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Reflecting on Crises with Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

(Editor’s note: This piece was originally posted in the May 2020 edition of the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Shrine Newsletter.)

My 15-year-old nephew with autism texted me in March and said, “Aunt Jan … because of the Granola Virus, I haven’t been able to go to school, but that is OK because I don’t like it anyway!” Yes, early on, he did not know how to say Coronavirus, but today, he knows it well. Thank God he and our extended family are safe, well, and taking every precaution to stay that way.

I, personally, am writing this newsletter from my home office, gazing out the window at the redbud trees that are just filled with blooms in order to do my part to limit this virus’s spread. I miss our Woods, but so far, the sisters and staff at the Motherhouse are safe and doing everything they can to stay well. It is so hard to stay upbeat each and every day when there is such tragic news from around the world. But now, more than ever, we must strive to sustain an attitude of love for life. All of us must choose to be love and hope, or we die of something worse than a virus.

I remember reading the letter from Saint Mother Theodore to the sisters in Madison about the cholera epidemic. (That epidemic, which was worldwide in the 1840s and 50s, caused massive deaths. Russia lost 1 million citizens in one year. Today, 143,000 people still die of cholera around the world, and that is with a known cure and vaccine.) Her touching letter reminds me of our Sister Dawn, and her Council, who are taking every precaution imaginable to safeguard the sisters, the Health Care residents, the staff and anyone else who walks our Woods.

Mother Theodore’s letter

Allow me to quote just a portion of that letter from Mother Theodore to the sisters in Madison:

“My very dear and beloved Daughters: Just this moment I hear that the cholera has made its entrance into your dear Madison. I cannot tell you how anxious I am about you. I beseech you to be sure to write to me at least three times a week, even if only a few lines, to let me know how you are, whether the disease spreads, or whether it has disappeared, — in a word, everything. You understand that the least details are of interest in such moments of danger. I have confidence, however, that God will not permit any of you to be attacked by the epidemic. Be cheerful, kind to one another; having nothing on your conscience that could trouble you. Do not fast. Let your food be wholesome and well prepared. Keep your house, the yard, and also your persons clean. Change your linen often, and have your children clean also, if they are still with you.”

As the leader of this cherished community, Mother Theodore worried about her Daughters of the Forest. We are all worried now for each other. Each day I receive prayer intentions, requests for relics, and people asking that we light candles in Mother Theodore’s Shrine for loved ones suffering from the coronavirus. Each day our Sister Kay Manley lights the candles and Sister Denise Wilkinson responds to the people with prayer intentions to reassure them of our prayer and love. That is our full-time ministry now — payer.


Later on, in that same letter, Mother Theodore continues her thoughts… “At New Orleans, the contagion attacked only those who were predisposed by an enfeebled constitution or by excesses. We are going to have public prayers for you. Say every day … the prayer that they say every night at Ruillé after night prayers. Finally, if the plague makes great ravages in your city (which I do not anticipate, as its inhabitants are temperate and laborious), arm yourselves with courage, and devote yourselves generously to the care of your suffering sisters and brothers.”

Today, each Sister of Providence and Providence Associate, are asked to pray that prayer — the Reunion — at 3 p.m. each day. There is something powerful knowing that so many people are united in prayer at the same time sending good energy into our world, wherever they may be.

So, Mother Theodore, I am armed with courage. I have just ordered my ‘wholesome’ food from the grocery store to be delivered. I am sanitizing what I can daily, keeping the yard clean, having Zoom meetings with the sisters, and saying the Reunion at 3 p.m. sharp, thanks to Alexa reminding me to do so. Keep us yours always! Amen

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Sister Jan Craven

Sister Jan Craven

Sister Jan is a Sister of Providence. Currently she ministers as co-director of Providence Spirituality and Conference Center and as director of shrines at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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  1. Avatar Sheila Donis on May 13, 2020 at 7:54 am

    Thank you Sister Jan. Your words give comfort, and truth coupled with hope. Love, Sheila

  2. Avatar Ann Mooney on May 13, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Reading your reflections on St. Mother Theodore when her Sisters were dealing with their own pandemic, gives me hope that we will get through our own challenges right now with the 2020 pandemic. It is comforting in knowing we are all diligent in praying for one another in staying well. Thank you for sharing, Sister Jan.

  3. Avatar PAULA DAMIANO, SP on May 13, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Your blog reminds me again of how grateful I am for Mother Theodore and for all the efforts being made to keep our sisters safe and healthy.

  4. Avatar Sister Connie SP on May 13, 2020 at 9:17 am

    Your reflections were so beautiful and inspiring as were the precious worlds of our beloved Saint Mother Theodore.

  5. Avatar Mary Tomlinson on May 13, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Jan. Beautiful reflection. The quotes from Mother Theodore’s letters were touching and not unlike what we are facing today. Thank you for sharing your reflection.

  6. Avatar Paula Modaff, SP on May 13, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    I was touched by Theodore ‘s reminder to her sisters to be “to be cheerful and kind to one another.” That is exactly what I am experiencing in Providence Hall on a regular basis and I am so grateful.

  7. Avatar Mary Ellen Kelley on May 17, 2020 at 11:06 am

    First i want to thank you for your prayers and the HOPE this brought to me. I loved the way you said ” we mus t choose to be love and hope or we die of something worse than the virus “” it is so hard to watch someone who does not have love and hope. it makes me very sad and to see this person so miserable. May God continue to Bless the works of your hands and all at the woods.
    Peace to all,

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