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Mother Theodore meets the 21st century (again)

I read an interesting article in the “Notre Dame Magazine” by Kathleen Sprows Cummings, the Associate Director of the “Cushwa Center for American Catholicism”. The article, entitled “Strong-willed sister and Sorin ally named a saint” takes a quick look at some of the obstacles that Mother Theodore had to overcome, including smallpox, family deaths and other tragedies. Sprows-Cummings mentions that Mother Theodore and Fr. Sorin, founder of Notre Dame, were correspondents and collaborators. She then goes on to mention the celebration that took place on the campus last October. At the end of the article, she says that Mother Theodore now joins the other American Catholic women who are venerated for their “heroic virtue”. So far, so good, however, Sprows-Cummings then ends the article by saying:

” It is as prophetic leaders that the stories of these 19th-century sister-saints are the most compelling. They all struggled with clerical superiors who had no use for women who acted independently, and it was only their deep trust in God that allowed them to overcome many obstacles, the most formidable of which were often raised by the Church.”

They all struggled with clerical superiors who had no use for women?? Again, Mother Theodore meets the 21st century. If Bishop Hailandiere (and Bishop Brutè before him), had no use for women, then why did they ever invite the Sisters to Indiana to begin with? Once again, Bishop Hailandiere is maligned. The fact is he was a lawyer who had an extremely controlling personality. He not only tried to micromanage The Sisters of Providence, but also Fr. Sorin and every priest and parish in the Diocese of Vincennes! Read the stories of Fr. Corbe, chaplain to the sisters. Read about Fr. Shawe who was ordained by Bishop Brutè, and how he finally left the diocese for Detroit. Hailandiere had a great deal of respect and love for Mother Theodore, even though he had a dysfunctional way of showing it. His controlling personality led to his eventual resignation, but his love for the Church in Indiana never waivered. If nothing else, his attitude and personality encouraged Guerin to work even harder and the establishment of the Sisters of Providence and that perseverence showed her true holiness.

I can remember reading an article in 1975 when Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized. The writer kept referring to her at “Betty”, as though there was some sort of secret knowledge on the writer’s part that Seton somehow, had no use for the men around her. That’s the same feeling I’m getting from the end of this article.

The fact is that Anne Therese Guerin had a great deal of need for the men around her, including Bishop Hailandiere. In the same way, Hailandiere had a great deal of need for her and the sisters. Their heroic lives helped to spread the Gospel throughout the State of Indiana.

Read Sprows-Cumming’s entire article at:


Categories: Postings.