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Evansville, Indiana
November 18, 1994     The Message
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November 18, 1994
 

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Sisters of Providence history tied to history of the di cot ese OrVille venture into the frontier and teach the children of pioneers. In the spring of 1842, less than two years after their arrival at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, three sis- ters accompanied by Mother Theodore journeyed south to open a school for St. Joseph Parish at Jasper. It was their first mission establishment away from the motherhouse. In the years that followed, Sisters of Providence opened schools and ministered in Montgomery, Vincennes, The Sisters of Providence ministry in southwestern Indi- ana dates back to 1842 -- well before the founding of the Dio- cese of Evansville. But the Congregation's very presence in America is bound to the region, for it was a plea from the Bishop of Vincennes that first brought Venerable Mother Theodore Guerin and five other Sisters of Providence from France to the wilderness of Indiana in October 1840. The Bishop was seeking mis- sionaries who were willing to / Early setdements of INDIANA ml'tm' r",m, s,' .,i--t'-Je-'.*t.k v,,, I. m, t ,=- cm rmm a--, by ... M,m, k,,,:,, .,, " A map drawn for a 1948 book about the Sisters of Provi- dence depicts Indiana in the nineteenth century. i i AUTO TOPS . SEAT COVERS. BOAT COVERS STEREO SALES & INSTALLATIONS 254-3943 HWY 50 EAST, BEHIND UPS CENTER EUGENE WELR OWNER I MILLER & MILLER "A family name you can trust" 424-9274 Washington, Loogootee, Linton and Evansville, all within the realm of the Diocese of Evans- ville. In the past century and a half, Sisters of Providence have spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years of min- istry among the people of the diocese. "We've always felt close to the Diocese of Evansville," ex- plained Sister Nancy Nolan, general superior of the Sisters of Providence, "as our first ministry was located in Jasper. 'SPs' have been a presence in the diocese 152 years. We hope to continue to be a part of the ministry the next 100 years or more." Fourteen sisters currently carry out their ministry in the diocese. In Evansville, Sister Mary Mundy is pastoral associate at St. Mary's Parish and Sister Sheila Mary Griffin is a coun- seling therapist at Providence Counseling. In Vincennes, Sister Rebecca Keller teaches at Rivet High School. Sister Francetta Brown, who is retired, is coor- dinator of the programs for alumni of Sisters of Providence schools and Sister Francis Eu- gene Bussing, also retired, is assistant coordinator. In Ferdinand, Sister Ruth Ellen Doane is pastoral associ- ate at St. Ferdinand Parish. The SP community in Jasper includes Sisters Margaret Nor- ris, teacher, Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools; Winifred Mary Sullivan, who ministers as a tutor and devotes time to community service projects; Nancy Brosnan, director of re- ligious education, Holy Family Parish; Joanna Brown, teacher, Precious Blood School; Mildred Gies!er, pastoral asso- ciate, Precious Blood Parish; Gloria Memering, school music and parish liturgist, Precious Blood Parish; Mildred Anne Dudine, piano teacher, Pre- cious Blood School; and Marcia Lejman, who is on sabbatical. Mother Theodore harbored special affection for the little mission in Jasper. In journals and letters, she most often re- ferred to it as "this dear mission" and "our eldest daughter.  History records that the journey from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to Jasper in 1842 was in itself unforget- table. In "History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Vol. I," Sister Mary Borromeo Brown writes of the great flood that spread through the lowlands of the Wabash Valley in March of 1842. The sisters would travel by steamboat down the Wabash River, but their first challenge was to wind their way through the forests, swamps and flood to Terre Haute to board the steamboat. Such conveniences as trains, canal boats and a bridgd across the river vere far in the fu- ture. Roads were little more than paths. Once in Jasper, at the time a rapidly growing German set- tlement, the sieters set about the business o ' opening the school. An advertisement placed in a local newspaper an- nounced the opening of the Girls' Boarding School in :. : :::: -, Mother Theodore Guerin is depicted in a display at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. The completed in her lifetime. Jasper, Dubois County: "Sisters of Providence, four in number, have taken over the education of girls in English, French and German languages . . ." The an- nouncement went on to say that board and tuition cost $75 a year, with extra charges for lessons in music, painting and drawing. Girls ages 10 to 18 would be accepted at the school beginning March 21. Such was the beginning. In years following, Providence Sisters also came to minister at Holy Family and Precious Blood schools in Jasper. In 1843, Sisters of Providence joined sisters from other orders as teachers in Montgomery at St. Peter Church -- the second oldest parish in Indiana. Its first church was established in 1818 and the school was built in 1885. During the three years they taught in Montgomery, the sis- ters conducted classes in their home, because there was no school building. The sisters left Montgomery in 1846, but re- turned in 1895 to stay until 1907. It is nearly impossible today to imagine what life was like for the diocese's early settlers. The frontier missions faced poverty and many hardships. At one point, Mother Theodore issued a gentle reminder to encourage the sisters: "Think sometimes of that beautiful day in Heaven when the true Sister of Provi- dence will be surrounded by the children whom she has taught to love God.  It was in 1843, too, that the Sisters of Providence were first called to ministry in Vin- cennes. Mother Theodore wrote that the sisters "took charge of the little orphan boys of Vincennes. There were 43 of them. They occupied the old College which has changed its name and is now called St. Vincent's." In the same year, SPs began teaching at St. Mary's Academy, which later, in 1848, became known as St. Rose Academy. In 1861, SPs ministered as volunteers among War wounded at Military Hospital. -- In 1857, SPs Washington to Simon's School. It w this time that Mother advised the sisters "In the education virtues are kindness." Later, sisters Mary's, a new paris! by the German The SP gootee started in two sisters began St. John's. Sisters the community until: "The house commenced in August 1853," Theodore wrote founding of Trinity). Years an early German of that time: "No ! benches, not a single 60 children mostly list, nevertheless, gave complete those who at first opposed became friends." In 1941, SPs John the Ba first school for in Evansville. ' SPs also served where they tion of St. in 1923. In addition to missions, SPs wide range other areas Sister Nancy that--in deed prayer--the dence mission in Evansville "We 1 ple of the Diocese in our prayers, so celehration will be tual renewal deep sense of Nancy said.