Mother Theodore the leader
Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was a true leader.
She led by inspiring others.
“The sweetness and patience of our dear Mother opened all hearts to her, and once in possession of a heart, she could lead the will to the most heroic acts of virtue,” described Sister Anastasie Brown, a former student and member of the community.
“She won and uplifted hearts, she inspired them and quickened them,” wrote M. Leon Aubineau, an editor at l’Univers in France.
She practiced honesty and fairness in her business dealings.
A sister who lived with her at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods relates, “Mother was much noted for her uprightness and justice in business dealings. Even some years after Mother’s death, a farmer of this neighborhood related that on one occasion, early in the fall, Mother had bargained with him at a certain price for the winter supply of pork to be delivered at the opening of the winter season. In the meantime, the price of pork advanced, and this advanced price Mother paid the man when he delivered the meat. The man was greatly surprised. But Mother remarked, “It would be honest to pay the price agreed upon, but it would not be just.”
Saint Mother Theodore was humble. She acknowledged her own faults and was willing to grow and learn.
Sister Mary Ambrose O’Donald, shared this first-hand account. “On one occasion I remarked to an older Sister at recreation, ‘Sister you ought to tell Mother of her mistake in the Psalms this morning.’ Whereupon the sister addressed called out, ‘Mother, Sister Mary Ambrose has something to tell you!’ And to my great embarrassment, (for I was quite a young Sister) I had to step forward and mention the faulty English. But Mother’s sweet way of expressing her gratitude soon put me at ease.”
Saint Mother Theodore was a servant leader, helping others to bear their load.
“I did not fear trials as long as our Mother Theodore was left to us. She always took the largest share, and helped us well to suffer,” one sister relates.
And another, “Our dear Mother shared our manual labor when she was able. At such times she always turned our thoughts to the spiritual benefit the work suggested.”
Saint Mother Theodore was naturally gifted.
“When we consider her many qualifications, — her spacious mind, her admirable character, and the precious qualities of her heart, we are embarrassed to know which we should admire the most,” wrote her successor Sister Mary Cecilia Bailly.
She offered love and charity without bias, winning the respect of many.
“There was but one feeling, one impression with regard to Mother Theodore. She commanded universal admiration and love. All those who saw her, whether Catholics or Protestants, seculars or persons in religion, rich or poor, all were struck with enthusiastic admiration at her superior merit,” Sister Mary Cecilia wrote.
She had a wonderful balance of authority and compassion.
As Sister Mary Cecilia describes, “She blended the tenderness of a Mother with a firmness of a Superior so perfectly that her government, as you well know, was the most happy and effectual.”
Sister Anastasie Brown used these words to describe her: “sweetness, justice, prudence, gentleness, firmness.”
Saint Mother Theodore was brave.
She left home and country and all she knew to come to an unknown wilderness. She created schools and a Congregation of sisters while still learning the language and customs. Not only did she live out bravery, she inspired it in others. In her journal of coming to the United States, Mother Theodore relates this story. The sisters were descending a rope ladder from their ocean liner to a small boat below on a choppy sea: “I whispered to the Sisters, ‘Come, if we have to die, let us die, but say nothing!’ With these works I descended first, by the rope ladder, without experiencing the least uneasiness. The others followed, none showing fear except poor Sister Ligouri, who was pale and trembling as though she were sure of meeting death in the waters.”