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Miracle stories that contributed to sainthood

Sister of Providence Mary Theodosia Mug, 1860-1943.

To be officially declared a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, two miracles attributed to the intercession of the person being studied must be proven to have been real. The stories here recount the two “proven” miracles that led to the canonization of Saint Mother Theodore.

The first miracle: the healing of Sister Mary Theodosia Mug

The story about Sister Mary Theodosia Mug is powerful.

She was born Helen Mug in Attica, Ind. She attended the Academy, now known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated in 1877. Her mother also attended the Academy and received instruction for First Communion from Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

While she was a student, she met several of the sisters who were companions to Mother Theodore. She would listen carefully to the sisters’ memories of their foundress, and she began recording those memories. After graduation, Helen entered the Congregation and was given the name Mary Theodosia. She became a teacher and writer. Her penchant for writing was evident to her sisters, and she was asked to compose a book about the life of Mother Theodore. It was published in 1904.

Writing the book was a challenge. In her younger years, she suffered from neuritis in her right hand and arm. Later, she developed an abdominal tumor. The pain from the disease persisted. She wrote the manuscript with the paper resting at knee height.

Sister Mary Theodosia’s health took a turn for the worse in 1906 when she discovered a lump on her left breast. Diagnosis indicated it was malignant and her physician in Terre Haute recommended an immediate mastectomy. The nerves and muscles on her left side were damaged during surgery and her left arm became rigid. The abdominal tumor continued to grow such that she could not kneel and she had difficulty walking.

On the evening of Oct. 30, 1908, Sister Mary Theodosia paused to pray at Mother Theodore’s tomb. She did not pray for herself, but for Sister Joseph Therese O’Connell who was very ill.

You can read her first-hand account of her healing in the letter below. The letter is to Mother Mary Cleophas Foley, mother superior from 1890 to 1926. It was dated Nov. 21, 1908.

Dear Mother,

I am so happy, yet so abashed, as I begin to relate my cure. Why should I be favored above the many that have so fervently sought grace through the intercession of our revered and holy Foundress?

Friday evening, October 30th, I went to visit the vault where repose the remains of Mother Theodore. It was no special devotion that took me there; I was only passing up from the crypt chapel and stopped to say my usual prayers there – the De Profundis, three times Gloria Patri, Memorare, and one ‘Glory to Mary forever,’ Mother Theodore’s oft-repeated exclamation in her diary. Then the thought came into my mind: ‘I wonder if she has any power with Almighty God.’ Instantly I heard in my soul the words, ‘Yes, she has.’ I was so startled by the suddenness and distinctness of the words — not any external voice or sound but an utterance to my soul — that I ran in haste from the spot and did not stop till I reached the head of the stairs near the sacristy. Then I paused and chided myself for my excitement — I am never afraid of the dead; why should I fear now? Again the words came to me, ‘Yes, she has,’ — but now only as a memory, not words as before. Then I said to myself, ‘Well, if she has, I wish she would show it,’ and I went about my work determined to think no more about it. However, the words came back to my memory at intervals, but as my mind was greatly occupied that night with work for the printers, composition and proofreading, they passed out of my thoughts very quickly, making no further impression.

In the morning when I arose, I felt strong and rested, although I had been in bed for three hours. Without adverting to the fact for some moments, I found myself spreading my coverlets with both arms; hitherto I could employ only the right arm, and it was always quite an effort to get my bed made. My bad arm was now free and strong again. Then for the first time since February 3rd, 1907, I rolled up my hair without resting my head on my knees. With suppleness, strength had returned, the fingers being as strong and quick on the piano, typewriter, etc., as if I had kept in daily practice. As I began to dress, I found the bands of my clothing had to be lapped over about two inches. The enlargement below the waist had disappeared, and the weight that prevented me from genuflecting, except with distress and pain, was no longer experienced. What became of the lump I do not know, but I feel nothing abnormal since that day. Moreover, I see now as I never saw before, and the exactions of setting and reading type seem never to cause a moment’s fatigue to the eyes.

But what seems to me the most marvelous change is my perfect digestive power. I can eat anything that comes to the table and in such quantities as to amuse everyone. When we recall that I have been the worst kind of a dyspeptic nearly all my life, dieting always, and for long periods able to take no solid food whatever, and suffering greatly from such conditions, it seems wonderful. Blessed be God in His saints! To Mother Theodore I owe all this.

Dear Mother, I beg you to thank God for His goodness to me and to add what you see and know of my cure, to the praise and glory of our holy Foundress – dear Mother Theodore.

Your grateful and happy, Sister M. Theodosia

Sister Mary Theodosia had many examinations at several medical facilities after and no malignancy was ever found again. She lived to the age of 82.

The second miracle: the healing of Phil McCord

Below is an account of the second approved miracle attributed to Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, the eye healing of Phil McCord.

Phil McCord knew he had increasingly poor eyesight, a condition with which he had coped since age 6. After moving to Terre Haute, Indiana, he visited a local doctor who confirmed that he was a candidate for surgery to remove cataracts from both eyes. He also had myopia and astigmatism.

Miracle recipient Phil McCord, center, carries a candle in a ceremony celebrating Saint Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

His left eye was worse, so the decision was made to wait on surgery until the right eye “caught up” with the left eye. He was referred to another doctor who was an ophthalmologist and surgeon. The surgeon confirmed that Phil had advanced cataracts. A plan to proceed with surgery was made with full recovery expected.

The operation on the first eye was Sept. 21, 2000. A week after the surgery, Phil was delighted with better color awareness and light perception and his peripheral vision had improved.

The second surgery occurred about a month later. Discomfort was nearly immediate. Phil’s right eye had a distinct “heaviness.” His eyelid was drooping significantly and his face was red and felt pulled. The surgeon was hopeful the condition would clear up with continued treatment. That strategy didn’t work.

His surgeon referred him to a specialist in Indianapolis. The specialist confirmed the surgeon’s suspicions that swelling existed in Phil’s cornea. A corneal transplant was recommended.

Phil was upset. He knew this type of surgery would be serious, and would have certain risks, including potential loss of sight. He wasn’t sure he could do it, or would want to do it. He admitted he was fearful.

About a week later, he was returning from a meeting at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods where he served as director of Facilities Management at that time. He heard organ music coming from the Church of the Immaculate Conception as he walked in the corridor parallel to the church.

“I don’t really know what made me go in,” Phil said. But he did, and he prayed to the Sisters of Providence foundress, Mother Theodore Guerin. “I prayed for my own inner peace and courage.”

Phil spent time in reflection, and that led to prayer. He described himself as not very observant of his religious faith. He was raised American Baptist, the son of a lay minister.

In the church that day, he prayed for the strength to endure the corneal transplant. He remembered saying that he didn’t think he had the courage to undergo the surgery.

He recalled there was something called intercession in the Catholic faith, so he asked Mother Theodore for assistance.

“It was not an eloquent prayer. I said, ‘Mother Theodore, this is your house. I am your servant, for a lack of a better word, and if you have the power to intercede, I would appreciate anything that you can do for me.’”

After a few minutes of quiet, he prepared to leave and noticed a sense of peacefulness. He believed he had the confidence to proceed with the transplant.

He woke up the next morning and the heaviness and droopiness and redness around his right eye had diminished. His wife, a registered nurse, agreed.

He soon met with the surgeon with the likelihood of surgery occurring in the not-too-distant future. After an examination, the specialist wanted to know what he had done to his eye. The transplant was no longer needed. Healing had occurred. The specialist referred Phil back to his original surgeon.

A simple laser treatment to remove some tissue buildup was all Phil needed to have his vision restored. After he wore reading glasses, but could otherwise see nearly perfectly.

“There was nothing immediately dramatic about it. There was no instant, startling change. I’m not steeped in Catholic ritual, but I was aware of intercessory powers. I said [to Mother Theodore] ‘If you have God’s ear, I would appreciate it.’ It was kind of like exhaling. I felt better.

Everything else followed from there,” Phil said.

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