Saint Theodore Guerin
By Debbie Thompson

Mother Theodore Guerin was a noble woman who is still touching the lives of so many people. Her legacy will only grow as more of us get to know her steps of Sainthood and all that she has accomplished with the little.

Anne-Thérèse Guérin (Mother Theodore Guerin) was born in 1798 in Brittany France to the parents of Laurent and Isabelle Lefèvre Guérin. Her father was an officer in the French Navy and was away from home most of the time. Anne-Thérèse lived the simple life and was educated by her mother since most of the schools were closed due to the French Revolution. Her mother taught her reading and catechism, and most of her studies were based on scriptures. She did eventually attend a small school for a short time then she was educated by a young relative, a former seminarian who lived with them for several months.

Anne-Thérèse was fifteen years old when her father was murdered by bandits traveling home to see his family. Her mother had such a hard time coping with this loss that she could hardly function. Therefore, Anne-Thérèse began to care for her mother, sister, their home, and garden.

When Anne-Thérèse was twenty years old, she asked her mother for permission to join a religious order, but her mother refused. She couldn’t bare the thought of losing her daughter. However, five years later she realized her daughter’s devotion to God and told her daughter to follow her heart.

In August of 1823, Anne-Thérèse entered the Sisters of Providence Novitiate at Ruillé, France.  She took the name Sister Theodore Guerin and professed her vows in 1825 and received her religious habit.  Since Sister Theodore Guerin was accustomed to obedience, responsibility, and sacrifice her superior, Mother Mary, was quick to see her talent and potential and sent her to teach at the Sisters of Providence establishment at Preuilly-sur-claise. During this time Sister Theodore was seized with an illness thought at that time to be small pox. Doctors gave her medicine to cure the illness and at the same time it damaged her digestive system.

In 1826, she was named Superior of the Sisters of Providence establishment in the parish of St. Aubin at Rennes. Several years later in 1838 Bishop Bruté sent Father de la Hailandière to France to locate a congregation of religious women to minister in his Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana with the idea of fulfilling one of his missions. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Mother Theodore did not volunteer for this mission because of her health, but after long hours of prayer she knew she would lead the mission to Indiana. Two professed sisters and three novices were appointed to accompany her to Indiana.

In July 1840, their journey to Indiana began. They traveled by ship from France and it wasn’t easy for them. A month into their trip they experienced the winds from a hurricane, and had bouts of sea sickness. After much fear and prayer to Mary Immaculate they anchored safely September 4th in the New York Harbor. They then ran into more difficulty by not being able to speak English. They soon met up with a Spanish Priest who was able to make arrangements for them to arrive in Cincinnati, Ohio and then to continue from there to

Vincennes, Indiana. By October 22 they approached Saint Mary-of-the-Woods near Terre Haute, Indiana. At this time they were in a forest, no village and not even a house in sight.

In July 1841, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods was opened to students and by the end of the month they had ten students enrolled.  Through the years of her ministry, Mother Theodore and her Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods have touched thousands of lives in the U.S. and in other areas such as Taiwan, China, South America, and the West Indies. By the time she died in 1856, she left a girls academy that is now the nations oldest Catholic liberal arts college for women, the first dozen Catholic schools in Indiana, and a new congregation, the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, who continue her work.

In 1909, Bishop Francis Silas Chatard of the Diocese of Indianapolis, Indiana approved the first step for the cause of beautification and canonization of Mother Theodore Guerin. This step, the informative process, ended in 1913 which included testimonies of twenty-four individuals. Following this step was an intense investigation into the life, ministry and writings of Mother Theodore which took place for several decades. Next, was proving a miracle occurred through the intercession of Mother Theodore. In 1997, Pope John Paul II accepted the healing of Sister Mary Theodosia from cancer in 1908 after a year long of research with medical consultants, theologians and cardinals. This cleared the way for beautification of Mother Theodore in October 1998.

October 15, 2006 Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin has become America’s Eighth Catholic Saint, and the first saint from the State of Indiana. This was such a special day for many Hoosiers that some even made the pilgrimage to Rome to witness the spectacle.

Saint Theodore Guerin Prayer:

Jesus, only source of truth and life, who taught the world the way of salvation, grant us the grace which we humbly ask through your faithful servant, Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin, who spent all her life to make you known and loved. May this grace be consolation for soul and body, and may it unite us ever more to you and to one another in life and in eternity. Amen.

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