Saint Mary of the Woods

I spotted the sign on I-70 near Terre Haute, Indiana:  Shrine of St. Mother Theodore Guerin.

For some reason, I was drawn to this place;  I had to stop!

And since we have adopted the policy of “Road Trip Detours are Always a Vital Component of the Vacation”, Kurt acquiesced without hesitation.

Five miles northwest of Terre Haute, nestled in an expanse of hardwoods, down a winding road, is the college St. Mary of the Woods and the convent of the Sisters of Providence, which was founded by St. Mother Theodore Guerin in 1841.

Originally from France, Mother Theodore and five other sisters, were commissioned to leave their home country in order to teach, introduce religious instruction, and assist the sick of Indiana.

The Sisters of Providence, with Mother Theodore at the helm, embraced this task, and, by the time of her death in 1856, they had established ten schools, two orphanages – one for girls and one for boys, and pharmacies where free remedies were dispensed to the poor.  It’s important to note that she tackled all of this while suffering from a digestive malady that prevented her from eating any solid foods.

On Oct. 15, 2006, Mother Theodore Guerin was recognized as a saint by Pope Benedict XVI in a canonization ceremony at St. Peter’s Square in Rome and is now known as Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.


On that Memorial Day morning, the grounds were beautiful, peaceful and welcoming.


A trail near the convent takes visitors through a lush garden area, by an old chapel, over a bridge…..


ending at a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.




The green space was lovely, but St. Mother Theodore’s shrine was nowhere to be found.  As I was looking around, a wiry, elderly lady walked up.  “Isn’t it a beautiful day?”

“Yes ma’am, it is.  I’m looking for the Shrine of St. Mother Theodore.”

She directed me to a building behind us.  “There’s a small museum that notes the timeline of this area.  Follow that to the shrine.  And you are welcome to also visit the church.”


Following her directive, we perused the dioramas that documented the history of the Sisters of Providence and St. Mother Theodore.   Past that, through a doorway, was the shrine.

Visitors are encouraged to sit, pray, and reflect.  The small basket holds prayer requests.

A few more steps took us inside the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Opened to parishioners in 1907, it is simply breathtaking!

But actually, our greatest discovery was yet to come:  Sister Laureen!  We met her in the hallway on our way out.  She captivated us with jovial conversation and interesting stories.


We could have stayed there all day just enjoying her company, but we had to return to the reality of work and home in Arkansas, and we were still in Indiana!

So we said goodbye to our new friend, and returned to our car with a new founded delight. Even though we spent more than an hour on this diversion, I know that this investment of time added profit to this trip!



8 thoughts on “Saint Mary of the Woods

  1. I am blessed to work at the Woods…I am blessed to see these wonderful women everyday and have them in my life…it is a special place and I’m so glad you were able to visit!


  2. Off-road, spur-of-the-moment visits like these are often the best and most memorable. Just think – this beautifull old place has been sitting out there in the country, waiting for you to visit for 176 years! Been there many times myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to visit the grounds as a young child when my grandparents lived in Terre Haute. Though they were non-Catholic, they saw it as a special place and wanted to share it. Now my husband has to visit the Terre Haute area occasionally for business. I always come with him, and spend the day walking the grounds, visiting the shrine and the Blessed Sacrament chapel, having lunch in the cafeteria, chatting with the friendly nuns, etc. I cherish each visit, and St. Mother Theodore has become a very special person to me!


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