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Journals and Letters week 8: Indiana arrival

[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters“: page 53 In Indiana to page 60 The Journey’s End. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin‘s writings every week in the coming year.]

This drawing depicts the log cabin chapel where Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and her five companion-sisters gave thanks for a safe voyage upon their arrival at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on Oct. 22, 1840.

As I read Mother Theodore’s detailed account of meeting the poorly clothed priest, I wondered if later she was embarrassed by her conversation about his having no housekeeper. Indeed that “would have been pure luxury” as far as the priest was concerned, as he went on to describe his meals and sleep habits. As Mother Theodore got into the stage, was she still mulling over her remarks, wondering if she had offended him? Embarrassed perhaps? Was she pondering what might face her in terms of dwellings and food?


She also described “the hut” which served as his church and home and school. This is not the only comment she makes about the conditions of the places which served as “temples to the God of heaven.” When she arrived in Vincennes and saw the church there, she exclaimed, “What a Cathedral!” And she says she was “shocked” and “wept bitterly.

Entrance room in the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods showing the France of 1840 from which Saint Mother Theodore began her missionary journey to pioneer Indiana.

When I gave tours of the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Shrine at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, (pre-Covid), I often pointed to the framed photo of the Cathedral in Séez and said, “I tend to forget that Mother Theodore came from a rather sophisticated France with great Cathedrals, actual roads, and thriving businesses, etc.”

In another writing, she remarked about the Cathedral of Séez being one of the last things she saw prior to leaving France. To me, this would have made the conditions in pioneer Indiana even harder to bear. Did she ever have second thoughts, I wonder, as she was thrown out of the carriage into mud and water? Or when she saw Terre Haute and remarked, “… yet, it is not pretty”?

Your time to share!

Mother Theodore and her sister companions faced many challenges in these eight pages! Had you been one of her companions, which would be your greatest challenge and why?

Mother Theodore’s emotions ran the gamut in this short section. To me, it was her humor that was most amazing. Are you able to manage lightheartedness in the midst of hardship?

What in this passage did you reflect on?

Next week > page 60 The Journey’s End to page 70

View the complete reading series.

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Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper, SP, retired as the executive director for Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and currently serves as minister of Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Sister Ann has ministered in various scholastic and administrative positions in Indiana and North Carolina. She also was a member of the Sisters of Providence leadership team, serving as General Secretary.

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  1. Avatar Jeannie Smith, PA on November 28, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    I, too, was struck by that story of Mother Theodore’s assumption that ‘of course, the priest would have a housekeeper!’, and it reminded me of the previous reading where she was so humiliated to have to lie on the mats with other unfriendly, mocking passengers on the steamboat. Both passages point out how people expectations of basic needs can be so different. Yet on they go, she and her companions, accepting the new conditions of their lives and learning from people so different in expectations and resources than anything they knew in their previous lives. Think of the millions of people today who are on the move from lives so very different from that of the societies they are trying to enter, and how baffling that must be.

  2. Avatar Denise on November 30, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I always reflect on – or shudder at – being wet and cold when she arrived at SMW – and then all the shocks that awaited her there – and she was wet and cold the whole time. I’d have retraced my steps back to France then and there.

  3. Avatar Linda McMahon, PA on November 30, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    I noted the references to hospitality that were extended to Mother Theodore and her sister companions. As in many other locations where they stopped during their travels, ordinary people opened their homes and shared a room, a warm fire, perhaps a simple meal from their own meager resources. Mother Theodore’s recollection of these kindnesses speaks to me of her gratitude for Providence and those who are its ministers.

  4. Avatar Cathy Dearing on December 4, 2020 at 7:43 am


    Eureka! My book was misplaced for four days! I wedged it under a pillow away from my new energetic and curious kitten and forgot where I put it lol.

    These pages I read about Mother Theodore’s description of travel and arrival at Vincennes were disheartening. I cannot even begin to imagine how physically and emotionally demanding all this must’ve been. I agree with Sister Denise about the wet and cold conditions! How awful that must’ve been. I think about the “letdown” Mother Theodore seemed to have felt and how times in my life I had high hopes and expectations and was let down.

    Mother Theodore teaches me that it’s human to experience this and have feelIngs about it and to own and validate those emotions of being disappointed and let down. And still she teaches me time and time again how to cope and renew hope.

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