“All paths lead back to The Woods,” a phrase often repeated by students, alumni, friends and members of The Woods family. For Guerin Cassell, a current freshman studying graphic design at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), the phrase continues to be a proven statement for him and his family.
In 1994, Mary and Mike Cassell became engaged at the Saint Anne Shell Chapel on the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods campus. During Mike’s college years at Lewis University in Illinois, one of his instructors was a Sister of Providence. He worked with her as a research assistant in the archives and the campus has continued to hold a special place in his heart. “Driving onto The Avenue is like coming home. It’s a peaceful sense, and you feel something different that sets The Woods apart from the rest of the world. It’s a place where a Saint lived and walked among the grounds. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s presence is felt throughout the campus,” said Mike.
In the early stages of their marriage, the Cassells endured infertility issues. It presented many struggles over the course of a decade for them. Through the years, Mary and Mike continued to cling to their faith and believed in the power of Providence. The Cassells prayed for Saint Mother Theodore to intervene with their infertility issues, and they promised, if gifted with a child, to name their child after her.
In August of 2006, Providence prevailed, and Mary and Mike received a call from an adoption agency in Chicago about a 15-month-old boy in Prokopyevsk, Russia, who had been put up for adoption. After a three-month-long process of traveling to Russia and back to the United States, they finalized the adoption and arrived home with their son, Guerin Michael Cassell, in December 2006.
“There are so many feelings that I have and continue to experience. There is just so much love and happiness that I’ve felt because of this amazing story behind my name,” Guerin said. As Guerin continues to venture through his college journey, he continues to have faith and confidence that he’s never alone. “I know that Mother Guerin is always with me. When going through hard things, I know she’s there with me and my family and that she’s always watching over me.”
As he continued to grow, attending college at The Woods was a no-brainer. “Growing up, my Dad always brought me out to The Woods, so it’s always been a comfortable and familiar home to me. He would bring me out to see the campus and to connect with the Sisters of Providence, which I’ve come to know several of them. I wasn’t sure if my application would be accepted, but all I knew was that I wanted to come here. I’ve just always loved this place. It’s just so beautiful and peaceful,” Guerin said.
Guerin’s parents shared how proud they are of Guerin and the path he has chosen to earn his degree. “We couldn’t be happier that he has chosen Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Guerin grew up with us taking him to the campus for visits to the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence. Being familiar with the campus, Guerin felt at home there, and when it was time to choose a college, there was no question as to where he wanted to go,” said Mary.
Guerin shared that he continues to look forward to his Woods journey while staying connected with Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, “I always feel Mother Guerin’s presence, especially here. I’m looking forward to continuing my education and meeting new people,” Guerin said.