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Saint Mother Theodore: The real woman behind the image

Artwork by Casey Kellum

I find this image of Mother Theodore very compelling. Because it hangs in my work space, I see it often. For me the image conveys an entirely different way to know Mother Theodore.

This isn’t the iconic formal portrait of Mother Theodore. It is not the grey, grainy daguerreotype giving us the most accurate way she looked. It is not the free flowing Mother Theodore surrounded by tiny white violets. This isn’t the Mother Theodore the bronze statue depicts as she strides along on her way to whatever awaits her.

No. This is Mother Theodore burdened by worries. This is Mother Theodore wondering where she will find the money to feed her sisters, build a convent and a school. This is Mother Theodore concerned about neighbors who are ill. This is Mother Theodore being shunned because she was a Catholic. This is Mother Theodore locked in the bishop’s residence as he attempted to remove her from her role as general superior. This is Mother Theodore grieving after the death of her dearest friend, Sister St. Francis Xavier.

This is Mother Theodore in an unguarded moment. A moment of doubt, extreme fatigue and loneliness.

This is Mother Theodore who understands the burdens we carry because she carried them herself.

This is Mother Theodore whose humanity and steadfast belief in Providence made her a saint.

This is Mother Theodore who companions us in all circumstances as we haltingly walk our paths to becoming saints.

Saint Mother Theodore, continue to love us and give us courage to face what life requires us to face. Help us to grow in faith in “that Providence that thus far has never failed us.”

This reflection originally ran in the May edition of the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin email newsletter. If you would like to receive similar stories and inspirational messages centered around Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, subscribe now.

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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  1. Avatar Lori Strawn on May 21, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Oh, S. Denise…this is so beautiful. Thank you!

  2. Avatar Marsha Speth, SP on May 21, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for this portrait of our Saint! It’s one with which we can all identify, I suspect.

  3. Avatar Mary Tomlinson on May 21, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you, Denise, for this realistic image of Mother Theodore. Sometimes, I forget the incredible struggles she endured. The picture captures her expression very well.

  4. Avatar Donna Butler on May 21, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you ,Denise and Casey! Very meaningful.

  5. Avatar Janet Tosick on May 21, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    These are beautiful thoughts on Mother Theodore. This morning, and most mornings, Ipray to St Mother Theodore, and two instances came to me this morning, as you, Sister Denise suggested:
    Being locked in the Bishops dining room, and when her best friend died. She was so courageous! It is a wonderful reflection, thank you for sharing.
    Janet Tosick

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