FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades received a letter in April from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which gave official approval for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to inscribe the Oct. 3 feast of St. Mother Theodore Guérin (St. Theodora Guérin) into the Proper Liturgical Calendar of the Diocese.
This is the culmination of a process that actually began in 2008 under Bishop John M. D’Arcy, when an initial request was sent to Rome petitioning for St. Mother Theodore’s inclusion in the diocesan calendar.
According to liturgical law, the Mass prayers specially composed for an individual saint’s celebration cannot be used in a particular place unless he or she is officially inscribed in a binding liturgical calendar. There are three official liturgical calendars that affect our diocese: The General Roman Calendar (this includes all the major annual liturgical celebrations, and also the feasts of those saints who have the broadest appeal to the universal Church), the liturgical calendar for the United States (which incorporates holy men and women of special significance to our country, such as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Blessed Junípero Serra), and our proper diocesan calendar.
Since St. Mother Theodore is not currently in the universal or U.S. calendars, her addition to the diocesan calendar is an important occasion for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Whereas previously, a more generic set of prayers solely from the “Common of Virgins” would have been used on her feast here, now her official collect prayer (the opening prayer of the Mass) may be used. She will henceforth be commemorated on Oct. 3 (the date established by Rome at her canonization in 2006) as an obligatory memorial in this diocese, meaning that her Mass should be prayed annually on that date, unless it falls on a Sunday.
Unfortunately, as timing would have it, Oct. 3 falls on the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time in 2010, so her memorial cannot be observed here until 2011.
The reason all these liturgical rules exist is to ensure that a particular calendar does not become overloaded with saints, and also to ensure that any saints present on a local calendar are recognized there as strong examples of the faith. Therefore, when requesting of Rome that a saint be added to a diocesan calendar, it is necessary to provide a list of compelling historical and devotional reasons as to why his or her commemoration in the diocese would be of benefit to the local faithful.
St. Mother Theodore Guérin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 15, 2006. She came to the United States in 1840 and founded the Sisters of Providence.
In 1846, three sisters, accompanied by Mother Theodore and a Sister Basilide traveled by stagecoach and canal from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to Fort Wayne and then by covered wagon to St. Augustine Academy. At that time, St. Augustine was a parish in the Diocese of Vincennes; St. Augustine would become the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish and the Diocese of Fort Wayne was created in the northern half of the state in 1857.
Although Mother Theodore never taught at St. Augustine Academy, she visited her sisters as their mother superior. Her visits to the mission were described in the “History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods as “gala days for the sisters. Her all-pervading kindness and motherly solicitude, and her gentle gaiety when she presided at table and at recreation were a perennial source of joy.”
In 1939 St. Augustine Academy was one of several schools consolidated into Central Catholic High School.
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