By the ravine near Providence Hall is a rock that marks the site of the first Mass offered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The plaque on the rock reads: “The first Mass at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was offered on this spot by Bishop Bruté, first bishop of Vincennes, January 6, 1837, in the log hut dwelling of Father Buteux, who was on that date installed here as pastor.”
Upon arrival at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on Oct. 22, 1840, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and her companions made their way to the dwelling to visit the Blessed Sacrament. Saint Mother Theodore later wrote in her journal about the experience: “The Church!! Yes, dear friends, that is the dwelling of the God of the Universe, in comparison with which the stables wherein you shelter your cattle are palaces. … No tabernacle, no altar, for can the name of altar be given to three planks forming a table forty inches long, supported by two stakes driven into the ground?”
This church that Saint Mother Theodore described in her journal was actually temporary. Father Buteux resided in part of this small structure, which measured 13-feet wide and 15-feet long. The original church burned down in February 1840, eight months before the sisters’ arrival.