News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 9, 2013

A Shrine for a Saint

Sisters bless construction of new shrine to honor Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

ST.-MARY-OF-THE-WOODS — On a cool, but sunny, autumn day, the Sisters of Providence performed a construction blessing ceremony as renovation begins for a new, permanent shrine honoring Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

The $1.6 million project, slated for completion in October 2014, will create a permanent shrine for Saint Mother Theodore, who founded the congregation of the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Saint Mother Theodore was officially declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 2006, the first person from Indiana to receive such a distinction.

The shrine will be located between Providence Center and the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

“The blessing is important because of our hopes for the shrine,” said Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior of the Sisters of Providence. “Our hope is that it will be a place of blessing for everyone who comes.”

The blessing took place outside the church.

The shrine will include a museum-like area, complete with educational displays. Special features include:

n An entrance area reflective of Saint Mother Theodore’s origins in France;

n A passage fashioned after the wooden ship’s cabin in which Saint Mother Theodore traveled to the United States;

n An area with images of her new home in the woods of Indiana;

n And a chapel area that will serve as a final resting place for the saint. The shrine will be located under the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

The shrine celebrates the life and mission of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who came to Indiana from France in 1840 with five companions to provide education to the state’s pioneer children.

Sister Jan Craven, the director of shrines and tours for the Sisters of Providence, said the shrine “will be a holy place” and “a container for the density of the presence of God.”

Her role is “to promote the legacy and love of our blessed foundress,” she said.

When it was time for the blessing, Wilkinson and Father Dan Hopcus sprinkled holy water on construction workers and everyone attending. They used a bouquet of evergreens and gum tree leaves to sprinkle the holy water.

After the ceremony, Wilkinson said that one of the reasons for pursuing sainthood was “so that more people could know about her.” The Sisters of Providence “want to share with others what we know of her,” her spirituality, goodness and belief in Providence.

The hope is that visitors “find their lives renewed and refreshed by a visit here,” Wilkinson said. “It will be a place of pilgrimage.”

People of all faiths will be welcome, she said.

The project, which involves extensive renovation, is being funded completely through donations, Wilkinson said.

One of her favorite parts of the shrine will be the chapel area, designed to be a place of quietness and prayer — a place to sense the presence of the saint, she said. It will be a place where “one can pour out one’s heart: worries, joys, requests, thanksgivings.”

Jack Kelly served as architect on the project, Father Mark Joseph was the artistic consultant and Garmong Construction is completing the project.

Read more about the shrine and its progress at

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

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