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An unforgettable moment

Sister Jan Craven (right) with Delphine Le Brun at the entrance to the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

It is hard to describe how I felt. You don’t get to meet your ancestor who is a saint every day.

First, what is complicated, in my opinion, is trying to understand what it means to be a saint. I’m not religious, and part of it is formality or ritual that belongs to the Catholic Church. The Sisters of Providence appealed to the Pope, and many Popes and paperwork later, Mother Theodore Guerin became a saint. What I discovered though is the person she was. She was a courageous, strong-willed and spiritual woman.

Saint Mother Theodore arrived in Indiana in 1840, in the middle of a forest not knowing where she was after three months of travel in horse carriages and two months at sea. What still exists is a college and a Congregation, a beautiful 1,200-acre campus with a great library, an organic farm, and a luxurious church.

The Sisters of Providence did a lot of this work after she died. The interesting thing is that she inspired other people around her, after her, so much so that her message and her actions are carried on.

Saint Mother Theodore didn’t have to preach. She simply showed the way by doing, by being there for her sisters, by fighting against the establishment when necessary, by building schools and bringing education into the “wild, wild west,” by learning to heal people with herbs, by befriending the influential people from the nearest villages, by identifying a need and stepping up to the task at hand.

The grandeur of her humility and hard work is breathtaking and hard to process.

On a personal note, she and I share quite a few life experiences; the most significant one for me is probably being an immigrant. I can relate to her experience.

Although I’m not religious, I do pray. For the first time I could pray to her in my favorite mix of English and French, knowing it didn’t matter, only she could understand my language. It felt like home. Somewhere in the Midwest, I felt at home. It was comforting to know an ancestor of mine went through what I went through before me. She had it much, much tougher of course.

Sister Jan Craven and Delphine Le Brun pose for a selfie during Delphine’s visit to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Finally, the Sisters of Providence were so welcoming and warm. They told me I have my ancestor’s eyes. I feel great pride because the Sisters of Providence are actively defending human rights, women’s rights, fighting against racism, putting nature in the center of the Universe, and promoting education. They’re independent-minded, loving and transforming the world into a better place.

I’m amazed.

I want to thank the people I’ve met who were kind enough to share their story. You have touched me deeply. I was happy to be a part of it.

I’d like to close by sharing what I’m hoping may be a word of wisdom. Saint Mother Theodore must not become an idol. She is in every one of us. Her courage, her faith in Providence, her desire to make the world a better place, is inside each one of us.

Make it your own. We need more healers, more connectors in the world. And it doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or not, those are human traits that we can all choose to embody. Let’s not hide behind our fears, but step up to the plate just like Saint Mother Theodore did.

Let’s embrace the world, humanity as a whole, faith in Providence, and everything will be all right. When in doubt, always choose Love.

Thank you for the unforgettable memories.

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Delphine Le Brun

Delphine Le Brun is a relative of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Originally from Les Sables-d'Olonne, France, Delphine has lived in the United States since 2006 and visited Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to learn more about her family member.

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  1. Cindy Hux Martin on August 10, 2017 at 7:58 am


    First of all, I too see SMTG in your eyes, but more importantly in your words which are a reflection of your soul. As a fan of SMTG’s journal, I so enjoyed your reflective approach to your experience. If you haven’t read her journal, you will find your writing styles are very similar. We are all blessed by your journey and are extremely thankful you sought out your heritage. I hope this is just the beginning of a providential friendship as I believe there is more interaction to come from your visit. Thank you for reaching out to all of us that embrace the mission of the Sister’s of Providence. Peace be with you!

  2. Marilyn Schaaf Rausch on August 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Delphine, I love your observation: “Saint Mother Theodore must not become an idol. She is in every one of us. Her courage, her faith in Providence, her desire to make the world a better place, is inside each one of us.” Saints are not to be worshiped, but honored because they prove to us that we can be better than we are. They give the example of their unique response to their relationship to our Provident God. The grace and humility with which your relative and our Saint Mother Theodore lived her life challenges us to look inward at our own response and outward to the possibilities that this relationship offers to the chaotic world around us.

    And I, for one, am willing to take up your challenge to “Make it your own…embrace the world, humanity as a whole, faith in Providence, and everything will be all right. When in doubt, always choose Love.” Thank you for sharing your experience, and for carrying with you the light that St. Mother Theodore lit so many years ago. You have touched my heart!

  3. Jane Schwartz on August 10, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    I am from Jasper, Indiana, which was Mother Theodore’s first mission school. I was taught by the Sisters of Providence there, who influenced me to become a teacher, a French teacher, in fact. I have spent time in Vendee, and in Les Sables d’Olonne. I am very glad that you have had this opportunity to visit in Mother Theodore’s footsteps.

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