ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS —
When Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and her five companions arrived late in the day on Oct. 22, 1840, at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, history was in the making.
On Wednesday, Oct. 3, which is Saint Mother Theodore's feast day, history will be brought to life once again on the already-historic motherhouse grounds.
A new Log Cabin Chapel, a replica of the one visited by the sisters who arrived from France, will be dedicated and blessed by the Sisters of Providence at 1:30 p.m. The celebration is open to the community. Refreshments will be served.
The Log Cabin Chapel is located between Grotto Road and the Church of the Immaculate Conception on the site where the first Mass was offered on the motherhouse grounds. Being Saint Mother Theodore's feast day, a special Eucharistic Liturgy will be offered at 11 a.m. It also is open to the community and to people of all faith traditions.
The Log Cabin Chapel will call to mind the primitive conditions that greeted the sisters when they came to their new home in a dense Indiana forest. Some modifications were necessary to accommodate current safety standards, including provisions for access persons who are physically challenged.
“This is a charming addition to the heritage and tradition that our historic grounds offer now,” said Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior of the Sisters of Providence. “We believe this chapel will be very popular with children who want to experience a bit of pioneer history, and with others who want a unique way to embrace their spirituality and re-center themselves from the busier times in their days. We've already had many, many visitors who seem to enjoy the chapel. We believe, truly, that it will become another of our sacred spaces. And we are most grateful to all of our friends and staff who made it possible.”
The Log Cabin Chapel was built during the course of several months, initiated by the donation of logs from a cabin in southern Indiana owned by David and Faye Masterson of Owensville. Some of those logs date back to the middle-1800s.
Keith Ruble, superintendent of the Vigo County Parks Department, retired Vigo County Extension agent Max Miller, and local contractor Earl Rodgers oversaw the project and inmates from the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute did much of the work. Sisters of Providence staff members also were instrumental in preparing the grounds, providing supplies, securing historical documentation, feeding the volunteers and organizing the necessary details for the project.
The Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau provided support to ensure the Log Cabin Chapel is an historical site that appeals to visitors.
Ruble volunteered his private time to oversee the project.
“During my career, I have been involved in building 25 log buildings. Being asked to build a reproduction of the cabin that Mother Theodore and the other Sisters of Providence requested has been a high point in my life,” Ruble said. “Since my lovely wife, Susie, went to school there, I have always had a love for the beautiful campus and the Sisters of Providence. I very much enjoyed working with Max Miller and all the fine men from the Federal Prison Camp. It has been a great joy for all of us to build this little log structure that represents where it all started at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. My hope is that this little structure helps all people find hope, peace and love from God.”
Miller also has unique experience in building cabins. “I've always been interested in historical stories about Indiana, especially in Terre Haute and Vigo County. I've been involved in the pioneer village at Fowler Park since its beginning,” he said. “I like the period of the 1840s through the Civil War. That's why I have enjoyed reading about Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. I really enjoyed working on this project.”