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The Roads of Saint Mary’s

Some visitors and residents driving through Saint Mary-of-the-Woods last fall were startled. They found familiar names of roads like Grotto Lane and Woods Way replaced by new names and new signs. Why the changes?

A safer campus

This renaming of roads was necessary in order for the Woods to be enrolled in the County Emergency System. In the past, when there was an emergency, a member of the security staff had to wait at the gate to direct the emergency vehicles. This was inefficient and sometimes difficult when security members were needed elsewhere. So, our shared campus was encouraged to change to names that were not replicated anywhere in Vigo County. This will allow emergency services to quickly find the location of the emergency.

What’s in a name?

Who chose the names? Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College’s Director of Security Greg Ewing and Sisters of Providence Council Member Lisa Stallings took up the task of creating new names for all the roads on campus. Each possibility had to be checked against a 35-page list of every street in Vigo County. Sadly, the most likely names, such as names of trees, were already taken. But luckily, no street or avenue was named “The Avenue.” The final list contains names that are either appropriate for the location or a reflection of the history and culture of the College and the Congregation. (See bonus story here to find the full list of road names and some of their meanings.)

You may wonder why some roads are Avenues, some Places, some Lanes. As they created names for the various winding roads of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Sister Lisa and Greg learned that roads are not named at random but follow certain conventions. The designation of street, road, lane, way, place, avenue, court or drive depends on the direction and nature of a road. An avenue, such as Guerin Avenue or Northgate Avenue, is a public way that usually runs north and south, with trees or buildings on each side. Frequently, it runs perpendicular to a street. Many of our roads were designated places, because they are short, narrow, dead-end roads. A lane, such as Hermitage Lane, is a narrow road, often in a rural area. Good Shepherd Court ends in a little loop, while Knoerle Drive is a private, winding road.

New name, same beauty

Sister Lisa and Greg made their choices. Then the plan was approved by the College Cabinet and the Sisters of Providence Council. And magically, new street signs appeared all over campus. Despite the new names, should you drive or walk through Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, you will find the same charming and majestic historic structures, the same lovely woods, shrines, lakes, fields and gardens — and a sense of peace and sacred serenity that has no name.

Originally published in the winter 2022 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Sister Janet Gilligan

Sister Janet Gilligan is a volunteer in the Sisters of Providence Archives. A retired English professor, she enjoys her role as an archivist — answering queries, writing grants, and learning how to digitize collections.

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