Home » Blog » Journals and Letters week 19: Back home in Indiana

Journals and Letters week 19: Back home in Indiana

[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” page 169 to page 180. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week in the coming year.]

There’s something about Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“My joy would have been complete had I only been with my dear Solitaires in the Woods.” This is the first whole sentence we are greeted with as we begin page 169. Hearing Mother Theodore express this sentiment nearly made my heart burst. How much she loved her dear sisters and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. When she finally does arrive home at the Woods she describes the feelings of reuniting as “too deep for words.” The legacy of love she left here can still be seen every day among the sisters, associates, staff and supporters. It’s akin to being part of a club that welcomes all.


Mother Theodore was made a saint on Oct. 15, 2006. Here Pope Benedict XVI processes to the altar during the Mass of Canonization.

After reuniting with her sisters Mother Theodore must leave Saint Mary’s to visit three establishments in Indiana. On her first stop, she arrives in Vincennes just in time for the diocesan synod, a retreat for clergy. This causes her to reflect on what has been accomplished in the diocese in a very short time. “How quickly has the grain of mustard seed grown into a tree?” She writes about the contributions of Bishop Simon Bruté after hearing a sermon by Father Deydier. Her admiration for him and others is very clear. “These are the models in life and in death that we are to copy, we are continuing their labors.” I wondered if she had an inkling how many people would one day feel that way about her?

Mama Bear

Mother Theodore travels on to Montgomery to visit the sisters at St. Peter’s. This establishment was formed while she was away in France. She seems rather taken aback at their living conditions and her maternal instincts become rather evident. “ … but I must say that if I had been here, I would not have allowed them to pass the winter in such a house.” Mother Theodore even tries to persuade them to come back to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods with her, but they refuse. She reluctantly lets them stay but doesn’t seem too happy about it. How many times have I had this exact same feeling with some of the choices my children make?

Good Germans

If you’ve ever been to Jasper you probably already know it still has strong German roots. My son’s middle school tennis team played in a tournament there every year so I am quite familiar with the Schnitzelbank Restaurant which was right next to the hotel where we stayed. After spending all day with middle school boys, I may have even drunk a good German beer out of glass shaped like a boot.

I loved Mother Theodore’s recount of how the “good Germans” of Jasper “came every Sunday seven or ten miles to sing hymns in the church.” I personally found her telling of it a bit humorous as she marveled at their dedication. “I must admit I was very tired; and I say to my shame that my fervor was put to the blush when I saw all these fervent Christians begin again their pious procession.”

Closing thought

I really enjoyed this passage. Through Mother Theodore’s own descriptive words, I became deeply immersed. Her humanity really shines through and you can clearly see why so many still are dedicated to her and the legacy she left at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Perhaps my favorite takeaway is near the end of the reading where she addresses the supporters to whom she is writing. “Being poor we can only plant: you must water; and to God alone be the glory of the increase.”

We love comments!

Tell us what you thought about this passage. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Long separation from loved ones is something many people are currently experiencing. What are some qualities that Mother Theodore exhibited that could encourage us in these trying times?

What are ways you try to protect your loved ones like Mother Theodore?

Next week > page 181 to page 190 bottom

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Mary Riley

Mary Riley

Mary Riley is director of operations for White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Prior to her current role, she served as 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. Avatar Cathy Dearing on February 15, 2021 at 7:11 am

    Thank you for your nice review and reflection. I too enjoyed this passage. I especially liked hearing about the “good Bishop Brute!” Mother Theodore spoke so highly of him: of his goodness, sacrifice, and holiness.

    I particularly enjoyed the section on page 176 into 177 of Mother Theodore’s beautiful description of the Indiana landscape and wildlife. I chuckled about the serpent and mosquitoes!

    You posed two questions Mary for our reflection:

    1. Long separation from loved ones is something many people are currently experiencing. What are some qualities that Mother Theodore exhibited that could encourage us in these trying times? Mother Theodore prayed for everyone! And she asked others to lift there prayers for various people and intentions. I could do the same! And she wrote letters! I could also send cards, letters, emails, and texts to friends and family during this time. Mother Theodore also gave herself permission to feel loneliness, sadness, homesickness in her times of separation from her country, family, community. I can honor my feelings too.

    What are ways you try to protect your loved ones like Mother Theodore? You physically go to them if possible. Mother Theodore made so many visits! She also shared her wisdom, made decisions, gave guidance. performed so many acts of charity. I can do that too. Most of all, she ultimately left the protection of her loved ones in God’s Hands; in Providence. I can do the same.

  2. Avatar Madonna Wilson on February 18, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Thank you Mary for a wonderful reflection from this week’s reading. I enjoyed all that you shared in each section: From the ‘Heroes’ to ‘Mama Bear’ to the ‘Good Germans’ (and I must mention, you made me chuckle after reading about the beer glass shaped like a boot!)

    One quality of Mother Theodore that has encouraged me during these trying times is her absolute love of nature. The elegance and beauty of how she describes everything around her is so moving to me. It has allowed me to notice and appreciate even more God’s gift of life in nature.

    Cathy, I too enjoyed reading how Mother Theodore described our Indiana landscape. I especially liked:
    The beauty of the forests of Indiana in the rich and lovely month of May surpasses all description…
    The trees raise their straight trunks to the height of more than a hundred and twenty feet and are crowned with tops of admirable beauty.
    The magnolia, the dog-wood… covered with white flowers, the perfumed snow of the springtime.
    Animals of every kind are the quiet possessors of the woods.. the hummingbird and a multitude of other birds.”

    So during this Lent, I will continue to spend more time in nature and be ever grateful of the beauty of God’s creation all around me.

  3. Avatar S. Denise Wilkinson on February 19, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    I am catching up on reading J and L – and catching up with comments. Mary, I appreciate the “simpleness and sparseness” of your writing in this blog. It helped me to focus – a skill I’m having difficulty with these days. So thank you!

    Cathy and Madonna – what each of you highlighted as important for you in the reading did the same for me – helped me focus. So thanks to you as well.

    Spoiler alert – the next two readings will be challenging. I am anxious to see how Sister Ann handles the first part of the “years of trial.” I am puzzled as to how I will.

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