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Journals and Letters week 27: Dawn of a new era

[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” page 244 to page 252 top. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week in the coming year.]

In these letters we read Mother Theodore’s first-hand account of all the changes that happened toward the end of Bishop de la Hailandière’s tenure as Bishop of Vincennes. There were a few things that really struck me as I read this section.

Reading how all the people in Mother Theodore’s circle also struggled as they tried to establish their missions and Mother Theodore’s genuine care and concern despite her own problems was really touching. She even had kinds words about her nemesis Bishop de la Hailandière and apparently harbored no ill will toward him.

Leaning on Providence

I also loved the way Mother Theodore relied on Providence. Throughout the reading, whenever she felt uncertainty, she always made her way back to her deep faith and trust in God. She often encouraged others to do the same. In her letter to Sister Mary Xavier she wrote, “Do not be discouraged about the school. God will help you.” (p. 248)

Way with words

An image of part of the first page of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s journal

I am so glad Mother Theodore was a writer. And often it’s not always what she says but how she says it that endears her to me. You can see her humor and intelligence as well as her amazing ability to reach people where they are. It truly is her gift. I love what she writes in her letter to Reverend A. Martin. “In learning of our late trials and the manner in which Our Lord has extricated us, you must have said: There is a Providence and the Sisters of Saint Mary’s are truly Its daughters.” It was such a creative way to give a compliment. She is truly a fine wordsmith.

Your turn

What have been some of your favorite passages in Journals and Letters?

If Mother Theodore were here today, in what profession could you see her?

Next week > page 252 to page 262 mid-page

View the complete reading series.

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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 Linda McMahon, PA on April 10, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    I am limiting my response about favorite sayings to those in this passage. Mother Theodore reminds us “After all, our only support, our only strength is God”. This conviction emerges from her absolute certainty that our Provident God is faithful. This saying: “The Sisters have arrived from the missions. They are all around me making a great noise” brought a smile to my heart. Is this not what is still happening each year when Sisters return for the Annual Meeting or Chapter? It seems embedded in the blessing of “coming home”! And, from her letter to Bishop Bouvier, “How shall we ever express to you, our gratitude? Without you, where should we be now?” forms the foundation of a profound reflection for me that can be applied in many situations and addressed to all those whose loving support we have received.

  2. Avatar S. Denise Wilkinson on April 12, 2021 at 10:20 am

    Not my favorite but one that has challenged me for years:

    He has deigned to bless our Congregation. It has grown in the shadow of the Cross which still covers it, and we hope our Heavenly Father will never deprive us of this precious mark which distinguishes His children and His works.”

  3. Avatar Jeannie Smith on April 12, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Here’s a bit that struck me: “Besides the admirable union that exists between persons of different nationalities, of dispositions so opposite, some well informed, others without education, there is also among the Sisters a great spirit of faith, of piety, and a confidence in God which goes as far, I believe, as it can go.” This stood out to me as I consider today’s desire to seek and encourage diversity in our Providence family. While there was “admirable union” in that early community of French, Irish, German, and American-born women, no doubt there were many a culture clash to be dealt with. Yet Mother cherishes that diversity and the spirit among the Sisters that strove for unity. How she must have grown since her first experiences on arriving and journeying to Indiana surrounded by people of different customs and language. May our Providence Family today continue that work for acceptance and learning from those whose ways of being are different from what is familiar to us.

  4. Avatar Cathy Dearing on April 13, 2021 at 6:06 am

    Mary, thank you for your well written reflection.. Mary, Linda, Jeanne, Sister Denise—I do believe Mother Theodore would admire your gift as writers.

    You posed the question, “What occupation would Mother Theodore do today?” She was a woman of such great intellect, curiosity, empathy, compassion, perseverance, leadership, holiness, wit, innovation, creativity —I think this woman could do and be anything! Healthcare and academia come to mind; or developing and directing an organization; a “mother“ raising a family; a writer; pharmacist; spiritual director, a business woman. Now that I’ve written what other occupations Mother Theodore could do, I realize she already was all these things! Mother Theodore wore all these hats! She truly was a woman blessed with countless gifts and talents and she used them to the full! “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

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