The woman behind the saint
When we think about saints we often have this image of a perfect person without the struggles or flaws of an ordinary human being — a person not of this world who spent most of their time praying and worshiping God. We forget that they are people who often had to cope with the same issues that people face today.
Saint Mother Theodore Guerin had her ups and downs. Through her own words, which have been published in Journals and Letters of Mother Theodore Guerin, we are able to see the woman behind the saint and why she continues to lead and inspire people worldwide. When you tally her many accomplishments in comparison to the challenges she endured, you can better understand why she is truly a woman and a person for all time. What shaped Saint Mother Theodore Guerin? What were some of the trials that she faced?
She … and five companion sisters were homeless when they arrived in a dense Indiana forest on a dark October evening in 1840. They lived with a generous local family until a new building was completed.
She … experienced tragedies in her early life. Two brothers died in fires and her father, a soldier, was murdered by thieves while returning from war. She put her own dreams on hold to care for her family when her mother could not cope emotionally with her father’s death.
She … and her small band of sisters arrived as immigrants in a new country. They didn’t speak the language and were unfamiliar with the customs. She depended on others to help her learn and adjust.
She … learned survival skills and endured poverty. She and her companion sisters planted and cared for gardens to supplement their food supply. They helped care for livestock. Their cabin was so cold that their bread froze. Still they endured.
She … suffered from chronic health problems. Treatment for a disease early in her life caused severe damage to her digestive system. She could eat only broth and soft foods for nearly 30 years. This left her weak and frequently ill.
She … stood up to injustice. As a woman and a leader in the church, she endured bullying, even excommunication. She met all with grace, determination, strong leadership and compassion. And she didn’t back down. She also addressed social injustices in her day.
She … was a strong woman leader. Within a year of arriving in Indiana, she established the Academy, now known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She inspired women to follow her and founded the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, a group of vowed women who still today live out her legacy to create a more just and hope-filled world.
She … experienced prejudice. Many people weren’t accepting of Catholics in the 1840s, especially Catholic women who tried to do business in a “man’s world.”
She … knew how to turn to prayer to cope with the many challenges that confronted her. She placed complete trust in God for survival, and asked for God’s support in establishing schools throughout Indiana, in leading the young Congregation and in all she did.
She was a teacher, a founder, a healer, a pioneer. She was a person of deep faith who led others toward God.
She is a very real woman. She is a role model. She is a saint.