Saint of the Day: St. Mother Theodore Guérin
Mother THÉODORE—ANNE-THÉRÈSE GUÉRIN—was born Oct. 2, 1798, in the village of Etables, France. Her devotion to God and to the Roman Catholic Church began when she was a young child. She was allowed to receive her First Communion at the age of 10 and, at that time, told the parish priest that someday she would be a nun.
The child Anne-Thérèse often sought solitude along the rocky shore near her home, where she devoted hours to meditation, reflection and prayer. 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 nearly overwhelmed Isabelle 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.
Anne-Thérèse was nearly 25 years old when she entered the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé-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.
While teaching and caring for the sick in France, Mother Théodore, then known as Sister St. 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. During her novitiate with the Sisters of Providence, she became very ill. Remedies cured the illness but severely damaged her digestive system; for the remainder of her life she was able to consume only soft, bland foods and liquids.
Equipped with little more than her steadfast desire to serve God, Mother Théodore and her five companion Sisters of Providence arrived at the site of their mission at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, the evening of October 22, 1840, and 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.
In the fall of 1840, the mission at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods consisted only of a tiny log cabin chapel that also served as lodging for a priest, and a small frame farmhouse, where Mother Théodore, the sisters from France and several postulants lived. During that first winter, harsh winds blew from the north to rattle the little farmhouse The sisters were often cold and frequently hungry. But they transformed a porch into a chapel and were comforted by the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the humble motherhouse. Mother Théodore said, “With Jesus, what shall we have to fear?”
During the early years at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Mother Théodore encountered numerous trials: prejudice against Catholics and, especially, against Catholic women religious; betrayals; misunderstandings; the separation of the Congregation in Indiana from the one in Ruillé; a devastating fire that destroyed an entire harvest 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.”
Mother Théodore’s holiness was evident to people who knew her, and many described her simply as “saintly”. She possessed the ability to draw out the best in people, to enable them to attain more than they thought possible. Mother Théodore’s love was one of her great hallmarks. She loved God, God’s people, the Sisters of Providence, the Roman Catholic Church and the people she served. She did not exclude anyone from her ministries or her prayers, for she dedicated her life to helping people know God and live better lives.
Mother Theodore was beatified on October 25, 1998 by Pope John Paul II and canonized on October 15, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.
~ Excerpted, in part, from the Vatican website.