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Reflections on the 175th Anniversary Celebration of Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper

(Note: The following are the comments Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski made during the anniversary celebration of Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper, which took place on Saturday, March 18).

Sister Mary Montgomery (center) takes a photo of General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, venerating the statue of Mother Theodore. Notice that both are wearing their Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College rings, bringing to mind the first academy started in Indiana by Mother Theodore.

We know it is no coincidence that we are celebrating the installation of this statue on the eve of the feast of Saint Joseph. As most of you know, when Mother Theodore accepted Father Kundek’s invitation to open a school in Jasper, she made the following request:

“I should be much pleased if you would be so kind as to wait for the feast of Saint Joseph and have the installation on that day. It would be a great consolation for us to place our first establishment under the patronage of this great Saint, who is the patron of our Congregation.”

And you also know that when the sisters arrived on March 19, 1842, their installation became the occasion of a great public festival. And here we are gathered together 175 years later to celebrate this anniversary and another kind of installation – and again the good people of Jasper have made our coming the occasion of a public festival.

Thank you on behalf of all Sisters of Providence and especially those of us who are with you today – particularly those who were born and raised in Jasper and those who have served this community faithfully as educators, administrators, and more recently pastoral ministers.

It is amazing to me that since 1841, 70 daughters of Dubois and Spencer counties have become Sisters of Providence; 65 of them from Saint Joseph Parish. This is a testament, no doubt, to the influence of the many, many Sisters of Providence who served here. But it is also a tribute to the faith-filledness of this Catholic Community. You helped form these young women, nurtured their love of God and encouraged them to share their gifts through the witness of religious life. Thank you.

Now you haven’t sent us anyone lately – so we’d be happy if you could work on that! But in the meantime, we are grateful that many of our Providence Associates call Jasper home or have roots here and many good people of Jasper have served on our boards as advisors and as supporters of our mission in other ways. Thank you.

We also know that Mother Theodore herself, “conducted her sisters to Jasper.” And somewhere in her “Journals and Letters,” she wrote “Jasper reminds me of France, particularly Brittany.”

It seems to me that with the installation of this statue, Mother Theodore has come home to Jasper and to all of you. Special thanks to you, Father Ray (Brenner) for making the dream of this statue a reality, not only for the people of Saint Joseph Parish, but also for the entire community of Jasper. And thanks to Nick and Christine Ring for the wonderful rendering of her image.

When we look at this statue, I would like us to remember a few ideas about Saint Mother Theodore and about our own vocation to walk in her footsteps.

  • Saint Mother Theodore was a determined educator. Let us put into practice her finest educational philosophy: Love the children first, then teach them.
  • As pioneers, those early sisters faced many hardships. As we deal with our own struggles, let us remember what Saint Mother Theodore told her sisters in Jasper, “Rest assured, my dear daughters, if you lean with all your weight upon Providence, you will find yourselves well supported.”
  • As we strive to live out the theme of this anniversary celebration – to walk in the footsteps of our saint, let us remember these words of hers, “What have we to do in order to become saints? Nothing extraordinary; nothing more than what we do every day. Only do it for (God’s) love.”

May God’s love guide us all. Saint Mother Theodore … pray for us. Saint Joseph … pray for us. Amen.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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