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St. Mother Théodore Guérin

St. Mother Théodore Guérin by Brenda Nippert

Artwork Narrative:

Born in France near the end of the French Revolution, Anne Therese Guérin knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a nun. When she was old enough, she joined the Sisters of Providence of Ruille-sur-Loir. She took the name Sister Théodore. She became an award winning teacher, preparing her for the journey ahead. Sister Théodore was chosen to head a group to the United States. She and five other sisters sailed across the Atlantic, and traveled by steam boat, and then stage coach to the wilderness of Indiana. There they met a few more young women who wished to join them in the small village of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods and a new order was born.

A school was opened and though success seemed unlikely in the desolate wilderness, Mother Guérin proved to be an inspired leader. She established school after school and by the time she died, the order had grown from six to over eighty sisters. Today, over three-hundred serve the order at the original mother house in Indiana with a hundred more ministering in nineteen states and Asia.

Her feast day is October 3.

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Saint Mother Theodore was a woman of courage, determination and compassion. From a young age she faced many challenges. Her trust in Providence – the protective care of God – helped her accomplish many things.

After the tragic deaths of both her brothers and her father, Saint Mother Theodore spent many years taking care of her mother and sister. Her deep desire to serve God would have to wait. At the age of 25 her mother finally allowed her to follow her dream and devote her life entirely to God.

Saint Mother Theodore entered religious life with the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé sur-Loir, France. It was around this time that she began having health issues that would plague her for the rest of her life. This did not deter her.

As a new sister Saint Mother Theodore was sent to various parishes in France where she taught, helped the poor and cared for the sick. When the bishop of Vincennes, Indiana requested sisters to come to the New World to help with the influx of Catholic immigrants, Saint Mother Theodore was thought to be the only woman who could undertake such a demanding mission.

The journey was long and difficult. After traveling for nearly three months Saint Mother Theodore and her five companions arrived only to discover they were in the remote wilderness of Indiana known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. There was not a village or a house in sight. Life was not going to get any easier.

Despite the obstacles, Saint Mother Theodore was able to open an academy for girls in less than a year. Once this was done she continued forward and established schools throughout Indiana and Eastern Illinois. She also opened two orphanages in Vincennes and a free pharmacy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and Vincennes.

Saint Mother Theodore died May 14, 1856. On Oct. 15, 2006 at St. Peter’s Square in Rome Mother Theodore was canonized and received the title, “Saint” from the Catholic Church. She is designated in the Vatican’s official record as Saint Theodora.

Her life still continues to inspire. She is remembered as a woman devoted to prayer, an educator, caregiver and leader. Her love and respect for nature is still evident in her beloved woods. She was a champion of justice and was empathetic to those who suffered. At the time of her beatification Pope John Paul II pronounced the life of Mother Theodore Guerin as “a perfect blend of humanness and holiness”.