Indiana residents say canonized nun Guerin is a longtime inspiration

Sunday, October 15th 2006, 4:36 pm
By: News On 6

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) _ The 19th-century founder of a women's college in Indiana has been inspiring people in these parts for years, though Mother Theodore Guerin became a saint only on Sunday.

Guerin, born in France, led a group of six French nuns who arrived in the woods outside Terre Haute on Oct. 22, 1840, to establish a community. They endured harsh conditions on the American frontier, and Guerin resisted the objections of a local bishop in pursuing her dream of establishing Catholic education for pioneers, which opened in 1841 and is known today as St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Hundreds of Indiana residents traveled to Vatican City for the ceremony, in which Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the honor on Guerin and three others. Some said the struggles Guerin faced in her life inspired them to face their own challenges.

Marilyn Wheeler, 65, of Terre Haute, told The Indianapolis Star she felt compelled to make the trip because she believes Guerin helped her survive breast cancer. When Wheeler went into surgery in 1999, her surgical cap included a patch of fabric that had been touched to Guerin's remains. Wheeler continues to wear the fabric over her breast.

``It just means everything,'' she said. ``I feel so close to her.''

Members of Guerin's order, the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, also traveled to the ceremony.

``I've been praying for this since I was in the third grade,'' Sister Estelle Scully told the Terre Haute Tribune Star. ``And now I'm 80.''

Alumnae, trustees and students of college Guerin founded also attended.

``I can't put into words my feelings. I've waited for such a long time for this day,'' alumna Nicole de Nicolo, 24, said, crying. She said it was thrilling to see people come from around the world to pay tribute to the nun.

Doris Chandler, a 65-year-old woman from Indianapolis, said Guerin set a good example for businesswomen.

``She is an example for the women of today. She never gave up,'' Chandler said. ``We are very proud to have an Indiana saint. Even if she was born in France, she is our saint.''

Because many of Guerin's admirers traveled to Vatican City for the ceremony, the order will celebrate her canonization at the college next weekend. The public will be able to visit Guerin's remains at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.