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Saint Mother Theodore meets the 21st Century Media

Tracking the news coverage of the upcoming canonization of Mother Theodore Geurin has been interesting. Mostly because there is coverage from all over the globe about this simple, brave, French woman who came to the wilderness of Indiana in 1840. Most of these articles have dealt with the struggles that the Sisters had with their environment and the culture. However, now comes the story about the clash between Mother Theodore and Bishop Celestine de la Hailandiere — the man who invited the Sisters to come to Indiana.

There is no doubt that Bishop Hailandiere had many difficulties — personal and otherwise. He probably should have never become the Bishop of Vincennes, however, Bishop Brute approved his selection as coadjutor of the new diocese. Bishop Hailaindiere had confrontations with his priests as well. This was the reason many of them left the diocese (which was not a forbidden practice back then). Many, however, stuck it out and saw it through to the end when Bishop Hailadiere chose to resign, mainly because he realized that he did not have the support of his priests or other bishops.

It should be made clear that Bishop Hailaindiere loved his diocese and it was because of that love that after his death in 1882 his body was brought back to Vincennes for burial. Early in the process of Mother Theodore’s canonization, there was fear that her confrontation with Bishop Hailandiere would prohibit her being named Venerable, Blessed or Saint. But what has been clear throughout was that even though she confronted Bishop Hailaindiere she did it in a very civil and respectful way. She never questioned the fact that he was the bishop. Rather, she put forth her own point of view – a point that turned out to be the correct view.

In this day and age of Church bashing it is interesting to note that one article said that Mother Theodore became a saint even though she had been “banished” from her congregation. I would suggest a closer reading of the history since this statement could be mis-interpreted. The same article also said that her canonization — the first in the U.S. since the clergy sex abuse scandal broke — would offer a respite from the lawsuits and settlements that have dominated much of the discussion of the US church in recent years…” This may be true, but Mother Theodore’s canonization is a celebration unto itself – unconnected to scandals and confrontations. It is the celebration of Faith and Hope. Two things that are lacking in this world of ours.

Finally, let me point to a “what if”. Bishop Brutés first choice for his successor was a Jesuit priest names Nicholas Petit, but that was not to be. What would have happened if Petit had become bishop? Would the Sisters of Providence have ever come to Indiana? Would Anne Therese Geurin have stayed in Ruille and be remembered simply as Sister Saint Theodore? Who knows. This weekend we celebrate her life and her memory and we ask her to intercede for each of us – for the Church in Indiana and the world over.

[For more information on Nicholas Petit, read the following:

The Jesuit Who Almost Became Bishop — Nicholas Petit
Biography from “Catholicity in Kentucky”:
• This Jesuit priest, who came to the United States from France, but who was born in Haiti, almost became the Bishop of Vincennes. He was the first choice of Bishop Bruté, but it was not to be. His superiors chose to recall him and declined to let him serve as coadjutor to Bishop Bruté. You can read more about it here or read more about the source of this information in “Webb’s History of Catholicity in Kentucky”Jesuits in Ketucky


Categories: Postings.