At the statue dedication, from left: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College President Dottie King, former General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson, General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski, Mary Ann Hellman and Jerry Hellman. Photo by Dee Reed, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

A strong, fruitful tree is only as good as it’s long, deep roots. The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the French Sisters of Providence from Ruillé sur Loir.

Our foundress, Mother Theodore Guerin, spent her initial formation at the motherhouse in Ruillé and it was from there that she was first sent out on mission, to teach in various schools in France. Find out more about the French sisters – their history, spirituality, mission and more!

The new Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, was a native of France and he asked the French sisters for help in educating Indiana’s pioneer children in 1839. Sister St. Theodore, as she was first known, had been in ill health so she did not volunteer. After being asked personally by Mother Marie Lecor, and spending much time in prayer and discernment, she trusted in God’s Providence and agreed to lead the mission to the States. Read more about their experiences here.

In July of 1840, Mother Theodore Guerin traveled by boat, train and stagecoach with her five sister companions to Indiana to open the Academy (now known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College,) as well as other schools. The sisters formed a separate congregation with its motherhouse in the rustic wilderness of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

The rest is history! The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods continue Saint Mother Theodore’s legacy today by ministering in 17 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice.

The two congregations enjoy an enduring relationship.

Recently, former General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson spent time on sabbatical with the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé and shared some fond moments.

The French sisters have also traveled to Indiana and enjoyed the hospitality of the SPs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.


In 2017, a statue of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was installed at the Ruillé motherhouse, which is a replica of the one that stands firmly outside the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Both were created by the artist/sculptor Teresa Clark, Providence Associate.

Below are some photos from the dedication of the statue.