Catholic Scout Patch Program: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Nine years after the first Catholic Saint from the state of Indiana was named, we experienced the life of a French sister who traveled by faith to the American frontier to educate pioneer children.

Learning about this Midwestern Saint, not from a book but in the land where she lived, was a powerful experience for my family. We visited the Shrine of Mother Theodore Guerin on the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute, Indiana. If you’re ever traveling on I-70 through Indiana near the Illinois border, I highly recommend a stop.

Even if you’re not a person of faith, the shrine itself provides a powerful view of pioneer life in the Indiana frontier in the 1840s. The shrine is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and there is no admission charge. Get directions to the Indiana shrine here.  You can tour as individuals, or join a group tour.

A journey of faith: About Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

Saint Mother Theodore Guerin was born in France in 1798. After entering the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé sur-Loir, she educated children and cared for the sick poor in France for 17 years.

In 1840, she responded to a request from the bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, (located near the Indiana-Illinois border) to come teach pioneer children. Mother Theodore led five Sisters of Providence to the United States to educate children of pioneer families and to care for the sick poor. They traveled more than 40 days over the ocean and arrived in the remote forest wilderness of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana (near modern-day Terre Haute).

How construction of the pioneer schools may have looked like in 1840s Indiana. This photo was taken at the Catholic shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin in Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana.
From the historical display at the shrine

Mother Theodore opened an academy for pioneer children, now known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Other schools and orphanages in Indiana and Eastern Illinois followed.

Historical display of life at Saint Mary of the Woods, a school founded by pioneer Saint Mother Theodore Guerin of France, when she came to Indiana in the 1840s.
Diorama from the historical display of the Sisters of Providence

Mother Theodore died in 1856 and was canonized a saint by the Catholic Church in 2006. She is designated in the Vatican’s official record as Saint Theodora. Saint Mother Theodore’s feast day is celebrated by the Catholic Church on Oct. 3.

Catholic patch program on American Saint Mother Theodore Guerin for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other youth groups

Footsteps of American Saints patch: Mother Theodore Guerin

All youth and adults—Scouts or non-Scouts, Catholic or non-Catholic, male or female—are welcome to participate in the Religious Activities provided by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting®. The Footsteps of American Saints patch series, according to the website, “encourages youth to learn about individuals who have shaped the landscape of Catholicism in America. These honored individuals are Saints, or are being considered for Sainthood. By learning more about the wonderful examples, it is hoped that youth and adults will be inspired to imitate their heroic virtues and follow in their footsteps.”

Catholic scout patch program: Saint Mother Theodore Guerin of Indiana, a French nun who founded schools for pioneer families in Indiana and Illinois in the 1800s

To earn the patch, your scout needs to learn about the life of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and complete activities, based on their grade level.

Download the patch requirements for the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin patch.

If you have a Girl scout or Boy Scout who is Catholic and haven’t checked out the Footsteps in American Saints or Models of Faith scouting patch series, I highly recommend it for your family!


Want more ways to mix your faith with scouting?

Sign up for updates on Catholic programs for scouts from Use Resources Wisely.

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5 comments

    • On the surface, you think, “just a teacher” or “just a sister.” But when you think about the level of trust she placed to travel by boat across the ocean to an unknown land, when she didn’t speak the language, and then to set foot in the wilderness to establish schools…it’s amazing the level of faith and trust she had.

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