Théodore Guérin

Last updated

Theodora Guérin
SaintTheodoraGuerin.jpg
TitleFoundress and Superior General of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
Personal
Born
Anne-Thérèse Guérin

(1798-10-02)October 2, 1798
DiedMay 14, 1856(1856-05-14) (aged 57)
Resting placeShrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guérin and Sisters of Providence Convent Cemetery, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana
Religion Roman Catholic
NationalityFrench
American
ParentsLaurent Guérin, des Sieurs du Rocher
Elisabeth (Lefèvre) Guérin
Profession8 September 1825
Military service
RankSuperior General
Order Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
Senior posting
Period in office1840-1856
Successor Mother Mary Cecilia Bailly
Profession8 September 1825
PostFoundress and Superior General

Théodore Guérin (2 October 1798 – 14 May 1856), designated by the Vatican as Saint Theodora, and born Anne-Thérèse Guérin, was a French-American saint and the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, a congregation of Catholic sisters at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Pope John Paul II beatified Guérin on 25 October 1998, and Pope Benedict XVI canonized her a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 15 October 2006. Guérin's feast day is 3 October, although some calendars list it in the Roman Martyrology as 14 May, her day of death.

Contents

Guérin immigrated to Indiana from France in 1840, and became known for her advancement of education, especially in Indiana and in eastern Illinois; founding numerous schools including Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana; and for her care of the orphaned, the sick, and the poor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana.

Early life and education

Anne-Thérèse Guérin was born on 2 October 1798, in the village of Étables-sur-Mer in Brittany, France, to Laurent Guérin, an officer in the French Navy under Napoleon Bonaparte, and Isabelle (Lefèvre) Guérin. [1] Anne-Thérèse was born near the end of the French Revolution, which led to the Reign of Terror and the establishment of the French First Republic. This period of significant change also caused a crisis within French Catholicism, when schools and churches were closed, and many Catholic priests chose exile over death from the guillotine. [2] [3]

Laurent and Isabelle Guérin had four children, two sons (Jean-Laurent and Laurent-Marie) and two daughters; however, only Anne-Thérèse and her younger sister, Marie-Jeanne, survived to adulthood. The Guérin sisters were mostly educated at home by their mother and later by a relative who also lived with the family. [1] [3]

Anne-Thérèse knew from an early age that she would devote her life to serving God. At the age of ten, when she was allowed to take her First Communion two years earlier than the custom of the time, she confided to the priest in Etables that she wished to enter a religious community when she was older. [1] [4]

When Guérin was fifteen, tragedy struck the family. Bandits robbed and killed her father as he was traveling home to visit his family. The grief proved to be too much for Isabelle Guérin, who already had lost two children, and she fell into a deep depression. [5] The teenaged Anne-Thérèse accepted the responsibility of caring for her mother and sister, as well as the family's home and garden. Around the age of twenty, Guérin asked for her mother's blessing to join a religious order, but Isabelle was still unable to cope with her loss and refused. Five years later Isabelle recognized the depth of Anne-Thérèse's devotion to God and permitted her to leave home to join a convent. [2] [6]

Entering religious life

On 18 August 1823, Guérin entered the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir congregation and was given the religious name of Sister Saint Théodore. [7] She professed first vows 8 September 1825, and perpetual vows, which at the time were optional, on 5 September 1831.[ citation needed ]

Sister Saint Théodore spent her early career as an educator, beginning as a teacher at Preuilly-sur-Claise in central France. In 1826, she began service as a teacher and superior at the Saint Aubin parish school in Rennes before her transfer to a school at Soulaines in the Diocese of Angers. She also ministered to the needs of the area's sick and poor and received a medal for her teaching from the inspector for the Academy of Angers. While working in France, Sister Saint Théodore became seriously ill, most likely with smallpox. Although she recovered, the illness damaged her digestive system. As a result, Sister Saint Théodore could only eat a simple, bland diet for the rest of her life. [8] [9] [10]

Emigration from France to Indiana

In 1839, the Most Reverend Simon William Gabriel Bruté, the first bishop of the vast Diocese of Vincennes in Indiana, sent Vicar General Célestine Guynemer de la Hailandière as a representative to their native France. Bishop Bruté was in search of a religious congregation to come to the diocese to teach, provide religious instruction, and assist the sick. With only a few priests and a great influx of Catholic immigrants of French, Irish, and German descent, the diocese needed additional help with its expanding ministry. Bishop Bruté knew the great assistance that a religious order could provide, having worked with Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton and her Sisters of Charity during the founding and early years of Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. [2] [6]

In June 1829, while Hailandière was in France, Bishop Bruté died at Vincennes, Indiana; Hailandière, his successor, was consecrated a bishop of the diocese on 18 August 1829. [11] One of Bishop Hailandière's first acts was ask the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir to send a group of sisters to establish a ministry in Vincennes. Mother Mary, the superior general of the congregation, suggested Sister Saint Théodore for the task. Although Guérin was unsure of her abilities to complete such a mission at first, she agreed after considerable discernment. Guérin later remarked that a sentence from the Rule of the congregation convinced her to answer the call to immigrate to the United States: "The Congregation being obliged to work with zeal for the sanctification of souls, the sisters will be disposed to go to whatsoever part of the world obedience calls them."[ citation needed ]

Founding a new order in Indiana

On 15 July 1840, Sister Saint Théodore and five companions (Sister Olympiade Boyer, Sister Saint Vincent Ferrer Gagé, Sister Basilide Sénéschal, Sister Mary Xavier Lerée and Sister Mary Liguori Tiercin) departed from France to sail to the United States. After a treacherous, nearly two-month-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean, the six women traveled by steamboat and stagecoach to reach the dense forest of Indiana. [6] [12] [13]

On 22 October 1840, Guérin and her companions arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, a small, remote village in the wilderness in Vigo County, a few miles northwest of Terre Haute. For several months the sisters lived in a small frontier farmhouse with the Thralls family, along with a few postulants who had been waiting for them when they arrived. Guérin, the foundress and superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, a new order that was separate from the one in France, became known as Mother Théodore. [14] [15]

Life work

One final resting place of Mother Theodore in the Sisters of Providence Convent Cemetery. SistersofProvidenceConventCemetery.jpg
One final resting place of Mother Theodore in the Sisters of Providence Convent Cemetery.

Guérin expanded her service to God after her immigration to the United States in 1840. She settled in western Indiana and became the devoted leader of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods congregation. In addition, Guérin and the Sisters of Providence opened several schools across Indiana and eastern Illinois for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, as well as ministering to the needs of orphans, the sick, and the poor.

Educator

In July 1841, less than a year after their arrival in Indiana, and despite their meager resources, Mother Théodore and the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods opened Saint Mary's Academy for young women. The academy was the forerunner of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. [1] [16] Guérin had doubts that the new institution would succeed. [16] As she reflected in her journals, "It is astonishing that this remote solitude has been chosen for a novitiate and especially for an academy. All appearances are against it." [17] [18]

From the time of her arrival at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in July 1840 to January 1849, Mother Théodore worked with Catholic parishes to establish parish schools at several sites within the Diocese of Vincennes. [16] [19] Guérin personally directed the establishment of Saint Joseph School (1842) in Jasper; [20] Saint Anne's Academy (1844) in Madison; [21] Saint Augustine's (1846) in Fort Wayne; [22] and Saint Vincent's Academy (1849) in Terre Haute, Indiana; [23] as well as a school in Saint Francisville, Illinois. After her return to the United States from a fundraising trip to France, Guérin and the Sisters of Providence established six additional schools in Indiana: two in Evansville, Saint Joseph's Academy (1853) [24] and Assumption (1853); [24] Saint Patrick's (1853) in North Madison; [25] Saint Mary's (1853) at Fort Wayne; [26] Saint Mary's (1854) at Lanesville; [27] and Saint Bartholomew (1855) at Columbus. [28] Bishop Hailandière established two additional schools in Indiana while Guérin was traveling in France and assigned them to the Sisters of Providence to operate: St. Peter-Montgomery (1843) and Saint Mary Female School-Vincennes (1843). [19] [29]

In addition to establishing schools, Mother Théodore and the Sisters of Providence cooperated with Bishop John Stephen Bazin, Hailandière's successor, and Bishop Jacques-Maurice de Saint-Palais, Bazin's successor, in the establishment of two orphanages in Vincennes and free pharmacies at Vincennes and at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. [30] [31]

Business and congregation leader

Guérin proved to be a skilled businesswoman and leader, as well as a beloved general superior and spiritual leader of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She arranged for the purchase of a local farmhouse belonging to the Thralls family to serve as the congregation's first convent at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and oversaw the construction of a new Providence convent, which was formally dedicated on 7 August 1854. During the final years of her life, Guerin was planning to build a new chapel at the convent in honor of the Blessed Virgin; however she did not live to see it completed. The Church of the Immaculate Conception (Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana), her last major project, was completed in 1886. [6] [32]

Despite numerous challenges and hardships during the congregation's early years, which included rebuilding after destructive fires and crop failures, prudent use of limited finances, and negotiating disagreements with Catholic leaders, Guérin remained devoted to her work and the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods endured. [7] By the time of her death in May 1856, the Sisters of Providence congregation in Indiana had grown from its original six sisters and four postulants to sixty-seven professed members, nine novices, and seven postulants. [1]

Death

Guérin suffered from poor health for most of her adult life; however, her final illness began in March 1856. Guérin died on 14 May 1856, at the motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, at the age of fifty-seven. [31] [33]

The Catholic Telegraph and Advocate of Cincinnati, Ohio, published the following notice about Mother Théodore's death: [1]

Died - At Saint Mary's-of-the-Woods (sic), in the 58th year of her age, Wednesday, 14th inst., Sister St. Théodore, Superior General of the Sisters of Providence in Indiana.

This woman, distinguished by her eminent virtues, governed the community of which she was the superior from its commencement, to the time of her death, a period of nearly sixteen years. Being a perfect religious herself, and endowed with mental qualities of a high order, she was peculiarly fitted to fill the duties which Providence assigned her.

Not only her Sisters are bereaved by her death, but all those who knew her excellence and the amount of good she did, join in lamenting that she should have been removed from the sphere of her usefulness. To judge from the celestial expression of her countenance as she lay in death, there is every reason to believe that she has already taken her abode among the Saints in Heaven, enjoying the munificence of God, who rewards His servants 'according to their works.

Guérin's remains were buried on 15 May 1856, in the Sisters of Providence cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Her grave is marked with a Celtic cross that bears an inscription in Latin, translated as: "I sleep, but my heart watches over this house which I built." [14] In 1907 Guérin's remains were moved to the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, although some of her remains are still buried at the original gravesite. [1] [34]

Saint Theodora Guérin
SaintMotherTheodoreGuerinPressPhoto.jpg
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 25 October 1998, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 15 October 2006, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI
Major shrine Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guérin, near the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana
Feast 14 May (3 October for the Sisters of Providence and in Indiana)
Patronage Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana

Veneration

Cause for sainthood

In 1907, Guérin's remains were exhumed from the convent cemetery and moved to the crypt at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary of the Woods. At that time Bishop Francis Silas Chatard, the first bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis and a medical doctor before becoming a priest, examined the remains of Mother Théodore. When Bishop Chatard found the brain had not fully decomposed after fifty-one years in the grave, he asked three other physicians to examine his findings. This phenomenon was the first physical sign to consider Guérin's life and service to the people of the area worthy of further investigation. in 1909, after reviewing the medical reports on Guérin's remains, Chatard introduced the Cause for Canonization, the first step in the extensive process of declaring saints in the Roman Catholic Church. [6] [35] [36] During the early phase of the process, twenty-four individuals provided personal accounts of their experiences with Guérin. [34]

On 25 October 1998, after the first miracle attributed to Guérin was accepted, Pope John Paul II beautified and bestowed the title of "Blessed" on Mother Théodore. In his comments the Pope recognized her as a "holy woman of God" and "a woman for our time" who "lived a life of extraordinary love." [37] On 1 July 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave his final approval for her canonization as a saint after agreeing with the consensus view that a second miracle had occurred due to Guérin's intercession. [38] The canonization ceremony was held on 15 October 2006, in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City. Mother Théodore was given the official name of Saint Theodora Guérin. [39]

Miracles attributed to Guerin

The first miracle attributed to Guérin is said to have occurred in 1908. Before going to bed on 30 October, Sister of Providence Mary Theodosia Mug prayed at Guérin's crypt in the Church of the Immaculate Conception on the motherhouse grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for another sister who was ill, although Mug herself suffered from damaged nerves in both arms and her right hand, breast cancer, and an abdominal tumor. When she awoke the next day, Sister Mary Theodosia was able to move her arms without pain and the lump in her abdomen had disappeared. The cancer never returned. Sister Mary Theodosia died of old age in 1943 at the age of eighty-two. [1] [40] [41]

The second of the miracles attributed to Guérin involves Phil McCord of Terre Haute, Indiana, and occurred in January 2001. [42] McCord, who had worked in facilities management for the Sisters of Providence, stopped by the Church of the Immaculate Conception and was drawn in by music from the pipe organ. After entering the church McCord felt compelled to pray to Guérin, asking for strength to undergo surgery, a cornea transplant for his right eye to improve his failing eyesight [43] (Previous eye surgeries did not fully restore his eyesight, which had deteriorated to a legally-blind status of 20-800 in one eye and 20-1000 in the other.) McCord returned to his home and when he awoke the next morning, his vision, although still blurry, had improved. A follow-up visit with his eye doctor confirmed that McCord no longer needed the cornea transplant. With subsequent laser treatment McCord's eyesight returned perfect, 20-20 vision. Ophthalmologists and others investigating the case could find no medical explanation for the change in his condition. In 2006 the Catholic cardinals at the Vatican reviewed and approved the findings in the case and declared the event a miracle, paving the way for the final step in Guérin's canonization process. [42] [44]

Legacy

Guérin rose above numerous personal and professional challenges, such as ideological differences and financial disagreements with other Catholic leaders, frail health, and primitive living conditions in the Indiana wilderness, as well as religious, gender, and cultural prejudice. Guérin also broke barriers for women's education when she and the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods opened an academy for young women in Indiana in 1841. The academy is the forerunner to the present-day Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the oldest Catholic women's liberal arts college in the United States. [16] [45] In addition to being a capable businesswomen and school administrator, Guérin was a prolific writer whose journals provide details of her life and work, but her greatest legacy is the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the congregation she founded in 1840, and its ongoing ministries. [46]

Sisters of Providence congregation

More than 5,200 women have entered the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods congregation since its founding in 1840. As of 2010, there are nearly 400 sisters in the order, roughly 300 of them live and minister from the motherhouse grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Other sisters minister in the United States and in Asia.[ citation needed ]

Guérin was working on plans for construction of a new chapel for the Sisters of Providence at the end of her life, but she did not live to see the completion of the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. [47] The Sisters of Providence maintain various relics of Guérin's life in their congregation archives at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, as well as in a Heritage Museum in Providence Center on the motherhouse grounds and the Shrine of Saint Mother Théodore Guérin, which is accessed through the Providence Center. [48]

Honors and tributes

Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guérin

In October 2006, shortly before her canonization, Saint Theodora Guérin's remains were moved from the crypt to the sanctuary of the Church of the Immaculate Conception on the motherhouse grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. The Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guérin is located beneath the Blessed Sacrament Chapel near the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The shrine was dedicated in October 2014 under the administration of general superior Sister Denise Wilkinson. It includes a small, simple chapel where Guérin's remains rest in a coffin made of walnut wood from the Sisters of Providence grounds. [49] [50] [51] There are also several rooms in the shrine that contain historical artifacts, relics, photos, and information about Guérin's life and the early days of the Sisters of Providence. [52]

Schools

Several schools are associated with Guérin and the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods:

Patronage

Saint Theodora Guérin has been named a patron saint of:

Other tributes

See also

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  35. Briggs, Bill (2010). The Third Miracle . New York: Broadway Books. pp.  24–30. ISBN   978-0-7679-3269-1.
  36. Ryan, Joseph Eleanor (1987). Positio Super Virtutibus for the Beatification and Canonization of Mother Théodore Guérin. Rome.
  37. Young, pp. 8, 151, and 157.
  38. Young, p. 164.
  39. Young, p. 1.
  40. Young, pp. 8, 143–47.
  41. Letter to Mother Mary Cleophas dated, 21 November 1908, in the archial collections of the Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana. Quoted in Madden (1991), pp. 411-13.
  42. 1 2 Carroll, Jason (December 22, 2006). "Miracle of 'blind' man who can see". CNN. St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  43. Young, pp. 158 –59.
  44. Young, pp. 160–63.
  45. Young, pp. 3–4.
  46. Young , pp. 6–7.
  47. Young, pp. 126–27.
  48. "The Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin". Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  49. Young, p. 167.
  50. "Sisters of Providence transfer saint's remains" (Press release). 3 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  51. "New Shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin". WTWO Terre Haute. 3 October 2014. Archived from the original on 7 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  52. Swaner, Jon (21 October 2014). "8 years in the making – shrine to open Saturday". WTHI. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  53. Guerin College Preparatory High School is the successor to the Mother Theodore Guerin High School for girls, which the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods opened in 1962, and Holy Cross High School for boys, which the Brothers of Holy Cross opened in 1961. See: "History". Guerin College Preparatory High School. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  54. Saint Theodore Guerin High School, founded in 2004, is named in honor of Guérin. It is operated under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana. See Young, p. 165. See also: "School Overview". Guerin Catholic High School. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  55. Young, p. 165.
  56. "Archdiocese of Indianapolis". The Criterion Online Edition. Indianapolis, Indiana: Archidocese of Indianapolis. December 8, 2006. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  57. Rader, Kevin (October 10, 2006). "Mother Guerin honored". WTHR. Retrieved May 18, 2018. See also: "Section of US 150 named after Mother Theodore Guerin" (Press release). Former Gov. Mitch Daniels'Newsroom. October 10, 2006. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  58. Cox, Dave (November 12, 2010). "Saint Mother Theodore Guerin receives another honor". Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  59. "St. Mother Theodore Guerin Statue Dedicated" (PDF). Mary's Shrine. Washington, D.C.: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 69 (2). 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  60. Young, p. 8.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
General Superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods
1840 - 1856
Succeeded by
Mary Cecilia Bailly, SP
Educational offices
Preceded by
President of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
1841 - 1856
Succeeded by
Mary Cecilia Bailly, SP