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Saint Mother Theodore’s guidance among the troubles an blessings of change

Change can cause a mess of trouble and an abundance of blessing. Just move the coffee mugs from the cupboard above the coffee pot to a cupboard near the sink. Aggravating to change a habit! But in reaching into the new cabinet, a glance out the window broadens our world.

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Mentor amidst change

Too bad we face bigger changes than rearranging kitchen cabinets. We all encounter serious individual changes, challenging changes in our families, neighborhoods, cities, nation and world. When we feel overwhelmed by the troubles and blessings of change, who can be our mentor, our friend, our wisdom figure?

I suggest our own Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, a woman who faced a myriad of change — always with realism, hope and an unwavering trust in Providence.

How can we let Mother Theodore mentor us, befriend us, share her wisdom with us?

Journey with a saint

One way is to Journey with a Saint at the shrine of Saint Mother Theodore at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Through compelling words, photos and displays, we are invited to journey through Mother Theodore’s life — its messes and its blessings.

The shrine uses words and visuals to provoke self-reflection. Mother Theodore mentors, befriends us, shares her wisdom as her story unfolds. The periods of her life are named. And they highlight how Providence worked within her at that time. Then, each of us is asked to consider how that same Providence has worked or is working in us now.

Through this journey, we can accept the invitation to consider where we are now in the unfolding of our own lives. Perhaps we can take the time to notice the stirrings of Providence in the here and now.

Beginnings

The “Mission to a New World” and “The French Foundation” displays tell of Mother Theodore’s longing to become a religious sister. Family hardship delayed that dream for years. Finally, she becomes a Sister of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir. Soon after she enters the Congregation, she agrees to found a mission in Indiana. The names given to describe Providence at this time in her life are: Providence as prompting and participation and Providence as patience and partnership. As we read of Mother Theodore’s experiences of change in these periods of her life, the viewer is invited to: Consider how God has patiently supported you in the desires and choices of your life.

Journey

We move along the shrine’s path to “The Journey.” Having left France on July 12, 1840, Mother Theodore and her sisters arrive in the deep forest of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on Oct. 22, 1840. Providence as pathway and port asks us to Consider how God has provided pathways and ports for you throughout your life.

Into the Woods

As the sisters encounter a new culture, harsh living conditions, and dedicated supporters and friends, they commit themselves to the mission they have chosen. Thus the “Immersion into the Forest” describes Providence as purpose and prompting. Consider how you have been prompted to cooperate with the purposes of God.

Struggles

In 1842 the pioneer sisters included this in a letter to the sisters back in France. “Everything is frozen, even the bread.” One small example of Mother Theodore’s ‘Immersion into Suffering.” One more opportunity to experience Providence as protection and perseverance. Consider her words: “If you lean with all your weight upon Providence you will find yourself well supported.”

Firm foundation

Mother Theodore died in May 1856. In little more than 15 years she, her sisters, their friends and benefactors built a firm foundation for the present day Providence Community. “Immersion into American Life,” Providence as preparation and possibility invites us to: Consider how God has prepared you to respond to life’s many possibilities.

Ever present

Our journey ends with “Immersion into the Holy,” Providence as presence. In this quiet and holy space rest the remains of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin — our mentor, our friend, our wisdom figure. Consider sitting quietly in her presence so as to absorb her holy energy.

Originally published in the fall 2022 issue of HOPE magazine.

Plan a trip to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, and visit the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and other sacred places in person. Visit.SistersofProvidence.org

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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