Home » Blog » Journals and Letters week 12: Hardship and consolation

Journals and Letters week 12: Hardship and consolation

[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters“: page 90 to page 102. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin‘s writings every week in the coming year.]

The reading picks up after the fire at Saint Mary’s destroyed the barns and granary, other provisions and all the farm equipment. Mother Theodore pours out her heart to Bishop Bouvier, her trusted confidante, letting him know her fears, her burdens as superior, her feelings of depression and yet another disagreement with Bishop de la Hilandiere over the admittance of Miss Bernard.

All of those realities seem to be relieved somewhat by the fact that she finally hears from Mother Mary. As Mother Theodore wrote, “not having her approbation —that was the source of my greatest misery.” How my heart ached for her as I read this letter! She must have felt so responsible and at the same time so helpless.     

Some favorite quotes

The letter to the sisters at Jasper is the favorite of many sisters because it has so many gems of Mother Theodore’s quotes. I’m sure you can pick them out because they are so familiar!

As I read these letters I could not help wonder how, with all these worries and frustrations, Mother Theodore ever had the courage to be thinking about returning to France, which meant enduring that horrific ocean voyage a second time. It is one thing to experience such hardship and adversity and nearly lose one’s life, but to put herself in a position to confront that pain, danger and near-death experience again must have taken tremendous trust in Providence and commitment to the mission!

And so we look forward to the second journal of travel.

Join the conversation

What feelings of Mother Theodore did you identify with in these pages?

What’s a favorite quote of yours from the letter to the sisters at Jasper? Why?


Next week > page 103 Part III the Second Journal of Travel to page 112 after letter

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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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10 Comments

  1. Karen Goehl, PA on December 28, 2020 at 7:22 am

    The opportunity to read and study the Journals and Letters of Mother Theodore Guerin on a weekly basis is a gift to me. I have had the book for some time but have not taken the time to read the book in any depth. Every page offers information and insight into the strength of Mother Theodore as she builds and cares for so many with such meager resources. Through her letters we are able to see a woman who shares honestly the trials and tribulations of building new “establishments”, while relying on those humans (some not particularly helpful) for support. At the same time her words reflect her faith and confidence in divine Providence. An amazing woman and courageous leader!

    As S. Ann Casper wrote in her commentary, the letter to the Sisters at Jasper is full of so many meaningful quotes from Mother Theodore. One of my favorites is, “Have confidence in the Providence that has never failed us. . . Grope along slowly. . . . be patient, be trustful.” Those words remind me of John Lewis, a great civil rights leader during the past 50 years.. Lewis described himself as a pilot light and not a firecracker. He was throughout his life a steady beacon and strong leader, just like Mother Theodore.

    • Ann Casper, SP on December 29, 2020 at 11:10 am

      Thanks for your comment, Karen. I love the John Lewis description of himself: “as a pilot light and nor a firecracker” applied to Mother Theodore and her leadership style.

  2. Jeannie Smith, PA on December 29, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Karen (and all), I love that bit about John Lewis being a pilot light! That is beautiful. My husband, George, is a retired sea captain, and he has often described role models as lighthouses. In this season of darkness – but ever-lengthening days, Christmas stars, Grand Conjunctions, candles and houses festooned with colored lights and white lit icicles, I want to celebrate the lighthouses, pilot lights, firecrackers and beacons lighting our way – and don’t we have a bright one in our Mother and her generations of daughters and sons?

    • Ann Casper, SP on December 29, 2020 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks, Jeannie. What would we do without LIGHT and human LIGHTS brightening our way. Thanks for the reminder that we are surrounded by them.

  3. Jane Fischer PA on December 30, 2020 at 9:41 am

    She endured this mournful Indiana winter weather and still found the strength to work and inspire. These days with no sunshine did not hinder her completely because she drew her strength from beyond the sun. Her support and encouragement to the Sisters in Jasper resulted in three elementary schools in one small town. There is a beautiful statue on the grounds of her first school if you ever get to that southern Indiana town. Like all of you, she is with me daily.

  4. Cathy Dearing, PA on December 30, 2020 at 11:47 am

    I identified with Mother Theodore’s desire to connect with her Sisters in Jasper. She had such solidarity with them. She wanted to encourage them. Most of all, she wanted to remind them that she IS them. Mother Theodore exemplifies a true servant leader. “We cannot do our work if we all stay in our nest.” she wrote. She was about doing the work that needed to be done….that’s how she was able to get back on that ship and cross the Atlantic.

  5. Rosaline Secrest PA on December 30, 2020 at 11:51 am

    How fortunate we are in the SP&PA community to have such gifted contributors. Ann, Karen, Jeannie, and Jane, you have given me much to ponder with your words and your imagery. You have helped me more deeply appreciate our Mother Theodore and her work. Thank you.

  6. Theresa Tighe on December 30, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    It is sad to read of Mother Guerin’s many hardships, But her actions give all who suffer from anxiety and depression hope.
    She describes the depth of her worries.
    She writes: ” I am sometimes so depressed and disheartened that I feel inclined to excessive sadness. In these moments I have often felt that I should be glad to die…”
    Her description of her fear of being burned down again and her sisters dying in the fire, might be called PTSD today.
    She confesses to be weighed down by present hardship and even more by apprehension of the future.
    So how does she keep going and recover?
    She thinks of her Sisters who need her.
    She prays.
    She confides in those she knows she can trust for prayers and good advice.
    She relishes moments in which she has peace of heart and feels her “natural gaiety” and the times she is full of “love and gratitude to God.”
    Over time, her fear of burning lessens and she gets a donation that allows her to buy the Sisters food. God’s providence kicks in when the Sisters are down to their last dollar. How often that happens.
    She is proof that depression and anxiety are neither weakness nor lack of faith; that financial.
    woes come even with good management. .
    I sometimes have problems with depression and making decisions. I mediate on her writings every morning.
    And this is some of the best advice I have ever received.
    Mother Guerin writes: “Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. Do not press matters; be patient, be trustful.”

  7. Theresa Tighe on December 31, 2020 at 10:54 am

    And I should add that if thoughts of wanting to die and depleting depression continue in our time there is help in medication which can alleviate chemical imbalances and therapies which teach a person to handle their thoughts and impulses. The process starts with admitting problem and seeking
    help. And always remember, “No one loves you like your old Mother Theodore.” She says so in this book and she will help.

    • Ann Casper, SP on January 2, 2021 at 6:19 am

      Thank you for your comments, Theresa, and for your insights and reminders about depression and anxiety. I find that Mother Theodore’s words often touc hmy spirit just when I need to hear what she has to say.

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