Home » Blog » Journals and Letters week 10: First letters, bishop issues

Journals and Letters week 10: First letters, bishop issues

[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters“: page 71 Early Letters to page 77. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin‘s writings every week in the coming year.]

This section starts the first of the letters sent from Mother Theodore from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She recorded in her diary having written 5,000 letters. Wow!

A letter written by Mother Theodore with her signature. One of 5,000 letters written in her lifetime.

I am so thankful that the Sisters of Providence have been able to preserve so many of these letters for all of us. I love how in her letters Mother Theodore pours out worries and faith, wisdom and encouragement. In the letters we read this week, she is corresponding with two Indiana priests. Both priests originated from the same area of France that she did. These priests offer support and help bring new sisters to the growing young community. (Twelve new sisters in six months!)

Early troubles

In her relationship with Father Martin, I am happy to see that she has a friend and trusted advisor to help her. Especially, as we see from her letter, since things do not seem to be going smoothly with the bishop of Vincennes just a few months in. I really love how she tries to see the good in him and offers some charity in her description of the bishop here: “He is an excellent father. I have never found a more compassionate heart, one more charitable, under so cold an exterior.”

As she goes on, we get a feel for more of the distress coming the sisters’ way from the bishop. “So far there has been nothing but complaints about us,” she writes.

She acknowledges the sisters are struggling with such negativity. Not all are able to remain charitable toward him. She says, “This good will, of course, is not equally strong in all the Sisters, but you know dear Father, grace is not given equally to all, nor at the same time.” I like those words of wisdom. I too have had times I am able to face difficulties with grace. And other times, I just am not.

Good for nothing

Having lived through abusive behaviors, I recognize them in her description of the bishop’s. In addition to there being nothing but complaints about the sisters, she mentions that they are “under humiliation.” They now find themselves “good for nothing.”

“Oh good way for the proud, accustomed to be praised, admired and carried along, and who now find themselves, like rejected stones, good for nothing!”

I can imagine how hard it would be as sisters who have given up everything to come to a new country to serve people in need to now face nothing but criticism from the person who has so much control over their lives. So disheartening. But Mother Theodore continues to lead with grace and lean on friends such as Father Martin for advice and counsel.

I know what is coming in her relationship with the bishop. I am sad that the sisters had to endure being under his thumb for so many years.

Your turn!

How do you handle adversity? How can you better tap into God’s grace when facing challenges?

What about Saint Mother Theodore affects you in these letters?


Next week > page 78 to page 89

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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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6 Comments

  1. Jeannie Smith, PA on December 12, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks, Amy. Certainly Mother Theodore’s restraint and charity in speaking of the difficult bishop is striking. I noted in the explanations about the two priest they both of them left the diocese in 1846 – in fact the text put it that Father Delaune “severed his connection” to the diocese. One wonders if they, too, were mistreated. I have friends who are of the Eudist order of priests, and they, also, have a history in the diocese of Vincennes in the mid 1800’s. I’ve been told their order left because of the bishop. We have to admire our Mother’s spirit, courage, and perseverance though those so difficult times for her and her growing community.

    • Amy Miranda on December 15, 2020 at 10:03 am

      Wow Jeannie, thanks for pointing that out. I didn’t put that correlation together of orders and priests leaving the diocese, but it surely does speak to Mother Theodore’s perseverance. Our area of Indiana has been blessed that she stayed!

  2. Cathy Dearing on December 14, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Amy,
    Thank you for your nice summation of these pages. My initial gut reaction is anger and ashamed of the way Mother Theodore was treated by the Bishop of Vincennes. Thank God that Mother Theodore could confide in these two priests! You posed the question, Amy, of how do we handle adversity? I talk to someone – my two sisters. But sometimes I “get stuck” in my adversity. These letters show how Mother Theodore found in these two priests individuals she could confide in, be honest with, and trust. They were also her spiritual advisors. Through their support and prayer, Mother Theodore could move on to the will of God for her. Spiritual Direction is invaluable. Perhaps I am being called to seek out a spiritual director with whom I can confide and grow in my spiritual life. I know there are several Sisters of Providence who are spiritual directors. After reading these letters, I feel a nudge to further discern this

    • Amy Miranda on December 15, 2020 at 10:04 am

      That is great, Cathy. We all could use some guidance and our sisters are great at it!

  3. Theresa Tighe on December 14, 2020 at 11:27 am

    I read the wrong pages. Then the right ones. But the mix of both left me with hope. The situation with the Bishop was intolerable, yet she tolerated it with as much grace as possible recognizing his illness which I think today would be called BiPolar disorder. It cost her dearly eating away at her confidence in herself. How did she survive such unremitting persecution? She trusted in God. She did what is almost too difficult she loved her enemy.
    I go back to these words of hers: “It is astonishing that this remote solitude has been chosen for a novitiate and especially for an academy. All appearances are against it.”
    She found a way by trusting as much as she could each day and I am sure it ebbed and flowed in God’s Providence. I read those lines frequently.
    She managed to survive and thrive. With prayer including to her, I will lean on God’s Providence too. despite a chronic illness.

    • Amy Miranda on December 15, 2020 at 10:05 am

      Lovely, Theresa. Thanks for sharing.

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