1. Passages from the life of Mother Theodore in Etables
From the moment of Anne-Therese’s birth Oct.2,1798, her mother consecrated her to the Blessed Virgin and dressed her in white or blue until the age of ten. She responded by creating little altars to the Blessed Mother in her room, decorating them with field flowers, algae and pretty shells that she gathered on the Breton shores.
Madame Guerin was the first teacher of her daughters Anne-Thérèse and Marie-Jeanne, instructing them in Scripture and catechism, as well as in reading and writing.
When Anne-Thérèse was nine years old, a young woman of the village opened a school at her home and Madame Guérin confided het little daughter to her. Anne-Thérèse, however, found the constraint trying, and often escaped to contemplate the ocean. A young relative, one of the seminarians was willing to become instructor of Anne-Thérèse. Under his direction, she made a lot of progress.
He obtained permission for her to receive her first communion at age 10. It was on this occasion that she confided to her confessor her desire to give herself to God alone, forever.
But Anne-Thérèse was unable to respond to this call from God until almost 15 years later. When she was only 15, her father, a naval officer was assassinated by brigands on his way home from his last assignment. The previous year Madame Guérin had lost her youngest child, Laurent-Marie, a four year old son. Her oldest son Jean-Laurent, had already died at the age of 3 in a fire at home, this happened on Anne-Teresa’s second birthday.
In the 10 years, following her father’s death, Anne- Therese became her mother’s sole support and her sister’s caretaker and teacher.
After 15 years her mother entered into her room and said: « my daughter, you may go now, you have your mother’s consent and blessing. I can no longer refuse God the sacrifice he asks of me».
2. Passages from the life of Mother Theodore in Ruillé sur Loir
Anne-Therese had long desired to enter the Carmelite monastery. However, in God’s Providence she unexpectedly met sister Marcelle Madeleine, a sister of Providence from Ruillé sur Loir, The sisters of Providence recently had been founded by Father Jacques François Dujarié. The sisters of Providence dedicated themselves to the education of children and to the care of the most in need. It was here that Anne-Therese found her calling. She received the religious name sister Theodore, meaning gift of God’. The very day she pronounced first vows she was named superior at Rennes, an extremely challenging mission. After 8 years in Rennes, sister Theodore was removed to Soulaines. Exhibiting the same zeal and devotion she had shown in Rennes, sister Theodore’s teaching methods won her a medal of recognition from the French government. To better prepare herself to care for the sick, Sister Theodore took lessons in medicine and pharmacy from a doctor in town. She became quite adept in diagnosing and treating illness and in preparing medicines.
Unexpectedly, she received another call from God, a call to serve the people of god who lived in the forests of Indiana. For Mother Marie Lecor, it was necessary to choose a zealous, prudent, courageous Sister, one filled with the spirit of her vocation and the love of souls. They found that person in sister Theodore, so she went to Indiana with her 5 companions: Sisters Olympiade, St. Vincent, Basilide, Liguori, M.Xavier.
She wrote in her journal: « France seemed to wish to make us regret her even more than we did, by displaying before our eyes all her loveliness, for this part of Normandy is singularly charming: the exquisite steeple of the Cathedral of Séez!”
3. Mother Theodore’s life as a missionary in America
The journey of the missionary group to Indiana lasted almost 3 months (from July 27 to October 22, 1840), more than half of which was on a sailing ship. During these weeks on a rough sea, the 4 professed Sisters and the 2 novices encountered serious difficulties: language barrier, lack of space, serious illness, theft, fire and 2 terrifying storms. From the Port of New York to St. Mary of the Woods they travelled 1,930 miles by steamship, train, and diligence. In all this, for Mother Theodore Providence was the way and the harbor: a journey towards a mission that, through love and education, would touch the heart of innumerable people.
When Mother Theodore and her five companions descended from the stagecoach at St. Mary of the Woods, they saw nothing but the rain of twilight and a dense forest. They were welcomed into the Tralls family, although it already counted 10 members. They gave the sisters two rooms in their attic. On July 4, 1841, the Sisters opened an Academy to teach girls. The growth of the young Congregation was not without struggles or tears. The opening of another school at Terre Haute, affected the number of students enrolled in the Sisters ‘school and at the same time the resources of the community. Less than 2 years after their arrival a fire broke out under suspicious circumstances and destroyed the barn filled with the harvest stored for the winter. The Bishop of Vincennes, Mgr La Hailandière tried to exercise total control over the lives of the nuns. He required that the institution of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods cut off all contact with the Mother House of Ruillé.
When Mother Theodore went to speak with him about those issues, he ordered her to leave the Diocese, locked her up in his office for hours, and forbade her any contact with Saint-Mary-of-the- Woods. Within a week, he had even organized an election to replace Mother Theodore. Though confronted with humiliation and unjust accusations, Mother Theodore's confidence in the protection of Providence never failed.
Since the time that Mother Theodore lived and walked in the woods of Indiana, generations of Sisters of Providence, their associates, partners in mission, their benefactors and friends have responded to the call to continue the mission of Providence.