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Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana: Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

About Mother Theodore Guerin:

Born Oct. 2, 1798, in the village of Etables, France, Anne Therese Guerin showed great devotion to God and to the Roman Catholic Church.  She was allowed to take first Communion at the young age of 10.

She was educated by her mother, Isabelle Guérin, who centered lessons on religion and Scripture, thus nurturing the child’s love of God. Anne-Therese’s father, Laurent, who served in Napoleon’s navy, was away from home for years at a time. When Anne-Thérèse was 15 years old, her father was murdered by bandits as he traveled home to visit his family. The loss of her husband nearly overwhelmed Isabelle and, for many years, Anne-Therese bore the responsibility of caring for her mother and her young sister, as well as the family’s home and garden.

Anne-Therese was nearly 25 years old when she entered the Sisters of Providence of Ruille-sur-Loir, a young community of women religious serving God by providing opportunities for education to children and by caring for the poor, sick and dying.  Eventually Mother Théodore, then known as Sister Theodore, was asked to lead a small missionary band of Sisters of Providence to the U.S.A. to establish a motherhouse, to open schools and evangelize to the pioneers in the Diocese of Vincennes in the State of Indiana.

She did not feel worthy of the task:  her health was fragile:  During her novitiate with the Sisters of Providence, she became very ill and although her illness was relived, it left her digestive system in such a state that she was only able to eat very bland foods and liquids.

Nevertheless, Mother Theodore and her five companion Sisters of Providence traveled to the U.S. and arrived at the site of their mission at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, in 1840.  They first stayed with Joseph and Sarah Thralls, a farm couple who allowed Guerin and her traveling companions to stay in their wilderness farm home in 1840.  Thralls farmhouse had four small rooms and a corn loft, Donaghue said.  In all, 20 people, including eight of the Thralls children, stayed with the nuns in the small home for three weeks. There was a tiny log cabin which served as a house for a priest and a small frame farmhouse for the Sisters and postulants.  They transformed the porch of their house into a chapel in which the Blessed Sacrament was reposed.

Prejudice against Catholics was widespread in the U.S. and, especially, against Catholic women religious; which made their task even more difficult.  In addition, a devastating fire destroyed an entire harvest one year, leaving the sisters destitute and hungry, and frequent life-threatening illnesses. Still she persevered, desiring only that “In all and everywhere may the will of God be done.

Less than a year after arriving at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Mother Theodore opened the Congregation’s first Academy and, in 1842, established schools at Jasper, Indiana, and St. Francisville, Illinois By the time of her death on May 14, 1856, Mother Théodore had opened schools in towns throughout Indiana, and the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence was strong, viable and respected. Always, Mother Théodore attributed the growth and success of the Sisters of Providence to God and to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to whom she dedicated the ministry at Saint Mary-of-the- Woods.

Mother Theodore died sixteen years after she arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, but in that time she touched a countless number of lives—and continues to do so today.

She was Canonized October 15, 2006, by Pope Benedict XIV. We celebrate her Feast Day on October 3.


About the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin:

The Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin is her final resting place and you can tour rooms representing Mother Theodore’s journey from France to the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

You will begin in a room recalling Mother Theodore’s early years in France.

Next you will travel through a ship room recalling her arduous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1840.

You will then enter an exhibit area detailing Saint Mother Theodore’s life in pioneer Indiana and the ongoing legacy of the order she founded.  In these rooms you will find original artifacts, including Saint Mother Theodore’s writing desk, chaplet, prayer book, shoes and more.

Tucked behind these rooms is a small chapel where you will find the tomb of Saint Mother Theodore. You can spend some time here for prayer and reflection.

To visit the shrine, you can enter through the main doors of Providence Spirituality & Conference Center, located at the end of The Avenue.


Traveling to the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin:

The shrine is located a few miles north of Terre Haute, which has an airport served by regional airlines.

Tel:  +1 (812) 535-3131  Toll-free:   +1 (800) 860-1840

Click here for the official website of the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

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