Home » Blog » Journals and Letters week 45: Sorrows and shadows

Journals and Letters week 45: Sorrows and shadows

If it weren’t for Sister Basilide, the daily flip calendar featuring quotations from Mother Theodore would be very slim. And we’d lose out on some of Mother Theodore’s observations delivered with wit and wisdom.

In the two brief letters to her much loved and often irritating Sister Basilide, Mother Theodore has this to say:

  • “Indeed it is very difficult, and it requires an uncommon virtue, not to make others suffer when we suffer.”
  • “Always and everywhere you will find people who will try your patience, and you yourself will try theirs.”
  • “The talent of a good superior is to require of each one only what she can give.”

Mourning and ill health

The portrait of Bishop Bouvier that Mother Theodore requested in one of this week’s letters

The brief four letters in the pages of this section reveal another aspect of Mother Theodore’s mind and heart. Sorrows and shadows weighing on her begin to surface more frequently.

She writes of the illnesses of other sisters at Saint Mary’s and of her grieving the death of Bishop Bouvier and “little Sister Josephine.”

Mother Theodore also writes very frankly of her declining health and energy.

  • “This [writing letters] has taken all my time. I am truly tired but I believe I shall rest only in heaven.”
  • “When Sister Theodore has been well for one day, she spends three day repenting of her good behavior.”
  • “ … my health is still very miserable.”
In one of this week’s letters, Mother Theodore asks for a momento of Bishop Bovier’s. This piece, located today in the Sisters of Providence archives, was sent to her. The cross was made from the bishop’s hair.

Immediately following Mother Theodore’s letter of March 22, 1855, the editor inserts these words: “Continual bad health and frequent long illnesses had marked [Mother Theodore’s] years ever since her arrival in America. … She was now evidently getting weaker.”

Sober words and a foreshadowing of things to come.

Your Turn

Why not reread pages 397–402? Why not reread the pages just to see what happens?

Share your thoughts here.


Next week: page 402 bottom to page 409, starting with “Letter Circular”

Download the complete reading schedule:

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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 Comment

  1. Ken Siarkiewicz on August 14, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you, Sr. Denise, for your thoughts and comments, especially the one about the calendar. I have flipped the calendar daily since the year it came out, and it is good to read the words of wisdom contained therein in context.

    Thank you also for the image of the memento of Bishop Bovier. I believe I have never seen that before

    The pages seem to be getting sadder and sadder. References to ill health and letters regarding death are more frequent. As I read the assigned pages I look at the dates and realize that soon we will come to Mother Theodore’s final words, which are written two months before her death. Even more imminent is the death of Sr. St. Francis Xavier, perhaps her dearest daughter and friend.

    Even though I know that in the end all will be well, I cannot help but be sad when I put down the book after reading a letter or the editor’s comments, like the sad one about the death of Sr. Josephine. I just realized that Sr. Josephine died one year and one day before Mother Theodore!

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