Tucked away in rural Indiana, northwest of Terre Haute, is a serene setting that looks to have been pulled directly out of Europe of centuries past. It is a calm environment full of natural beauty that can be felt in mind, body, and soul.
This is Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, an almost 800-acre site founded by the Roman Catholic Sisters of Providence in 1840. Today, it welcomes visitors from across the world who are seeking a relaxing, spiritual retreat away from the stresses of daily life. The immaculate grounds offer the perfect place for a stroll or bike ride, and Sunday brunches are a great way to start off a day of exploration on the grounds. There are more than 30 sites to visit at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and the site itself was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places for its importance in US religious history. No visit would be complete without stopping by the Sisters of Providence organic garden to purchase fresh produce and watch the alpacas frolic.
The Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin
One of only thirteen U.S. saints, Saint Mother Theodore is the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Step inside this peaceful shrine to discover the incredible journey of Mother Theodore as she traveled from France to Indiana.
Rooms depict her formative years in France, her perilous voyage across the Atlantic in 1840 and her time in pioneer Indiana. Many original artifacts such as Saint Mother Theodore’s prayer books are beautifully preserved in this shrine, giving visitors incredible insight into the life of a woman whose impact will continue to be felt for generations. This shrine is also home to a lovely chapel, which is the final resting place of Mother Theodore. Visitors are invited to take time here to reflect, pray, and meditate.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Providence
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Providence is small yet distinctive; promoting human kindness and family values that know no borders. Dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus – under the title “Queen of the Home”, this shrine was established on the grounds of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1925. Here, the Sisters of Providence seek to promote the same humanity and kindness shown by Mary herself. Thousands of prayer requests are received from across the world each year and the Sisters of Providence dedicate time to pray for each one at this shrine, promoting peace and support for individuals and families. This shrine is now found at the back of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is an incredible limestone structure adorned with paintings and stained glass windows.
National Historic District Registry
In 2017, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods District was added to the National Register of Historic Places, which honors the property’s importance to both the state and the entire nation. The criteria that qualified this site to be listed on the National Register include its distinct characteristics of artistic and architectural value, as well as its association with events and people who have made significant contributions to U.S. history in education and religion. History buffs will enjoy all the artifacts and pieces of history throughout the grounds that make Saint Mary-of-the-Woods important both spiritually and historically.
With more than 30 sacred sites on almost 800 acres, there is so much to see and do at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Here are some must-see highlights for your visit.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
Nature and religion blend together seamlessly at this tranquil grotto, which is beautiful in all seasons. Construction began in November 1918 after Mother Mary Cleophas Foley pledged to build such a grotto should World War I end before the Feast of Immaculate Conception. Built as a show of peace, the main statue sits atop stone that has come from Lourdes, France.
Saint Anne Shell Chapel
Perhaps the most unique structure at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the Saint Anne Shell Chapel has an interior fully lined with shells from the Wabash River, each hand-placed in artful designs. This is also the oldest structure on campus, completed in 1844, shortly after Mother Theodore returned from a trip to France during a horrible Atlantic storm. She had prayed to Saint Anne to protect the ships passengers and immediately the skies cleared, and seas calmed.
Upon safe return Mother Theodore began work on this iconic chapel. This renovated space (1875) is uniquely beautiful and an absolute must see.
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
This gorgeous chapel wows visitors with its stained-glass windows and abundance of marble, gold, and silver. It is here that the Sisters of Providence have spent thousands of hours praying for the needs of those across the world. Today, the chapel is open at all times for those who wish to find a quiet place for prayer. Step inside and feel for yourself the peace and serenity that encompasses all who visit.