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The Woods continues to call: Woods Community Cemetery

To paraphrase Mother Theodore Guerin’s words describing her arrival at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods: “It is astonishing that this remote solitude has been chosen [as an interment site]. All appearances are against it.” Yes, this remote place has been chosen for cremains interment by people currently living in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Florida, New York and more So, what’s the attraction?

Providence Community Cemetery

For some, it is Mother Theodore herself. When Terry Jatczak attended Mass for the first time here, he was “overcome by the spirituality of the Church and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.” Recently deceased Heather Santiago said, “Mother Theodore has been my beloved patroness since I was 14 years old. Two years ago I finally got to visit her resting place and it was just like coming home.” Deceased Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) alumna and Providence Associate Heather Tetzlaff Smith described herself as “an avid lover of Mother Theodore.” Gloria Urrea, who recently made her commitment as a Providence Associate, stated, “I am happy to be a grateful and faithful follower of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.”

Holy place

For others who have chosen Providence Community Cemetery for cremains interment, the place itself — Saint Mary-of-the-Woods — is the attraction. SMWC graduate and former Lourdes health care staff member, Angela Yildiz, says, “Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is my favorite place on earth. … When I learned of the community cemetery, I knew I wanted to be there after my death. As a student and when I returned to the Woods for reunions, I always walked the grounds and always visited the sisters’ cemetery.”

Camille Cordak, niece of deceased Sister of Providence Agnes Eugene Cordak, has “been visiting the Woods since I’ve been about 2 years old. It’s a special place to me for many reasons. When I read about the Providence Community Cemetery, it appealed to me so strongly and in a way that nothing else has regarding what to do with my cremains.”

Rita Tatum, deceased Providence Associate said, “I knew the Woods was calling me the moment I stepped inside the gate” [as a college freshman]. She wrote later in a poem about her experience, “I felt my Father’s hugging peace. And I knew this quiet spot on a narrow path in the woods that simply reached itself was walked to accept God’s will, not mine.”

Meaningful connections

For many, the connection is through a relative, especially a Sister of Providence. More “indirect” connections include:

  • Dan Ashley’s parents, Ruth and Connie, were the “first couple” to reside in Lourdes Hall. His mother’s cousin was Sister Martha Steidl (RIP) and her aunt married a member of the grounds staff who worked for the sisters in the 1920s and 30s. “I have always felt as close to heaven on earth when visiting the Woods. I cannot think of a better resting place for me and my wife and our adult children should they be interested as well.”
  • Michael and Rebecca Maher were married in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Michael’s wife, mother, sister, several aunts and cousins graduated from the College. “Leo Sullivan, who was a cook for the sisters for many years, is my grandfather.”
  • Julie Norsworthy’s father, Georgory Kamka, was an artist “understudy,” who worked with Henry Marchond, creator of the dioramas. Julie would “visit in the summer and see a lot of sisters, many of whom remained my friends — all deceased now, Sisters Immaculee Krafthefer, Petra Daschbach, Claudia Lewis, Marie Virginia Davis.”
  • Bill Wolfe worked as a security guard at the Woods for many years. “I believe my success as a sculptor is due to the prayers offered by the Sisters of Providence. I have family members who work for the College and the connections continue. My wife Marina’s mother was a well-cared-for patient at Providence Health Center. And Marina was on the Advisory Board for the nursing program at SMWC.”

Many inquirers just list their many connections — for example, former member, Providence Associate, graduate of SP schools, Advisory Board member, frequent volunteer. Providence Associate Alice Shelton ended her “list” by stating: “This is a formal way of saying I love the Congregation!”

To inquire about cremains burial at Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, visit CommunityCemetery.SistersofProvidence.org.

Originally published in the winter 2022 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper, SP, retired as the executive director for Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and currently serves as minister of Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Sister Ann has ministered in various scholastic and administrative positions in Indiana and North Carolina. She also was a member of the Sisters of Providence leadership team, serving as General Secretary.

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