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“Journals and Letters” week 2: the voyage begins

Today we start reading the travel journal of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

[Editor’s note: Today we start discussingJournals and Letters“: Page 1 to page 10 (second paragraph). Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin‘s writings every week in the coming year.]

The very first pages I read of Mother Theodore’s journey to America were not at all what I expected. There was no joy or excitement present. I thought Mother Theodore would be ready for her big adventure to America, but the very first sentence she writes is, “The moment of separation and death had come at last.”  For someone who eventually became a saint, it struck me as humorous at how dark and depressing her thoughts and emotions were before they even arrived.

Human struggles

As I read on I realized that Mother Theodore speaks in a way and about things that I could relate to as a woman, mother and human. On page three, she writes, “I had not had time to read them (letters from Rennes, Orleans and Soulaines) all, having been obliged to remain up packing and roping our trunks until midnight.” It reminded me about all the times before a trip when I had to stay up well after my family went to bed to get things organized and packed. It doesn’t always put you in the best of moods even before the nicest of vacations. I can’t imagine how miserable she must have felt as she prepared to leave everything she loved behind.

A reproduction of the vessel Mother Theodore and her companions sailed in across the ocean in 1840.

The sea journey seems doomed from the moment they boarded. Thieves, seasickness and bad weather with the added addition of not speaking English and being on an “American” ship, all contributed to a wretched start. I do see a little of Mother Theodore’s personality and wit peek out in these first 10 pages. She writes, “You never saw such a comedy,” in reference to a sick sister taking care of the other sisters who were sicker than herself. This is of course another thing I can fully relate to as a mother myself. All in all it was an interesting beginning. Even though I know how it ends, I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this group of women.

What do you think?

How did it make you feel when reading about the start of Mother Theodore’s journey? Is it what you expected?

What are some ways you can relate to Mother Theodore as a person?

Please leave your comments so we can keep the discussion going.

Next week > Oct. 24 Week 3: Page 10 to page 23 New York

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Mary Riley

Mary Riley is the marketing manager for some ministries of the Sisters of Providence including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice and the Volunteer Services.

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  1. Theresa Tighe on October 18, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    I think much of the value of Mother Guerin’s Journals and Letter’s is that they show us she was human just like us and has the same emotions and thoughts we do. She handles them as best she can as they happen. She manages to find some humor in human chaos. Even when she is sad, frightened, uncertain of the future she tries her best to trust God’s Providence. Something we are trying to do too.
    And she doubts herself as we all do. Maybe we should remember that we are questioning all our abilities.

    • Mary Riley on October 19, 2020 at 2:36 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree! The fact that she doubts herself is a very human quality. It’s a good reminder for us all right?

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