News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 16, 2006

Mother Theodore Guerin now a saint

VATICAN CITY — Thousands of people traveled from around the world to worship and celebrate Sunday morning in St. Peter’s Square.

They cheered when Pope Benedict XVI read a passage that, as a successor to Peter and Paul, allowed him to declare Blessed Mother Theodore Guerin a saint of the Catholic church. The two clocks atop the corners of the St. Peter’s Basilica rooftop reached 10:30, and in between them stood ornate stone statues of Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples.

The spectacular scenery came in stark contrast to the harsh surroundings Saint Theodore Guerin endured as a pioneer of her faith in the Wabash Valley more than 150 years ago.

Pope Benedict recognized that as he canonized Guerin.

“With great trust in divine providence, Mother Theodore overcame many challenges and persevered in the work that the Lord had called her to do,” the pontiff said Sunday morning.

Guerin was born in France and committed her life to the church there, but she came to Indiana in 1840 after a request for teachers by the bishop of Vincennes. She lived through a tense working relationship with that same bishop. Guerin, though, faced greater hardships through her surroundings in the wilderness of western Vigo County, where she founded the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. She and five sisters arrived there after an arduous journey from Europe to find their home base was a primitive log farmhouse. Winters were harsh. And poverty and diseases lingered in a community largely unfamiliar to the Catholic faith.

Yet Guerin succeeded in creating a community of women that grew from six to more than 450 worldwide. In addition to the efforts of the Sisters of Providence to help the sick, disabled and poor, Guerin also launched an academy that became St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Now, 158 years after she came to Indiana, Guerin, who died in 1858, has become one of just eight Catholic saints from the United States. Pope Benedict granted her that status on Sunday, along with three others — Rafael Guizar Valencia, Mexico’s first saint; Filippo Smaldone, an Italian who created schools for the deaf; and Italian nun Rosa Venerini, who opened that country’s first public school for girls.

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