Journals and Letters week 30: No one will ever love you as your old Mother Theodore does
[Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” page 270 to the top of 280. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week in the coming year.]
There are a few different themes to unpack in these ten pages. I’ll begin with Mother Theodore’s deep love for the women in her Congregation to whom she lovingly refers to as her “daughters.”
Mothers and daughters
We begin with another letter to Sister Basilide, SP, from Mother Theodore. Sister Denise Wilkinson, SP, wrote extensively about Sister Basilide in last week’s post and how “Basilide must have led with her heart more than her head — a blessing and a burden.” With just eight days until we celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States it really struck me while reading Sister Denise’s blog and this latest letter, how Mother Theodore was truly a mother to all of these women. As many of us know, parenthood is one of the most beautiful yet often heartbreaking jobs on the planet. And regardless of the fact that these were not her biological children, Mother Theodore experienced both the joy and pain that all mothers and parents feel. It is clearly evident in her line, “No one will ever love you as your old Mother Theodore does.” My father often said this to us — of course using his own name and not Mother Theodore’s — usually after he had punished for some transgression.
It also made me happy and proud to read about the good work that all the other sisters were doing. I’m sure, like all parents, Mother Theodore’s heart was full as she saw these women, her daughters — Sister Olympiade, SP, Sister St. Urban, SP, Mother Anastasie Brown, SP, and Sister Joachim, SP, to name but a few — carry forth the mission of the Congregation. As important as Mother Theodore was, she could not have done it without the commitment and dedication of her daughters. These women deserve our admiration and respect, which leads me to our next topic …
Be honest. You can hear Aretha Franklin singing the chorus in your head right now. I don’t know if Mother Theodore was much of a dancer but I’d like to think she might have at least tapped her toes to this song as the Sisters of Providence finally began to gain respect. Mother Theodore writes that the people of Terre Haute want to build a hospital and have them run it. “Our Congregation is everywhere appreciated. Sisters are called for in almost every town in the diocese.” I think my favorite line from her in this letter was, “Last week we decided to form an establishment in the capital of our state (Indianapolis), where the Protestants wish for us as much as the Catholics do.” I got a good chuckle with that one. How wonderful to feel embraced by the community and possibly overwhelming at the same time. Growth is good but with it often comes a lot of stress trying to meet the demands. But as they say, it’s a good problem to have.
And finally, Mother Theodore writes about the devastating cholera outbreak that she predicts will soon make its way to Indiana. As it is written about extensively in the upcoming pages I won’t comment too much about this. It did, however, remind me that while these things happened so long ago we are actually dealing with similar problems today. Just last year we were all watching the initial spread of COVID-19 not knowing what the outcome would be. And reading about all of the homeless orphans from cholera made me think about the migrant children who are currently without their parents. Let us all pray for those who are suffering.
As a parent and/or a child how do you relate to Mother Theodore and her daughters?
Was there ever a time when you felt stressed out even though good things were happening?
Next week > page 280 to page 290 bottom
Thanks, Mary, for your good reflection! Two things struck me in this reading: the first is Mother’s comment to Basilide that she “feared that distance had cooled the heart of my Sister”. I’ve sure experience that many times – when you move away from your roots and so many dear friends are far, life consumes both your own and your friends’ time, and one sometimes wonders. But of course those fears are unfounded – love remains stronger than distance! The second thing again proves Mother Theodore’s great appreciation of nature – that is the breathtaking description of the journey along ice-encrusted roads where the horses’ hooves “made particles of this polished surface fly up and go rolling on the ice, shining in the sun with a thousand colors. One might have fancied the horses were trampling underfoot millions of precious stones, and that we were traveling in an enchanted country.” What an exquisite observation, so brilliantly written! I lived my first 25 years in Indiana and never experienced such a thing – but then I rarely travelled by horse-drawn wagons!
In Mother Theodore’s letter to S. Basilide, her words “The name of Mother is not given in vain” are profound. As you said, Mary, whether a woman and her child have a biological, adoptive or a spiritual connection, the gift of maternal concern, bestowed and accepted, is a passionate bond. We see this in Mother Theodore in her relationship with the “Mothers of Ruillé” and in her relationship with her “Daughters of the Forest”. Mother Theodore formed her daughters in living their reliance on Providence during her lifetime and her legacy forms all the Sisters who have followed her. This heritage also invites Providence Associates and other Providence Ministry partners to experience her love as Mother.