Friend and Mentor

DSCN0372 - CopyAfter years of writing profiles on successful people for newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, I learned early on of the importance of mentors. Mentors truly are heroes who share the best of their experiences, education, and wisdom with someone else who will take it all in and soar.

On June 26th I lost one of my mentors and spiritual advisers, Sister Alexa Suelzer, SP. She was 97 years old. Sister Alexa was a powerful role model–a woman of courage, intellect, and practicality. No doubt she was much like the matriarch of her religious order, Saint Theodora/Mother Theodore Guerin.

Sister Alexa was my first instructor at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for my Master’s degree in Pastoral Theology. Sister was a tall, regal, highly intellectual woman who originally appeared formidable. I soon found her otherwise. Throughout that course in Old Testament studies, I dealt with my father’s diagnosis of cancer and death. Sister reached out to me, and never stopped sending emails and notes of kindness, encouragement, and witty humor. Her last note, which I received a couple of weeks ago, I had yet to answer. I hope she knew how much she meant to me.

Sister Alexa entered the religious community of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana on February 14, 1938 following her two older sisters, Sister Mary Josephine and Sister David. She became a Professed Sister on August 15, 1946. Her education included a Bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a Master’s degree in English from Marquette University. She also studied at the Regina Mundi Institute in Rome.

Sister Alexa received her Doctorate degree in Sacred Doctrine from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Her dissertation was published by Herder and Herder as “The Pentateuch: A Study in Salvation History.” Her most cited work was her essay, “Modern Old Testament Criticism” in the The New Jerome Biblical Commentary.

Sister taught well into her eighties and contributed to the Sisters of Providence publications regularly into her nineties.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

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Women of Courage

Three of the most noted women saints–Genevieve, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila–are remembered for their courage and strength in difficult times. Author Joan Williams tells their stories in her book Three Saints. Women Who Changed History. See the review of this book on Doyle’s Delights.

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Prayer Time for Busy Moms

So much to do and so little time. See my review of a book on Doyle’s Delights that help’s moms on the go to pray. The series by ACTA Publications has similar books for busy dads, parents, and grandmas.

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The Saintly Seven

Saint Theodora said we do not need to do anything special to become saints. We simply must do everything for the Lord.

Saint Theodora dedicated her entire life to God. Because God was the center of her life, she lived an exemplary life, a life we can look to and work towards. In my book, Seven Principles of Sainthood, I identified what I believe are seven examples of her dedication. We only need to try our best in just one of these areas to move closer to sainthood, and most definitely, closer to the Lord.

Saint Theodora’s principles include:

Pray with Saints

We don’t stand alone. Along with our earthly friends and family, the Lord surrounds us with heavenly beings to help us through the tough times. Like Saint Theodora, we can call on angels and saints to pray our prayers and help us in every way. The Virgin Mary and her mother, Anne, were among Saint Theodora’s favorite saints. And now we can include her as well among the saints we pray to.

Trust in Providence

Two of Saint Theodora’s most known sayings are to Lean on Providence and Trust in Providence. She entrusted all that happened, good and bad, to the Lord. She persevered and moved forward through the challenges of the American wilderness, illness, devastating fires, bigotry, and poverty.

Spread the Word of the Lord

As a missionary, Saint Theodora left her family, friends, and country to spread the Word to Americans in the mid-1800s. We don’t have to go that far to do that. Opportunities to bring others closer to the Lord surround us every day.

Lead by Serving

Saint Theodora wasn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and get dirty. She taught, served the poor and sick, and personally cared for the children at her schools as well as the young women training to be teachers and Sisters of Providence. When we reach out to care for others rather than expecting others to serve us, we illustrate a strength and leadership similar to that of Saint Theodora.

Be Just and Kind

One of the teachings Saint Theodora expressed to her sisters was for them to love and respect all the children equally. She did not want them to show favoritism, thereby hurting the feelings of the other children. She also was concerned for people of different economic status or color. She was appalled at the slave trading which she witnessed during her lifetime.

Today we continue to see evidence of injustice in the world and can do our part to promote kindness and concern for all people through our thoughts, spoken and written words, and actions.

Forgive Like Jesus

Many people did terribly hurtful things to Saint Theodora. She didn’t get stuck on the pain they inflicted on her. She didn’t get angry and never was revengeful. She prayed for her offenders and kept moving on. What a great example for us to follow.

Strive for Humility

As the mother superior and leader of a large group of women and children, Saint Theodora could have thought as highly of herself as everyone around her did, but she did not. She considered any good in her life to be God’s doing and lived a life of humility and gratitude. We too must recognize God’s hand in all of our blessings.

©2015, Mary K Doyle

 

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Priestly Perspectives of a Dynamic Church

Catholic Watershed

Catholic Watershed is an outstanding book that offers personal perspectives of six priests during a pivotal time in our American Catholic history. All ordained in Chicago in 1969, Mike Ahlstrom, Larry Duris, Bob Heidenreich, Tom Libera, Ed Upton, and Bill Zavaski, were born in the midst of World War II, raised pre Vatican II, thrust into the changes of Vatican II during their seminary years, served in communities in racially turbulent times, and now are persevering through the clerical sexual abuse scandals.

Readers who have lived through part or all of the same time period will find the priests’ honest reflections fascinating. We remember how it was for us as laity. Learning how it was from the other side of the Catholic fence is insightful.

How different the men’s lives were in the old seminary when they had little opportunity to bond with fellow seminarians and were heavily controlled by their professors yet later encouraged to work together, think for themselves, and interact with the community of faith. Vatican II’s mission of promoting understanding that all members of the Church are the Church meant that the seminary also had to reverse their approach from authority and submission to community. Every member—clergy, religious women, and lay men, women, and children—must now work towards the ultimate goal of raising each other to a greater relationship with the Lord.

The book follows the priests from their differing childhoods, through their seminary years, and into their priesthoods. The men offer honest reflections on serving under three very different bishops: Cardinals John Cody, Joseph Bernadin, and Francis George, cardinals who were national leaders among US bishops. The priests also share their thoughts on homilies, their ministries, their faith, and relationships between them and other members of the clergy as well as laity, and visions of the future Church.

Catholic Watershed is a big book at 394 pages but don’t be intimidated by its size. It’s well-worth your time. The book is well-written and moves quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every bit of it.

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Saint Theodora Coloring Book

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A slightly shortened version of the book, Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God, is now available as a coloring book. The 30 page book is available from the Sisters of Providence shop, Linden Leaf.

Saint Theodora is one of our American saints. She founded schools in the Midwest and was an advocate for children and women. She offers a powerful role model of one who offered her life to serving the Lord. She knew God was with her even in the midst of the worst of times.

The children’s story of Saint Theodora is fast-paced and fun to read as well as inspiring. The hardcover book is also available from Linden Leaf or Amazon.com.

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The Anointing of the Sick

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Since many things typically contribute toward our illness, many things also assist us in healing. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is one means for healing on many levels. This spiritual gift may encourage physical and emotional recovery as well as spiritual.

The Gift of the Anointing of the Sick answers many of our common questions such as who may receive this sacrament and how often and when and where. Through Sister Mary Kathleen Glavich’s clear style of writing, we also come to understand its evolution. Previously known as Extreme Unction, the Anointing of the Sick is now available to all those who are seriously ill rather than just at the point of death as it was prior to Vatican II.

I have a new appreciation for the Anointing of the Sick after reading this book and encourage learning more about it should you or someone you love be in need of this rich and beautiful sacrament.

(See Doyle’s Delights for more book reviews.)

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