Journals and Letters week 43: Jesuits and mothering and nieces
(Today we are discussing “Journals and Letters” page 380 to page 388 top. This is located in “Part VI: Later Letters (1846–1856)” starting with “Letter Circular.” Join us in reading a portion of Saint Mother Theodore’s writings every week.)
Today’s letters start with Mother Theodore’s Letter Circular. In it she calls all Sisters of Providence home to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for the summer annual meeting. Apart from Mother Theodore’s joy and happiness in this invitation, what stands out for me is her mention that the retreat will be given by a Jesuit. Jesuit priests led the sisters’ retreats for many years at the Congregation’s beginning. The influence lives on today. I see a lot of parallel between the spirituality of the Jesuits and that of the Sisters of Providence. Both are well educated, forward thinking, justice focused and faith filled. I don’t think it is coincidence that three of our younger sisters who have entered the Congregation in the last 10 years first attended Jesuit Colleges.
Twice the mother
The background story and letter to Sister Mary James is touching. Sister Mary James lost both her parents young and Mother Theodore has stepped up in a special way as mother to the young sister. She has taken under her wing this child who is hers “not by nature but by grace.”
And of course, there is continued guidance and advice for our old friend Sister Maria — impulsive and moody but striving for perfection. Mother Theodore continues to offer Sister Maria her blunt and loving advice. It could probably apply to most of us. “As soon as you commit a fault be sorry, rise again and go on with confidence and love.” Otherwise, Mother Theodore continues “… your imagination works and you go from bad to worse.”
And finally, what a sweet gift to Mother Theodore. Two of her nieces come to the United States to join the Congregation! In the end, one of the nieces, Frances, returned to France and later married. The other niece, Sister Mary Theodore, remained and lived the rest of her life as a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She offered some wonderful memories that help us get an idea of what Mother Theodore was like as a child. You can read those memories here.
Consider a person that you have had a special opportunity to mentor or “mother” as Mother Theodore did Sister Mary James. How might you reach out to such a person now as Mother Theodore did in her letter?
Despite the ill health Mother Theodore mentions more than once in these letters, she still finds time to reach out and offer support to others. What obstacles in your own life keep you from connecting with others? How might you find ways to overcome them?
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