Home » Blog » Journals and Letters week 33: Reasons Mother Theodore may have felt overwhelmed and crabby

Journals and Letters week 33: Reasons Mother Theodore may have felt overwhelmed and crabby

(Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” pages 299 to 307. Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week in the coming year.)

Image by John Ayers from Pixabay

I’m probably projecting my own mood on how Mother Theodore felt during the weeks between Aug. 18, 1850, and Jan. 6, 1851. Today and for the last few days, I’ve felt overwhelmed by what I had to get done and crabby that other issues, other peoples’ needs, kept popping up. Urgency consistently trumped my “plan for the day.” Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me; but sometimes I handle it better than other times. The past few days fall into the “other times” category.

When I finished reading pages 299-307 of “Journals and Letters,” I convinced myself Mother Theodore felt overwhelmed, maybe even crabby, during the weeks between Dec. 18, 1850, and Jan. 6, 1851. In an effort to prove my point (and reinforce my projections), I made a list of issues and people who must have caused her disquiet, anxiety and crabbiness during those weeks.

Before I share my list, here’s my caveat: I know I’m projecting. I know I don’t know how she felt; I’m just trying to make myself feel better. That’s the beauty of projection, it lets me validate my own feelings by thinking I see them in another.  Anyway …

Why Mother Theodore may have felt crabby

My list:

  • enduring poor accommodations and excessive heat during the sisters’ annual retreat
  • living with her own poor health and how it affected her ability to accomplish important tasks
  • attempting to convince Father Kundek that “there is not now at Saint Mary’s a single person who knows how to play the organ”
  • dismissing two postulants though requests for sisters to open new schools kept pouring in
  • bearing with the opposition and bigotry of “the Protestants”
  • accepting the necessity of redirecting money donated to buy building material to buying provisions for the sisters and students at Saint Mary’s
  • worrying over the Community’s ability to effectively care for boy orphans but accepting them in spite of her worry
  • deciding not to establish a mission in Louisiana
  • warning Sister Marie Therese that if she does not overcome her “propensity to anger,” Mother Theodore “will no longer look upon [her] as my daughter” 
  • encouraging Sister Maria to be firm; to stop being “like a weathercock on a steeple, ready to turn with every wind”
  • insisting Sister Basilide “get rid of your Armandine” who makes decisions for the school in Madison not his to make, who “takes a foot when given an inch”

I know I could reread these same pages and find a thousand times more examples of Mother Theodore’s compassion, hope, realism, faith in the God who is Providence. For now, it seems I’d rather wallow in my crabbiness, annoyance and impatience.

What I need is one of those frank letters from Mother Theodore. I need a letter calling me out for unhealthy behavior followed by words expressing her deep trust in and true affection for me. Maybe that letter will come in today’s mail.

Your turn

We love getting your perspective. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Next week > page 307 to the top of page 317

View the complete reading series.

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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  1. Connie SP on May 22, 2021 at 8:17 am

    Thanks Denise for your honest reflection. Made me feel closer to SMTG and more accepting if my own humanity too!

  2. Maureen Abbott, SP on May 22, 2021 at 8:30 am

    Thanks,Denise, for helping us appreciate our dear Mother even more by squeezing the time to write this piece into your interrupted agenda. Here’s to an uplifting and non crabby day!
    Maureen Abbott, SP

    • S. Denise Wilkinson on May 24, 2021 at 1:33 pm

      As always, Maureen, I love your wry humor. It’s now mid-day Monday, May 24 and the past few days haven’t tossed me back into crabbiness.

  3. Joyce K Smith on May 22, 2021 at 10:14 am

    Well written… how to enjoy a projection for a brief season. And now for reality…

    • S. Denise Wilkinson on May 24, 2021 at 1:36 pm

      Good old reality….but I have enough practice projecting that I can easily equate it with reality. Thanks, Joyce.

  4. Jeannie Smith on May 22, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Wow – have you been living in my head lately??

    • S. Denise Wilkinson on May 24, 2021 at 3:06 pm

      A truly frightening thought. Or is that projection?

  5. connie L schnapf on May 22, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    I concur with Jeannie – Thank you so much for helping me know, once again, we all expeience these times.- Seeing how much Mother Theodore had on her own plate brings me back to the humaness we share, It is comforting to know we are not alone.

    • S. Denise Wilkinson on May 24, 2021 at 3:08 pm

      It is comforting, isn’t it, Connie? What an extraordinary woman.
      P.S. I’ve prayed your gospel reflections all month – thanks for those!

  6. Marsha A Speth on May 22, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you for reminding us that she had a thousand and one annoyances, problems, decisions, interruptions and less than ideal circumstances and people to contend with…. I suspect she understands.

  7. Steve M on May 22, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    Great in-depth thoughts about St Mother Theodore Guerin that certainly at times also apply to each of us. I interject another thought here. 😇
    Some one just ask me what I thought about today’s Gospel reading where Jesus is ask about the disciple he loved laying his head on Jesus chest. No doubt many times Mother Theodore laid her crabby head on Jesus’ chest and he gave her some semblance of comfort and acceptance! It’s a beautiful thought to think Jesus wants us all to lay our crabby heads on his chest. I need to do that more often!!

    • S. Denise Wilkinson on May 24, 2021 at 3:10 pm

      It’s a beautiful image, Steve. And a better practice. Like you, I need to do that more often. Hope all is as good as it can be with you.

  8. Linda McMahon on May 22, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    Ah, the blessing of speaking with others about what we are we are really feeling — both Mother Theodore and you, S. Denise, have done this for us. I am grateful

    • S. Denise Wilkinson on May 24, 2021 at 3:12 pm

      Thank you, Linda. The beauty of all this is that most of us can share with others what we’re feeling – if only we have the courage. Love

  9. Michelle Barrentine on May 23, 2021 at 9:40 pm

    And this is why we love you, S. Denise! Your honesty and self-awareness help us see not only our own shortcomings but also (potentially) put us in mind of Mother Theodore’s struggles.
    P.S. Hope you feel better this coming week…for the sake of your sisters and colleagues. 🙂

  10. S. Denise Wilkinson on May 24, 2021 at 3:14 pm

    I’m happy to share that this week is much better – by the grace of Providence. I am disappointed that a letter from MTG has still not arrived in my mailbox.

  11. Theresa Tighe on May 28, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Thanks for capturing the reality of Mother Guerin’s life, which is a true inspiration for us.

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