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Celebrating our many foundations this Foundation Day

Many of us know the story of the arrival of the first sisters at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Mother Theodore Guerin and her companions, Sisters Olympiade Boyer, Saint Vincent Ferrer Gagé, Basilide Sénéschal, Mary Xavier Lerée, and Mary Liguori Tiercin arrived late in the evening on Oct. 22, 1840. They were expecting a convent and a school. Instead they found a dense woods with no buildings in sight. There had been a storm that lasted 36 hours the previous days. The sisters arrived in damp clothes, hungry and tired.

Diorama of the arrival of the first Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840.

Father Buteux brought the sisters to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. He told them they would be staying with Farmer Thralls and his family of eight. Also, four women who were hoping to be the first American postulants were waiting there to join them. With the addition of the six sisters, the house made up of two rooms and an attic were now home to 18 people! The sisters were forever grateful for the hospitality of the Thralls family. From those very first moments, the sisters’ existence at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods was enriched by friends and benefactors.

Choosing to stay

The promised convent and school was left for the sisters to build. Because the mission was not what the sisters had agreed to, Mother Theodore offered her companions the option to return to France with no repercussions. Each sister said she would stay in the wilderness and build the establishment. They not only persevered in their mission, they flourished in establishing the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence as well as many schools, orphanages and clinics in Indiana and Illinois over a mere 16 years.

Fruits of perseverance

The example they bequeathed to every Sister of Providence, and now to our Providence Associates, is one of zeal and passion to answer the needs of the people. We honor many foundations on this, our Foundation Day. White Violet Center for Eco-justice, Providence Family Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Providence Spirituality & Conference Center, Providence Health Care, Miracle Place, Providence in the Desert, missions in Asia, Peru and more. The Congregation has also responded to the sign of the times when the completion of a mission was necessary. And now, three sisters are in the process of establishing a mission in Arizona near the border.

Yes, we continue the ministry of the first Foundation Day in 1840. We stand in humble gratitude for all that our sisters, associates and benefactors who continue to honor

Divine Providence through works of love, mercy and justice as we bring our gifts to the needs of the world.

Let us celebrate all our foundations on this Happy Foundation Day! 

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Sister Sue Paweski

Sister Sue Paweski

Sister Sue has been a Sister of Providence since 1998. She currently serves in pastoral ministry at St Catherine of Siena-St Lucy, St Giles Parish in Oak Park, Illinois. Prior to that, she ministered as Co-director of the Providence Associate relationship with the Sisters of Providence.

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  1. Avatar Connie SP on October 22, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Lovely reflection Sister Sue!

  2. Avatar Rosemary Krider Schmid ' 63 - one of seven Woods graduates in our family! on October 22, 2022 at 5:57 pm

    Oh, how I loved the dioramas of Mother Theodore’s arrival in Indiana when I was a little girl. Of all the treasures at The Woods, these deserve the permanent place they have to this day. Thank you for this reflection on Foundation Day.
    My “third sister” Margaret Theresa Krider Powell celebrates HER birthday today.

  3. Avatar Brad on October 22, 2022 at 11:54 pm

    Thank you for a beautiful and inspiring reflection S. Sue! Happy Feast!

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