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October 3

St Mother Theodore Guerin - October 3

Saint Théodore Guérin

Nun, Foundress

(1798 – 1856)

“With Jesus, what shall we have to fear?

Saint Théodore Guérin

Saint’s Life Story

Her Early Life in France

Anne-Thérèse Guérin was born on October 2, 1798, in the village of Étables-sur-Mer in Brittany, France, to Laurent Guérin and Isabelle (Lefèvre) Guérin. 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. Anne-Thérèse was allowed to receive her First Communion at the age of 10, two years earlier than usual, and, at that time, told the parish priest that someday she would be a nun.

Cared For Her Mom

The child Anne-Thérèse often sought solitude along the rocky shore near her home, where she devoted hours to meditation, reflection and prayer.   She was educated by her mother, Isabelle Guérin, who centered lessons on religion and Scripture, thus nurturing the child’s love of God. Anne-Thérèse’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 overwhelmed Isabelle with depression and, for many years, Anne-Thérèse bore the responsibility of caring for her mother and her young sister, as well as the family’s home and garden.

Joined a Convent

Around the age of twenty, Anne-Thérèse 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. On August 18, 1823, Anne-Thérèse entered the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir congregation and was given the religious name of Sister Saint Théodore. She professed first vows on September 8, 1825, and perpetual vows on September 5, 1831.

Began as a Teacher

Théodore spent her early career as an educator, beginning as a teacher at Preuilly-sur-Claise in central France. In 1826, she began serving 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, Théodore became seriously ill, most likely with smallpox. Although she recovered, the illness damaged her digestive system. As a result, Théodore could only eat a simple, bland diet for the rest of her life.

Asked to Led a Missionary Band to Indiana, USA

While on travel from the United States in France, Bishop Hailandière, the bishop of the vast Diocese of Vincennes in state of Indiana, asked the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-sur-Loir to send a group of sisters to establish a ministry in diocese. Sister Theodore was asked to lead a small missionary band of Sisters of Providence to the United States of America, to establish a motherhouse, to open schools and to share the love of God with pioneers in the Diocese of Vincennes in the State of Indiana. Sister Théodore 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.”

St Theodore Guerin plaque in St. Mary-of-the-Woods

Her Start at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana

Equipped with little more than her steadfast desire to serve God, Sister Théodore and her five companion Sisters of Providence arrived at the site of their mission at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, on the evening of October 22, 1840. She immediately hastened along a muddy, narrow path to the tiny log cabin that served as the chapel. There, they knelt in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament to thank God for their safe journey and to ask for God’s blessings for the new mission.

Opened an Academy for Women

In July 1841, less than a year after they arrived 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.

St Theodore Guerin statute in St. Mary-of-the-Woods

Started Many Schools and Orphanages in Indiana and Illinois

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. She personally directed the establishment of Saint Joseph School (1842) in Jasper; Saint Anne’s Academy (1844) in Madison; Saint Augustine’s (1846) in Fort Wayne; and Saint Vincent’s Academy (1849) in Terre Haute, Indiana; as well as a school in Saint Francisville, Illinois. After her return to the United States from a fundraising trip to France, Mother Théodore and the Sisters of Providence established six other schools in Indiana: two in Evansville, Saint Joseph’s Academy (1853) and Assumption (1853); Saint Patrick’s (1853) in North Madison; Saint Mary’s (1853) at Fort Wayne; Saint Mary’s (1854) at Lanesville; and Saint Bartholomew (1855) at Columbus.  In addition, Mother Théodore and the Sisters of Providence helped establish two orphanages in Vincennes and free pharmacies at Vincennes and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Built Convent

Mother Théodore proved to be a skilled businesswoman and leader and a beloved general superior and spiritual leader of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She arranged to purchase a local farmhouse belonging to the Thralls family to serve as the congregation’s first convent at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Mother Théodore oversaw the construction of a new Providence convent, which was formally dedicated on August 7, 1854.

Her Death

Mother Théodore suffered from poor health for most of her adult life and she died on May 14, 1856 at the motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, at fifty-seven. Mother Théodore died sixteen years after she arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. During those fleeting years, she touched a countless number of lives—and continues to do so today.

 

Beatified:           October 25, 1998 by Pope John Paul II

Canonized:        October 15, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI

Feast Day:         October 3

Patron Saint:    Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana

Source:

Reflection

Saint Mother Theodora spent her life teaching and helping others. We sometimes think that teaching and helping others are activities that only some professions permit. However, we must remember that, in nearly every profession, there are opportunities to teach others through our charitable attitudes and actions.

How can your being charitable in your life and work “teach” others?

Source: Adapted from Saint Mother Theodora Guérin (1798-1856) | Saint Mary’s Press (smp.org)

Prayers

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin,
valiant woman of God,
intercede for us in our needs.

Implore for us through Jesus, the Christ, the gifts of a living faith,
abiding hope and steadfast charity,

so that through a life of prayer
and service with others
we may aid in promoting
the Providence of God
among all peoples.

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, pray for us.

Amen.

Source: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin prayer – A Prayer from the Sisters of Providence (spsmw.org)

Saint Links 

Aleteia – From France to the woodlands of Indiana: An unlikely journey to sainthood

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Théodore Guérin

Catholic Exchange – Saints, People Who Leave Everything to Follow Christ

Catholic Fire – St. Mother Theodore Guérin

Catholic News Agency – St. Mother Théodore Guérin Feast Day: Oct 03

Catholic Online – St. Mother Theodore Guerin

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Theodore Guerin

Franciscan Media – Saint Theodora Guérin

Loyola Press – Saint Mother Theodore Guerin Feast Day October 3

Saints, Feast, Family – The Story of St. Theodore Guerin

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Mother Theodora Guérin (1798-1856)

Saint Resource – Theodore Guerin

uCatholic – Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Wikipedia – Théodore Guérin

Video Link

St. Théodore Guérin | Obscure Saint​ – YouTube (The CatholicTV Network)

Ten years a pioneer saint​ – YouTube (Catholic News Service)