Mother Theodore, Providence Associate Kate Childs Graham: writers encouraging goodness
Providence Associate Kate Childs Graham spends most of her day writing — as did Mother Theodore Guerin. Kate serves as special assistant to the U.S. President and director of speechwriting in the Office of the U.S. Vice President. She has good opportunity to influence others through her writing.
Kate didn’t set out to continue Mother Theodore’s legacy by becoming a writer. But, as Providence would have it, her life has unfolded in a way that made that happen.
Getting to know Mother Theodore
As a child, Kate and her family made several trips to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Through these visits, Kate learned stories that brought Mother Theodore to life — “stories of ships and shells and sisterhood.”
Not until she was a freshman at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College did she become familiar with Mother Theodore’s own words — “and then it was through song.” Kate, as part of the College’s chorale, “performed a song cycle inspired by Mother Theodore’s writings. … It was nearly 20 years ago but the tune of ‘I sleep but my heart watches’ still rings in my ears.”
Seeing the present as it is
Readers of “Mother Theodore Guerin Journals and Letters” cannot miss Mother Theodore’s remarkable skills of observation. She demonstrated the gift by not only seeing but also perceiving the complexities of people and situations she encountered.
“I believe that prophets are not those who can see the future, but those who can see the present as it is. That skill of observation that Mother Theodore so often demonstrated was, and is, critical — especially in identifying injustice and creating change in our world,” Kate said.
Writing is listening
Kate believes that listening hones the skill of observation. “I have found that writing — and in particular speech writing — is mostly listening. I try my best to be a sponge for the world and the people around me, taking in all that there is to hear and see.”
Mother Theodore’s letters exemplify an extraordinary gift of blending candor and compassion. She often calls attention to another’s shortcomings and then immediately praises a particular strength of that person.
Candor and compassion
“Working in politics, I mostly write to persuade. Both candor and compassion are incredibly important when trying to reach hearts and minds. Take COVID-19, for instance. It has been critical for our political leaders to be candid about the situation at hand so that people who live and work in our nation have the information they need to make decisions about wearing masks or getting vaccinated. Glossing over facts is not helpful in a crisis like this one. At the same time, as people are grappling with so much uncertainty and loss, delivering these facts from a place of compassion is equally
Mother Theodore didn’t have the luxury of having only one job — writing letters. She did her share of household chores, enjoyed her sisters, worried about and asked for money, administered a school — these and many more responsibilities filled her days.
Kate’s personal life is also filled with the ordinary tasks of everyday. Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry — all take time.
Most importantly however, Kate’s life includes time with her family. Kate, her partner Ariana and their 10-year-old son, Asher, enjoy spending time with one another.
Balancing one’s private and professional life can be demanding. Maybe that’s why Kate often thinks of these words of Mother Theodore: “I have already exceeded the amount of work my head can bear.”
Those words of Mother Theodore inspire Kate, she explains. “It is a comfort to know that this great woman, this saint, at times too felt overwhelmed. And, yet, she persevered.”
It’s doubtful Mother Theodore wrote so her words would be preserved. She may have written to encourage others to persevere. Kate Childs Graham seems to have that same hope — that her writing will encourage others to persevere in living lives of faith, commitment, candor and compassion.
Kate brings into the present day the values of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Why this passion to live her values? Mother Theodore’s own words might hold the key: “ … ours is a preparation for the generation that will succeed us and eminent good will be done in this way by us. You may not live to see it, but you will have sown the seed.”