Théodore Guérin

Theodore_Guerin-219x300 Feast Day: October 3
Canonized: October 15, 2006
Beatified: October 25, 1998
Venerated: July 22, 1992

On the French seacoast of Brittany, Anne-Thérèse Guérin was born in 1798 to a French naval officer and his wife. When young Anne made her First Communion, she told the priest that she wanted to dedicate her life to God’s work. But her father was murdered when she was only 15, and Anne-Thérèse was left with the responsibility of caring for her mother and sister.

But when the young woman was 25, her mother finally told her it was time to answer God’s call. She entered the Sisters of Providence, a young community of nuns who served as teachers and cared for the sick poor. Anne-Thérèse was given the name of Sister St. Théodore.

While she was still in formation, Sister St. Théodore became very sick and nearly died. For the rest of her life, she was unable to eat most solid foods and existed only on soft things and liquids. Despite this, she was soon sent to minister to the many people left poor and without religion after the French Revolution. She was a wonderful teacher, and when visiting the sick, she learned medical skills and felt she was being called to use them.

In 1839, the Bishop of Vincennes (the first permanent settlement in Indiana) asked France to send nuns to teach and minister to the many French, Irish, and German immigrants there. The superior general of the Sisters of Providence thought that Sister St. Théodore was the best person to lead a group there. So in 1840 a group of six Sisters traveled by ship, stagecoach, steamboat, train, and canal boat to reach the small farmhouse in St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana, that would be their home.

The challenge was great, but the Sisters soon opened a school for girls. Another followed within a year. Mother Théodore (as she was now called) overcame many obstacles in the region. Anti-Catholic sentiment was strong, and even food was short at times. Illness and hardship took the lives of some Sisters. But the nuns did not give up. Mother Théodore returned to France briefly to raise money for more schools and even won over the queen, who paid for the Sisters’ ship passage to return to America.

She was much loved by the Sisters she guided, but her health suffered greatly under the difficult conditions of the wilderness. By the time Mother Théodore died in 1856 at the age of 58, more than 60 Sisters were running 11 schools and two orphanages. One of the schools is today St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Pope Benedict XVI declared Mother Théodore Guérin a saint in 2006.

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