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Meaningful new names for the roads of Saint Mary’s

The roads in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods have recently undergone a change of name. This change allows Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to be in the County Emergency System. We needed to have names that were not replicated anywhere in Vigo County, so that emergency services can quickly find the location of the emergency.

If you drive or walk through Saint Mary-of-the-Woods today, you will still experience the beauty and charm of its trees and historic structures, what poet Sister Joseph Eleanor Ryan, SP, called “a lovely, holy shrine,” “a haven where the heart might rest.” And you will also find that the names of its winding roads can tell us much about the culture and history of the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Right out of the gate

Through the main gate is The Avenue. The Avenue once led straight to the Academy. It has had that name since 1841, the year students first arrived to be educated by their beloved French Sisters of Providence. The Avenue now ends at Foley Circle, because until 1990 it was the way to an enormous 1898 building called Foley Hall. This name is also part of the story, because from 1890 to 1926, Mother Mary Cleophas Foley was the force behind the construction of many of the buildings on campus — the Conservatory, Guerin Hall, Le Fer Hall, and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Directly to the right at the gate entrance is Le Fer Place. This curving road leads to the stately residence hall named after two of the first Sisters of Providence, Sister Francis Xavier Le Fer and Sister Mary Joseph Le Fer. The next road to the right is Oak Leaf Avenue. Why? As first-year students, SMWC students receive an acorn. When they are seniors, at an Oakleaf Ceremony, they are inducted into the alumni association.

Down the road

A little farther down the Avenue is Guerin Avenue, named for the large college building to the northwest, named in turn, for our foundress, Ann Therese Guerin. Guerin Avenue runs east past a stone bridge and the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. Branching off to the left is Saint Joseph Place which runs past Providence Hall, Providence Health Care, the orchards, gardens, stables, and alpaca pasture to Saint Joseph Lake.

After Guerin Avenue crosses Eastgate Place, the road from the East entrance from Saint Mary’s Road, it becomes Grove Place. A right turn from Grove Place to Good Shepherd Court ends at the small outdoor Good Shepherd Chapel, built in 2020. Grove Place continues past the orderly rows of white grave stones of the Sisters of Providence cemetery to the right and the Sacred Heart Grove to the left. The Grove is the site of a shrine to the Sacred Heart that dates back to 1895 and a labyrinth constructed in 2004. The towering trees still rustle with echoes of novitiate recreations, picnics and family visits.

Crossing over a small stone bridge, Grove Place intersects Owens Avenue. This avenue runs past the former Owens Hall, once a novitiate and residence, now converted into senior housing. Owens Hall was named in honor of Mother Gertrude Clare Owens, a revered Community leader from 1926 to 1960. The next road to branch off of Grove Place is Marian Avenue, named for Marian Hall, the residence of White Violet Center interns.

From the north

Grove Place ends at Northgate Avenue, which, of course, leads to the North Entrance. Northgate Avenue to the left passes the stables of the Mari Hulman George School of Equine Studies . It ends at Saint Joseph Place. To the right Saint Joseph Place runs past the alpaca pasture and ends in a short road to three hermitages, Hermitage Lane. To the right from Saint Joseph Place, Fuqua Lane winds by a shrine to Saint Joseph and ends at Saint Joseph Lake. This lane is named, not for a long dead foundress, but for Sister Jean Fuqua, retired college faculty who is responsible for the creation of a lovely park and swimming area at Saint Joseph Lake.

Northgate Avenue becomes Pomeroy Avenue at the intersection with Saint Joseph Place. This road is named after the college athletic program. Sister Mary Joseph Pomeroy, a Sister of Providence who was a great advocate of athletics and physical fitness. An excellent basketball player in her college days, she was a member of the basketball team that played in the first recorded intercollegiate basketball game in school history when SMWC defeated Indiana Normal College in 1920. She became a revered English teacher and was in charge of the college Alumni program for many decades.

More meaning

Pomeroy Avenue crosses White Violet Place, a short road that ends at the Whites Violet Center for Eco Justice and the Farm Store. The next road is O’Shaughnessy Place, which offers access to the back of the elegant 1923 O’Shaughnessy Dining Hall.

Pomeroy Avenue then becomes Onyx Place, named in honor of the iconic college class ring, a lovely onyx stone. Those who believe gems and stones have power believe onyx offers protection, strength, focus, and willpower. Onyx Place runs behind the Conservatory and Guerin Hall and ends at Guerin Avenue.

Left on Guerin and then to the right is Knoerle Drive, which provides access to the Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center. Sister Jeanne Knoerle was president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College from 1968 to 1983.

The newly christened street names commemorate the culture and history of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. But it is not necessary to know the history in order to experience what Sister Joseph Eleanor calls “The joy, the beauty of this place, / The friendliness, and O the grace. “


Historic postcard of The Avenue in its earliest days with the poem seen here.

O, the joy, the beauty of this place,
The friendliness, and O the grace.
This Woodland is a glowing tapestry
Where are depicted all the lights and shade
Of God’s dear love, so that
Should we some morning miss the messenger’s
Swift pinions brushing dawn tipped clouds
Or spilling silver ripples of spring rain
We still might find that shadows, fugitive, between
White petals sifting gently down
Beneath a dogwood tree, or in the elfin touch
Of the first snowflake on a lingering brown leaf

There is a benediction in the very breeze
That bathes the fleece flecked sky:
A message in the tawny autumn air,
And in the homing leaves, that lie
Gold tipped and scarlet spangled at our feet.
There is a promise in each singing twig
Of every tree, and I shall take
Away with me its whisper, that shall break
Like morning ecstasy on tranquil dreams
Whatever be the distance and the dark surrounding me.
The loveliness of God has touched this place,
And lighted all its paths with grace.

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Sister Janet Gilligan

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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  1. Avatar Marsha speth on January 14, 2022 at 10:31 am

    Great description! Thank you!

  2. Avatar Marilyn Kofler SP on January 14, 2022 at 2:53 pm

    But oh! Will Siri know how to navigate SMW when next I come Home???

    Seriously, thank you for the alert! Great wisdom has been at work in the SP nomenclature!

  3. Avatar Dawn Tomaszewski on January 15, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    What a great explanation, Janet! Thank you! And I love how you wove Joseph Eleanor’s poem into it. There’s a treasure we haven’t heard in awhile!

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