ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS —
Sister Marie Kevin Tighe made a difference wherever she went, and was a vibrant force to be reckoned with, according to people who knew her well.
A Sisters of Providence member for 72 of her 89 years, Sister Marie Kevin died early Monday in Mother Theodore Hall at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, where she had lived her final years in a ministry of prayer.
Sister Marie Kevin was a key supporter of the canonization in 2006 of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, the founder of the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods northwest of Terre Haute. She also led the order through a time of renewal following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. And, she was known on a personal level as one who supported and mentored others in their Christian faith.
“She was very inspirational to me and her spirituality was contagious,” said Teresa Clark, who moved from Fort Wayne to Terre Haute because of Sister Marie Kevin. Clark visited the Sisters of Providence in 1999 to do research for a sculpture project of Saint Mother Theodore. She met Sister Marie Kevin at that time and they stayed in touch, even though the sculpture project got sidelined.
“That one job that didn’t happen turned out to change my life,” Clark said.
Five years later, Clark was hired to design the limestone statue of Saint Mother Theodore that now stands in Washington D.C. That statue was used to make molds for the bronze sculpture that stands at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. Clark moved to Terre Haute to be closer to the subject of her sculpture, and to her mentor.
“Sister Marie Kevin was a very significant influence in my life,” Clark said. “She was so dear to my heart. On a personal level, I explored the Catholic religion and faith with her, and she was my sponsor when I became Catholic.”
Sisters of Providence General Superior Denise Wilkinson said that Sister Marie Kevin had that kind of mentoring and encouraging effect on people.
“Her enthusiasm for life and her enthusiasm for connecting with people, and finding the best in people, was something I admired,” Wilkinson said.
Sister Marie Kevin was challenged by health issues in her later years, but that made her stronger in her faith as well.
“She knew the experience of being healed, and she truly knew that God had worked that way in her life, and she wanted to give back to others,” Wilkinson said.
Sister Mary Beth Klingel also worked with Sister Marie Kevin for many years and became a close friend.
From 1972 to 1976, Klingel and Tighe worked together through a process of renewing the congregation after what is informally known as Vatican II. They traveled around the nation presenting workshops to sisters and getting input and feedback on community life, the church, theology, spirituality and other issues.
The process prepared the sisters for living as religious women, Klingel explained, after coming out of an era when Sisters were told what to do and weren’t used to decision making.
“Today, we’re a totally different community with independent thinkers,” Klingel said. “We were to form among ourselves the community we desired.”
The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 17 states, the District of Columbia and Asia.
Klingel said that Sister Mary Kevin was a true leader who was able to grasp concepts and communicate what she learned. That was one reason she was so successful in taking the beatification process through to canonization for Saint Mother Theodore.
“She had such great faith in the power of Mother Theodore to intercede on the people’s behalf that she conveyed that faith and trust to other people,” Klingel said. “She was driven. And she had a drive for everyone and everything to live up to their full potential.”
Sister Mary Kevin led the canonization project to completion in 2006, having served as liaison with the Vatican during the process. She then directed the Office of the Shrine for Saint Mother Theodore for one year.
In 2006, Sister Marie Kevin was quoted as saying: “The whole purpose of the canonization process is to single out persons whose lives have exemplified heroic Christian virtue, and in this way to remind the rest of us of the ‘Universal call to holiness.’ It was Mother Theodore who first embodied the charisma of this Congregation.”
Wilkinson said that Sister Mary Kevin was recently asked who she was more excited about seeing — Jesus or Saint Mother Theodore.
“She said, ‘They are both in the same body of God,’” Wilkinson recalled. “That was her faith.”
According to information released by the Sisters of Providence on Monday, Sister Marie Kevin was born Aug. 23, 1924, in New Albany, to Edward J. and Anna Buche Tighe. She was baptized Anna Therese. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence on Jan. 7, 1942, from Holy Trinity, New Albany and professed perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1949.
She graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a bachelor’s degree in social studies. She also received her master’s degree in education and secondary administration from Indiana State University in 1963, and a master of arts degree in spirituality from St. Louis University in 1980.
Of her 72 years as a Sister of Providence, she ministered in education for 24 years in schools in Indiana and Illinois. She served as principal for eight of those years.
In 1968, she was elected to a four-year term on the leadership team for the Indiana Province. Following that, she was one of six sisters who made up the Corporate Renewal Team for the Congregation. This led her to a number of ministries in formation, spiritual direction and church leadership. These included four years at St. Meinrad School of Theology as spiritual director and teaching.
From 1984 to 1992, she served as Director of the Office for Pastoral Councils in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Upon leaving the Office of the Shrine for Saint Mother Theodore, she gave her time to writing her reflections of the post-Vatican II church.
The writings were published in 2009 under the title, “Arch, Steeples and Dome: Religious Symbols on a Journey of Faith.”
Beginning in 2010, she dedicated herself to the ministry of prayer.
Survivors include many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by sisters Prisca Day, Edith Tighe, Alice Carnes, Mary Russell and Ruth Walters, and brother Paul Tighe.
Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Marie Kevin will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, St. Mary-of-the-Woods, with Rev. Daniel R. Hopcus presiding. Burial will take place in the cemetery of the Sisters of Providence.
The Wake will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, with the Wake Service at 4:30 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of Providence, 1 Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., 47876.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.