Saint Theodora Guérin’s Story
Trust in God’s Providence enabled Mother Theodore to leave her homeland, sail halfway around the world, and found a new religious congregation.
Born in Etables, France, Anne-Thérèse Guérin’s life was shattered by her father’s murder when she was 15. For several years she cared for her mother and younger sister. She entered the Sisters of Providence in 1823, taking the name Sister Saint Theodore. An illness during novitiate left her with lifelong fragile health, but that did not keep her from becoming an accomplished teacher.
At the invitation of the bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, Sr. Saint Theodore and five sisters were sent to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, in 1840, to teach and to care for the sick poor. She was to establish a motherhouse and novitiate. Only later did she learn that her French superiors had already decided the sisters in the United States should form a new religious congregation under her leadership.
Mother Theodore and her community persevered despite fires, crop failures, prejudice against Catholic women religious, misunderstandings, and separation from their original religious congregation. She once told her sisters, “Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. Do not press matters; be patient, be trustful.” Another time she asked, “With Jesus, what shall we have to fear?”
Mother Theodore was buried in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, now the Shrine of St. Mother Theodore, in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was beatified in 1998, and canonized as Saint Theodora Guérin eight years later.
God’s work gets done by people ready to take risks and to work hard—always remembering what Saint Paul told the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” Every holy person has a strong sense of God’s Providence.