Sisters of Providence Exhibit Opens Sunday at Museum

Jasper (NNDC) – “Our Eldest Daughter,” a new, permanent exhibit featuring the 175 year history of the Sisters of Providence in Jasper and Dubois County, opens Sunday at the Dubois County Museum, 2704 North Newton Street in Jasper. The formal opening is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. followed by “In Her Own Words,” an historical dramatic performance of St. Mother Theodore Guerin’s journey to Jasper and her impact on education in the community.

Mother Theodore Guérin and her small band of Sisters of Providence had been in residence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana for just two years when the Bishop of Vincennes, Celestine de la Hailandière, asked them to establish a school in Jasper for the education of German Catholic children there. As German Catholics continued to settle in Jasper, Father Kundek saw the need for a school and petitioned the bishop for help.

On her first of two visits to Jasper, Mother Theodore wrote in her journal that it was “the most God-forsaken place” she could have imagined. Nevertheless, on March 19, 1842 Saint Joseph School – the school that Mother Theodore later referred to as “Our Eldest Daughter” because it was her first mission away from the Woods — was opened with three Sisters of Providence as faculty. At first they taught only girls, but the school later became co-educational.

Saint Joseph’s was the only Catholic parish and school in Jasper for 109 years until Holy Family opened in 1951, followed by Precious Blood in 1957, the Sisters of Providence helped to staff both schools.

Throughout the more than 150 years the Sisters of Providence taught in Jasper they had a great influence on the lives of many thousands of the city’s residents. Business men and women, civic leaders, and countless workers who fueled Jasper’s flourishing industries were all guided intellectually and spiritually by the Sisters. Over 30 priest-sons and nearly 100 sister-daughters have come from Jasper’s Catholic schools, and many credit the Sisters of Providence who taught them with inspiring their vocations

Jasper was the site of the first mission Saint Mother Theodore founded away from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and it bore abundant fruit over many generations.

Sandra Hartlieb, an actress and writer of Sisterhood Drama Ministry, headlines the 3 o’clock performance, accompanied by actress/creative movement artist Nora Pritchett. The presentation is based on the journals and letters of St. Mother Theodore. Hartlieb brings the Saint to life, centering her portrayal on Mother Theodore’s strength, humor, pioneering hardships, determined spirit, and a profound trust in Providence. The performance includes interludes of music and creative movement featuring Nora Pritchett.

The Sisters of Providence exhibit was produced and assembled by Mag Birge of Jasper.

The museum will open at 1 p.m. Sunday, the drama will begin at 3. Visitors are encouraged to come early to view the new exhibit and secure a seat for the performance.



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