Early Indiana pioneers had few if any churches to go to. Villages were scattered across the state which made it difficult to form a congregation and build a church. French missionaries were the first to serve the religious needs of Indiana. Their first church was built in Vincennes sometime before 1750.
With the arrival of Irish and German immigrants in the 1850s, the Catholic Church accelerated their service to the Midwest Catholics. Women religious communities, such as the Sisters of Providence in France, were requested to emigrate to the United States to educate and evangelize.
Saint Theodora, then known to her community as Mother Theodore, along with a handful of her fellow sisters, answered the call by leaving their native country of France and venturing across the ocean to the developing “New World.” The trip and the early years of establishing schools throughout Indiana and Illinois were not easy. Saint Theodora was in poor health and middle-aged when she and the other women arrived in the U.S dense woods. They immediately had to learn English and about the country and people they were to serve. They also overcame resistance from Protestant groups as well as their own bishop.
In spite of it all, their efforts were far-reaching. They built schools throughout the Midwest, orphanages, and a free pharmacy. They also founded Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the oldest Catholic liberal arts college for women in the United States, and the religious community of the Sisters of Providence, both of which continue today. Saint Theodora’s legacy has physically, emotionally, and spiritually fed more than 150 years of students, teachers, sisters, employees, and visitors.
Perhaps God is asking you to spread the Word and serve in some way as well. Few of us must sacrifice as greatly as Saint Theodora. We all don’t have to leave our homes. This can be done in our own families, communities, or country through word or deed. We can show the love of the Lord by working in a food pantry, serving in our parish ministries, through words spoken or written, and simply by living a life following Jesus’ example of accepting, loving, and caring for all people.
(Seven Principles of Sainthood Following St Mother Theodore Guerin is available from amazon.com, ACTA Publications, and my website. “Like” my author, Seven Principles of Sainthood, or St Theodora and Her Promise to God Facebook pages to see more posts like this.)