Journals and Letters week 50: Mother Theodore and Summit City
The finish line
We are fast approaching the end of our year of reading “Journals and Letters” and I offered to write one more time. Truth be told it was only a few pages of reading, so I knew it would be one of the easier assignments. I was delighted when I began reading, because this short passage began with an explanation of how Mother Theodore and her dear friend, Reverend Julian Benoit, worked together to start a school in the Fort Wayne (Indiana) area.
Connection to Fort Wayne
In 2017 my husband had a work opportunity in Fort Wayne. Not wanting to leave the Sisters of Providence’s employment, I was fortunate that my boss at the time, Sister Ann Casper, SP — coincidentally a native of Fort Wayne — allowed me to work remotely from home. (The Sisters of Providence were obviously way ahead with their “work from home” policy as it was three years before the whole world caught on due to the pandemic.) We eventually moved back to the area in 2019 just in time to be sent home with the rest of the world.
The City of Churches
I knew Mother Theodore had a history in Fort Wayne — also nicknamed Summit City and The City of Churches — but I had never really done a deep dive into what that was. One day I was driving in downtown Fort Wayne and passed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. You can imagine my surprise when I spied the same statue of Mother Theodore, sculpted by Teresa Clark, that we have right here at the Woods! I remember feeling so warmly welcomed to see her in my new hometown. It was like running into a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
A few weeks later with my mother in tow, I visited the Cathedral where I learned that not only was there a statue outside, but on Oct. 16, 2009 they actually rededicated a downtown chapel next to the Cathedral in her honor. You can see some of the photos I took on that visit at the end of this blog post.
Reading about Reverend Benoit in today’s “Journals and Letters” segment was very touching. He and Mother Theodore made a great team. He was a man who possessed “constant generosity and kind consideration.” When the sisters needed to expand their building he even “contributed $5000 from his own resources.” How blessed were the Sisters of Providence to work with someone who shared their passion. And how nice it must have been after struggling for so long financially to have that one worry taken away. After enduring so many struggles with people meant to support her, it must have been refreshing for Mother Theodore to finally work with a person of his character.
About Sister St. Francis
This section ends with yet another beautiful letter Mother Theodore wrote shorty after the death of her beloved Sister St. Francis, this one to Reverend Benoit. The raw emotion again shows the depth of her love for this great woman whom she so revered. She once again referenced the fact that she placed Sister St. Francis far above her in the way she lived her faith. I think it is interesting that we read the words of the woman who actually became a saint write so fervently about someone who possessed what she saw as saint-like characteristics.
We have many Sisters of Providence originally from the Fort Wayne area, presumably due to the presence of the school that was established by Mother Theodore. Along with Sister Ann Casper, I know of Sister Donna Butler, Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, Sister Mary Ann Fox, Sister Linda Kaliker and Sister Carol Lindly. In fact, I had the pleasure of driving Sister Donna’s brother, Steve, to visit his beloved sister at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods several times over the two years I lived in Fort Wayne.
While I was at a gathering once, shortly after I moved to Fort Wayne, I mentioned where I worked. A new friend of mine said that her aunt was a Sister of Providence. Although she died several years ago, Sister Ann remembered her when I asked. Small world or Providence? I think you know the answer.
What do you think Mother Theodore would say about herself becoming a saint? Do you think she would have liked it?
Have you ever connected with someone over a random fact when you least expected it? How have you experienced Providence?
Next week: page 433 to page 439
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