Mother Theodore Guérin: Indiana’s Favorite Saint
CINCINNATI—Six Sisters of Providence and a priest were traveling on a stagecoach through thick
forests in Indiana on October 22, 1840. Mother Theodore Guérin—who was in charge of the
sisters—wrote in her journal of a harrowing trip from France that lasted over three months. When
they reached their destination, they began to build and grow their community. Thus began the Sisters
of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
On October 15, Mother Theodore Guérin—canonized as St. Theodora—will become the
United States’ eighth saint. The remarkable life of this holy and courageous woman is featured
in the November issue of St. Anthony Messenger and is entitled “Mother Theodore Guérin:
Indiana’s Very Own Saint,” by John F. Fink. After October 23, the article will be posted
Born Anne-Thérèse Guérin in 1798 in Brittany, France, she became a devout young
girl with an advanced spiritual development. After taking care of her family, Anne-Thérèse
entered the Sisters of Providence novitiate at on August 18, 1823, professed her first vows on September
8, 1825, and her perpetual vows on September 5, 1831.
A stalwart faith would be essential for Mother Theodore in her travels. The Diocese of Vincennes included
the whole state of Indiana and the eastern part of Illinois—330 miles long and just as wide—with
about 50,000 Catholics amid a population of 600,000. Not long after arriving, Mother Theodore began
to plan her academy for girls. It would eventually become Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. By July
of 1841, 10 young women were studying there.
In the years that followed, Mother Theodore battled ill health, poverty, frigid Indiana winters and
a bad-tempered bishop named Celestine de la Hailandière, whose questionable leadership and lack
of support for the sisters did not rattle her resolve. All of her efforts paid off: By 1855, the community
that had begun with six sisters increased to 60. Since 1840, 5,239 women have entered the Congregation
of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Today there are 465 sisters in 20 states,
the District of Columbia, Taiwan and China.
The sisters still sponsor Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the country’s oldest Catholic liberal
arts college for women. Its 1,700 students are enrolled in campus-based, undergraduate distance-learning
and graduate programs.
Mother Theodore was declared blessed on October 25, 1998, after Pope John Paul II accepted the healing
of Providence Sister Mary Theodosia Mug from cancer in 1908—through the intercession of Mother
Theodore—as a miracle. In April of this year, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the healing of Philip
McCord—a Protestant who was cured of a debilitating eye disease after praying to the Mother Theodore—as
the second miracle required for canonization.
The past July, Sister Margaret O’Hara, the congregation’s general superior, stressed the
universality of Mother Theodore’s holiness. “This is the highest honor the Catholic Church
can bestow on a person, but it is not just for Catholics. The canonization is something people of all
faiths can share by recognizing the way Mother Theodore lived her life.”
granted to reprint this release.