1892-1951
Mary Bertrand Werner 1903-1948
Mary Angela Jahn 1903-1963
Mary Constance Pfau 1905-1952
Miriam Joseph Betz 1906-1918
Mary Ursalina Sermersheim 1906-1966
Frances Ann Jahn 1907-1919
Mary Agreda Schaaf 1907-1984
Mary Hermana Kluemper 1907-1964
Roberta Marie Kluemper 1908-1973
Caroline Hopf 1911-1971
Martha Hopf 1912-1985
Therese Louise Burger 1914-1974
Marie Adelaide Mertens 1916-1986
Helena Renner 1917-1969
Mary Henry Brames 1919-1993
Agatha Marie Jahn 1921-1969
Rose Imelda Pfeffer 1927-1945
Mary Benedict Goetz 1928-1994
Imelda Therese Gutgsell 1929-2000
Theresa Eleanor Blessinger 1930-1988
Olivia Blessinger 1932-1969
Edith Pfau 1933-2001
Mildred Anne Dudine 1935-2012
Paul Marie Gutgsell 1936-2005
Rose Therese Welp 1939-2004
Bernice Kuper 1940-2013
Cecilia Anne Miller 1940-2013
Annette * Schipp 1940-
Catherine Alberta Kunkler 1941-2009
Charles Louise Kluesner 1941-2002
Marie David * Schroeder 1941-
Mary Rosita Thewes 1943-2009
Louise * (Edward Louise) Schroeder 1943-
Mildred * (Alma Joseph) Giesler 1944-
Ann Clement Voegerl 1944-2005
Rosemary (Norbert Ann) Kluesner 1946-2011
Mary Ann *(Robert Ann) Lechner 1947-
Margaret *(Marie Angeline) Norris 1949-
Lucille *(Mary Louis) Lechner 1951-
Mary Marcellus Moeller 1951-1997
Frances (Mary Pauline) Rees 1953-2003
Ruth Ellen * Doane 1954-
Rita (Veronica) Lechner 1955-2010
Dorothy *(Rose Martin) Rasche 1959-
Betty *(Barbara Francis) Hopf 1961-
Martha *(Martha Joseph) Wessel 1962-
Mary Beth *(Mary Hope) Klingel 1964-
Mary *(Jolene) Mundy 1964-