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Saint Mother Theodore Guerin moment: Funding God’s mission

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Catholic sisters are funded by the Catholic Church, right?

Actually, no; although many Catholics and non-Catholics alike hold this misconception.

In reality, congregations of Catholic sisters must support themselves. This support comes from compensation they make for their ministries (which for sister teachers in Catholic Schools throughout the years has often been meager). A large amount of their support comes from donations from benefactors.

When Mother Theodore and her companions arrived in Indiana from France in 1840, the Bishop of Vincennes had promised them land, a convent and a school building. They struggled to receive even what had been promised.

Mother Theodore the fundraiser

In need of money, Mother Theodore Guerin went on a fundraising mission to France in 1843. She went to ask the people of France to consider donating money to help her struggling Congregation meet the educational and health needs of immigrants in the United States. Mother Theodore had also hoped to get additional help from a Church collection called the Propagation of the Faith that had begun some years earlier in France (ironically by a woman).

Mother Theodore wrote from Paris on Sept. 22, 1843 to her friend, the Bishop of Le Mans, J.B. Bouvier:

My Lord and Father:

I have just learned for a certainty the Society of the Propagation of the Faith will do nothing more for us than it has already done through His Lordship, the Bishop of Vincennes, for the Councils have made it a law not to give to Congregations of women; hence, no alternative is left us but to solicit private contributions.

This left the sisters vulnerable to the whim of their bishop even for receiving moneys that had been earmarked for them.

Truly, Mother Theodore often had no choice but to rely on the Providence of God. And God’s Providence very often came through the hands of loyal and generous donors willing to support her community in their mission to bring God’s loving care to people in need.

Our legacy to care

Today, each of us has inherited this legacy. We help keep God’s work going through the Sisters of Providence. We are entrusted with the opportunity to support the sisters in caring for God’s people in need. And at this moment in history, it is the many, many sisters who are aging, women who have given their lives for the good of others, who are among those in need.

As Mother Theodore wrote to one of the Congregation’s friends and benefactors, “It seems that God wishes to render His gifts still dearer to us by causing them to pass through your hands before reaching us.”

So, too, do the Sisters of Providence view all your support today. Without each of you and other benefactors like you throughout all of history, nothing of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and the living mission of the Sisters of Providence would be possible.

From Saint Mother Theodore Guerin down to the newest sister today, the Sisters of Providence thank you for your loving support both now and into the future. Thank you for believing in the work we do to make God’s love present in the world. Thank you for making that work possible.

(Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Amy Miranda

Amy Miranda is a Providence Associate of the Sisters of Providence and a staff member in their Mission Advancement office. Amy is a 1998 graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She currently manages the SP publication HOPE and works on marketing support for Providence Associates, new membership and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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