A year’s long process brought Saint Mother Theodore Guerin to official recognition as a Saint within the Catholic Church. Follow along with the process below.
Local group promotes devotion to the deceased
The informal process began with Mother Theodore’s successor, Mother Mary Cecilia Bailly. Shortly after Mother Theodore’s death in 1856, Mother Mary Cecilia started writing historical sketches of Mother Theodore. The sisters took special care to preserve her writings and collect first-hand accounts of her interactions with others.
Mother Mary Cleophas, Superior-General from 1890 to 1926, had community historian Sister Mary Theodosia Mug write a biography of Mother Theodore. She published the biography in 1904. Mother Theodore’s remains were removed from the cemetery and placed in the Crypt of the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. During this time, there were growing reports of special favors granted to the intercession of Mother Theodore.
The local bishop appoints officials to collect writings by and about the candidate. They hold tribunals in which witnesses for and against the “cause” give testimony. The Vatican checks its archives for anything that would prevent the cause from proceeding.
In 1909, Bishop Francis Silas Chatard of Indianapolis granted permission for the opening of the Informative Process of the Cause for Mother Theodore. The process took place in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and involved a thorough study of Mother Theodore’s life, work and writings.
The Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites received the documents compiled during this phase in 1914. Mother Theodore’s writings were compiled and delivered to the Congregation in 1916.
In 1927, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints submitted their recommendation to the Pope, who approved the writings of Mother Theodore.
In 1937, a representative of Bishop Joseph Chartrand of Indianapolis discovered that there was no information regarding the life of Mother Theodore in France. The process to secure these accounts continued with study and interviews in the Diocese of St. Briuec and the Diocese of Le Mans, places where Mother Theodore had lived and ministered in France.
Evaluation and judgment phase
Local bishops send testimony and other material to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. They appoint a relator who oversees the writing of a biography. Eight theologians and the promoter of the faith judge the cause. If approved, cardinals and bishops of the congregation vote. If the pope approves, the candidate is declared “Venerable.”
In 1956, Pope Pius XII signed the Decree for the Introduction of the Cause and formally introduced the Apostolic Process of the Cause. In 1992, Pope John Paul II formally declared Mother Theodore to be “Venerable,” indicating that she lived a virtuous life to a heroic degree.
The miracle process
A candidate must have a miracle credited to his or her intercession. Only miracles that occur after the candidate’s death count. Medical experts and then a panel of theologians judge the evidence.
On October 30, 1908, Sister Mary Theodosia Mug was cured of a useless arm, an enlargement below her waist, difficulty eating, and fatigue of the eyes. The evening before she visited the crypt where Mother Theodore’s remains were kept. As she prayed her typical prayers a question came to her mind. ‘I wonder if she has any power with Almighty God?’ Immediately she felt the answer spoken to her soul ‘Yes, she has’ so clearly it frightened her. After praying that Mother Theodore would then show it, Sister Mary Theodosia went to bed. Waking up after only three hours of sleep, she felt strong and rested. She realized she could use her bad arm for the first time in year. She was healed of all her potentially fatal maladies.
On Aug. 22, 1958, witnesses testified to the court about the miracle. After Pope John Paul II declared Mother Theodore Venerable, three groups examined the documentation of the miracle: a board of medical consultants, a group of theologians and an appointed group of cardinals. In 1996 and 1997, all three bodies voted unanimously to approve the miracle.
The cardinals and the pope approve the miracle process. Then the pope beatifies the candidate.
On October 25, 1998, Pope John Paul II granted the title of “Blessed” to Mother Theodore.
Canonization requires one more miracle. That miracle must have occurred after the beatification. Then the pope canonizes the saint.
The second miracle attributed to Mother Theodore was the restoration of eye sight of Phil McCord, an employee at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, in 2001. Pope Benedict XVI canonized Mother Theodore as St. Theodora on October 15, 2006 in St. Peter’s Square.