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The Gift of Mother Theodore’s written legacy

A page of Saint Mother Theodore’s own handwriting

Mother Theodore was a natural writer. I love her for this. Her writing provides a lifetime of promptings for reflection, prayer and discussion. She was a curious woman who took to writing the stories of her daily life with perhaps no real sense of what this ongoing sharing would create. What a gift!

Mother Theodore noticed the world and set about sharing the wisdom that came from her experience and observation. What wonderful counsel she shared with us when she penned, “The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly.” Whether we are watching a turtle crawl along the lake shore, noting a small change in some life situation that had been part of our daily prayer or attending to the gradual melting of snow as we await the coming of spring, her words are right on target. 

Inspiring with the pen

Line drawing of Saint Mother Theodore by John Laska

“You must also accustom yourselves, my dear children, to bear in mind that if the faults of others displease us, ours also torment them.” As I reflect on this quotation, it is clear to me why Sister St.Theodore was the one selected to lead the small band of sisters to this wilderness in Indiana! She seemed to pick up her pen when courage was needed — for others, for herself. Mother Theodore knew the power of written encouragement, admonishment, persuasion and clarity. She did not mince words.

Mother Theodore allowed herself and her faithful efforts to flow onto the pages of the written history of her life. This history remains active and alive in human beings each time her living words are shared. Wow. What a sustaining legacy for us to behold and continue. How masterfully Theodore’s writing has taken hold in our living out the Gospel in contemporary life. Her writing has connected us so clearly to God’s mission for her life. It is writing that is alive and active in our present lives as we move forward and approach an expansive and unknowable future. 

The storyteller

Blog post author Alice Shelton renews her commitment as a Providence Associate as she lives the legacy of Saint Mother Theodore.

We know Mother Theodore because she wrote. The storyteller in Mother Theodore shines clearly today as so many of us make use of what she left for us. We speak of Providence in our lives with the quiet confidence of children who learned at the feet of a loving parent. Our imaginations roam through her descriptions of the seasons happening in the natural beauty of a foreign land now known as our Saint Mary-of-the-Woods home in Western Indiana. My attraction to trees, flowers, plants and all growing things are at least in part from her sharing.  

We are guided by her ability to identify and speak out to power in her desire for justice. Her love of liturgy and prayer are guideposts for us now as we grapple to exist within a church structure that regularly falls short of Gospel living. She returned again and again in her living and in her writing, to the lasting and sustaining parts of faith and God’s love. As Jesus often admonishes us, so did Sister St. Theodore in her writings about fear and despair. “Lean with all your weight on Providence and you will find yourself well supported.” Wise words. Courageous words, spoken by a woman saddled with big health challenges and daily physical pain and discomfort. She did not give up. Her example serves as a supportive and lasting reminder to us.

Mentoring still today

Mother Theodore mentors me in my writing. She whispers to me when I avoid spending time in quiet reflection with pen in hand. This mentor helps me to turn my thoughts and my writing from the parts of life that distract and detain me. She is a regular contributor to my best work and she is present as cheerleader and champion. Could Mother Theodore have guessed that she would have this impact on me? My hunch is this — because Mother Theodore truly did know the great love of our Creator, she trusted that whatever would come of her “yeses” would bear fruit beyond her ability to imagine. Her courage was without measure. I am very grateful that her reliance upon writing was part of her daily practice and sustenance. 

Live the legacy of Saint Mother Theodore more fully! Join the Providence Community as a Sister of Providence or a Providence Associate.

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Alice Shelton

Alice Shelton

Providence Associate Alice Shelton lives in Indianapolis with her husband John. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and enjoys her work as director of business services at Marian University.

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  1. Sister Ann Casper, SP Sister Ann Casper, SP on October 24, 2022 at 7:35 am

    Beautiful and meaningful in so many ways. Thank YOU, Alice, for sharing your writing skill with us in this way and in your web Gospel reflections. Her writing indeed bears fruit in you!

    Ann Casper, SP

  2. Avatar Jeanne Hagelskamp, SP on October 24, 2022 at 8:12 am

    Thanks for your wonderful reflection, Alice! You are so right about Mother Theodore! We are blessed!!!

  3. Avatar Ted Sherfick on October 24, 2022 at 8:59 am

    Well said Alice. The path unfolds as we trudge along.
    Ted Sherfick

  4. Avatar Stephen Modde on October 24, 2022 at 9:57 am

    “…she is present as cheerleader and champion.” Your words summarize what she is for me/us today. Grateful to get to know her better through you and be inspired to live the Providence Spirit.
    Happy Fall days to all!!!

  5. Avatar Nell Trainor on October 24, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    Alice, what a gift you gave us on this rainy day in New Hampshire! Thank you so much for your words illuminating St.MTG’s essence. So glad we met and worked at SMWC together.Keep up the great writing❤️

  6. Avatar Cindy Schasberger on October 24, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    What a wonderful reflection!

  7. Avatar Denise on October 25, 2022 at 10:01 am

    My favorite sentence: “We know Mother Theodore because she wrote.” Thanks, Alice, for such a short, sweet and powerful reminder.

  8. Avatar Sister Susan Paweski on October 26, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you, Alice. We are blessed with Mother Theodore’s writings. You brought that forward again during our October Providence days.

  9. Avatar Mary Montgomery on October 30, 2022 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks, Alice! I treasure your writing, insights, gifts! Thanks for sharing generously with us!

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