Journals and Letters week 28: Death of the bishop
[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” page 252 to page 262 mid-page. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week in the coming year.]
It’s April 1848 and on the cusp of Holy Week when Saint Mother Theodore and a companion sister arrive at Vincennes for the beginning of Mother Theodore’s yearly house visits to all the missions. The first visit in Vincennes does not go as expected. The new bishop, John Stephen Bazin, becomes ill. As the week progresses, he is diagnosed with pneumonia and within eight days’ time has died.
He has only been bishop for six months, and in that time he has offered such loving support and acceptance to the sisters. Mother Theodore refers to him as, “the venerable prelate who in six months has healed so many wounds.” His death is a shocking blow to the young community that has already endured so many struggles under his predecessor.
A holy death
Mother Theodore, who providentially was able to be present and offer assistance during his time of illness and death, advises the sisters at home, “Let us take care not to become discouraged. Let us submit with love to the will of God.”
So impressed with the holiness of the bishop’s death, she reminds the sisters, “Especially let us never forget that if we wish to die like the Saints, we must live like them.”
Coming home and elections
As the section wraps up we find Mother Theodore calling all the sisters home for their summer gathering at the Woods. The Congregation has grown so much that she is calling forth an election of an assistant to help her and of a mistress of novices to guide the new sisters. Despite all its early struggles, the Congregation continues to grow and move forward.
I think it is neat that the tradition of the Providence Community (which today in addition to Sisters of Providence also includes Providence Associates) coming home for meeting and renewal time in the summer continues to the present. Mother Theodore’s strong leadership amidst struggle has paid off in the longevity and character of the community she founded.
Share your thoughts
How do you see Mother Theodore dealing with disappointment here? How do you deal with disappointment?
What most stood out for you as your read this section?
Next week > page 262 to page 270 mid-page
Thank you, Amy, for pointing out how we continue to gather each summer as a Providence Community. I think it has helped us know and love one another in a very real way–to truly be sisters to one another and now with our associates. And no doubt, it is why we have such a deep love for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Thanks!
I can relate to coming home to The Woods. After I graduated from a Master’s Program in 1991, I returned for an annual get-together of the graduates of that program. We held that event every year for 25 years and then decided to bring it to an end since the program was cancelled and there were no new graduates to greet and participate in our annual Commissioning Ceremony. Coming home to The Woods was an anticipated event: seeing graduates, friends, the Sisters whom we came to know. There is something so very special about The Woods and especially the Sisters of Providence. The last event was in 2014, but I still look fondly at the pictures and the memories. Our loving God is truly Provident. Thanks, Amy, for bringing this once again to the forefront of my reflections.
Well clearly, Ken – you need to apply to become an associate!!! You have all the marks of a great candidate, and a yearning!
I agree with Jeannie. Ken we would love to have you as a Providence Associate! You can learn more and request an application to become a Providence Associate a ProvidenceAssociates.org
Hi Ken, Yes I encourage you to join the SP Associates. I was installed two years ago. For me, having distanced myself for about 30 years from the Church after leaving teaching at St. Mary of the Wood’s college, the Associate program has been a daily source of faith-growth and connection with a relevant Sisters of Providence community. The SPs left an impression and memories for me at the Woods. Interesting how I circled back to be part of a relevant, spiritual community!
Something in this reading struck me as a story of great relief. I remember that the Community, and Mother Theodore, especially, were delighted with the new Bishop, but also concerned – maybe a little fearful – because they all heard that he insisted on their having an election for a General Superior. I believe that was problematic for the simple reason that there was only one sister apart from MTG that was 10 years professed, thus eligible to vote for that important position, not to mention that almost no one wanted any other than Mother Theodore in that position.. That aside, in this letter we learn that the Bishop simply hadn’t understood that our beloved Mother was ALREADY General Superior, and he had only wanted to make her so. So that problem was resolved just so very simply, once they understood one another’s positions. Now, isn’t is so, that so often conflict is really a lack of communication – of understanding what The Other is after?
Jeannie, thanks for pointing this out. That was exactly what I thought as I read it. How often our “conflicts” are often just lack of full understanding.
Thank you Amy for your thoughtful reflection and for drawing forth the thoughts of all those who have responded. I was struck by the beauty of community when experiencing the joys and the sorrows of life. From gathering at bedsides with the dying, to having those important conversations that are cherished, to sharing the stories of those last moments of earthly life , to the rituals that console and comfort us, we need one another. Mother Theodore’s accounts of her thoughts and actions are sources of wisdom, peace and blessing for us.