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Mother Theodore Guerin to be canonized during Oct. 15 ceremony at the Vatican

Note: See photo captions at the bottom of this story. Click here to see a full media kit of information about Mother Theodore.

Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., will be canonized Oct. 15, 2006, as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church during ceremonies at the Vatican.

The announcement of the canonization date came Saturday morning after a meeting of Pope Benedict XVI and cardinals of the Church in Rome. Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, the Congregation’s general superior, made the announcement to an assembly of sisters early Saturday morning at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, vice postulator and promoter of Mother Theodore’s Cause, and Sister Mary Ann Phelan, associate promoter of the Cause, were in Rome to represent the Congregation for the announcement.

Approximately 30 cardinals who reside or work at the Vatican were in attendance, along with other bishops. The meeting, called a consistory, took place in one of the apostolic palaces at the Vatican. After the liturgy of the day was offered, the head of the Congregation of Saints read the names of four people who will be canonized Oct. 15, including Mother Theodore.

“It was a solemn ceremony in a beautiful room. This announcement signifies the culmination of the great effort of the Congregation for almost 100 years. It was a wonderful feeling, truly a moment to be celebrated,” Sister Marie Kevin said.

Celebration erupted at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods where sisters were gathered as sisters offered an energetic standing ovation when they heard the news. Sister Ann Margaret said Mother Theodore’s official name has not been decided, but the Congregation has asked that she be known as Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

Being canonized as a saint is the highest honor the Catholic Church bestows upon an individual. Mother Theodore is the first person from Indiana and only the eighth person from the United States to receive the honor.

“We celebrate this extraordinary honor in a special fashion since we are all gathered for our General Chapter which happens only every five years. It feels like the spirit of Mother Theodore is so alive in everything that we do with the anticipation and excitement and the joy that comes with the canonization,” Sister Ann Margaret said.

“For people of Indiana and for people of all faiths, we have been given a gift in this woman and this woman has been given for all of us. We should rejoice in her continued presence among us,” Sister Ann Margaret added.

Mother Theodore came to the United States from France in 1840 to establish a Congregation of women religious in a dense forest adjacent to a remote community known a Saint Mary-of-the-Woods near Terre Haute. She was born Anne-Thérèse Guérin, Oct. 2, 1798, in the village of Etables in Brittany, France. She died at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1856. Her remains are entombed in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at the motherhouse.

In her new homeland, she and five companion sisters who traveled from France with her started right away on their mission and opened an academy for girls less than nine months after their arrival. That academy is now known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the oldest Catholic liberal arts college for women in the United States.

With Mother Theodore’s leadership and initiative, the Congregation established schools throughout Indiana before expanding into Illinois, Massachusetts and California. Sisters now serve in 20 states, Taiwan and China.

“Mother Theodore was available to and caring about all people regardless of their faith or their beliefs. She really believed in serving God and serving others. By serving others, she was serving the Jesus to whom she had given her life,” Sister Ann Margaret said.

A saint in the Roman Catholic Church is an individual whose life and deeds are held in esteem by the Church, and who is believed to be in heaven. A cause for sainthood is considered only after lengthy investigation. A person’s life is examined in full to determine if it is a life worth emulating by others, whether it was a life devoted to holiness and God’s work, and if there are any heroic virtues that are evident. Personal testimonies are gathered about a candidate. The candidate’s writings, teachings, heroic deeds and life practices are reviewed meticulously. Also, two miracles must be attributed to the person’s intercession after his or her death.

“Mother Theodore’s virtuous life, her devotion to God, her willingness and desire to serve all of God’s people had to be documented before the miracles really became meaningful,” Sister Marie Kevin said. “The story is about how she lived her life and how she set an example for others. It is important understand that saints do not perform miracles. They provide an intercession with God because, in the Catholic tradition, we believe saints are close to God. People commonly pray to their ‘favorite’ saints to ask them to ask God for a favor.”

“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when we are actually standing in the piazza of St. Peter in Rome for the canonization and we realize that Blessed Mother Theodore is declared for the universal church and the world as someone whose life we can look to for encouragement and inspiration,” Sister Marie Kevin said. “She was a person who had such a strong spirit of love of God that it has endured over these years. Religious communities can only survive if they can maintain the spirit of the founding person. As long as that is alive and evident in us, the work of Blessed Mother Theodore will be lived out in each one of us in our own unique ways.”

Sister Ann Margaret noted that phone calls and e-mails have been coming from throughout the world as Mother Theodore nears canonization.

Plans are being made for travel arrangements for people who may want to participate in the ceremony. Sister Ann Margaret said an announcement will be made in a few days about arrangements, costs and other details of the itinerary.

“We expect that there will be several hundred people accompanying a group of our sisters to Rome for the canonization. The interest in this wonderful honor for Mother Theodore is very high,” she said.

Sister Ann Margaret and Sister Denise Wilkinson, the Congregation’s vicar, will travel to Rome in mid-July to finalize plans with Vatican officials for the canonization ceremony.

Top photo: Sister of Providence Marie Kevin Tighe (at right), vice postulator and the promoter of the Cause for Mother Theodore, attends the celebration announcing the canonization date.

Middle photo: Pope Benedict XVI announces the date.

Bottom photo: The ceremony was attended by cardinals and other church dignitaries.

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The Sisters of Providence, a Congregation of more than 450 women religious, have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located northwest of Terre Haute, Ind. Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 20 states, the District of Columbia, Taiwan and China.

For more information about any of the ministries of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, visit the Congregation’s web site at

This story is reprinted from the web site of the Sisters of Providence, located at:


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