I first visited St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in high school to attend the graduation of a friend from nursing school at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. I was not prepared to find such a beautiful church in "the middle of nowhere." Many Hoosiers are surprised to learn that there is a part of Indiana that lies west of the Wabash River at Terre Haute and that is why St. Mary-of-the-Woods is such a a well-kept secret.
Years late, I introduced my wife to the Cathedral and other interesting sites on the 67-acre campus, the home of the Sisters of Providence and the College. We visited the Cathedral, built in 1907, admiring the beautiful altar, the stained glass windows, and the upper lofts which provide a better view of the expansive space. In an adjoining space is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, added in 1920. It is a beautiful and reverent space designed for Perpetual Adoration. The Chapel’s altar weighs 8,000 pounds and is carved from one block of Carrara marble. It is one of my wife’s favorite spiritual and sacred spaces, evoking peace, reflection, and prayer.
In 1990, the Providence Center was added to provide a entrance for visitors. It houses the gift shop, diorama of the campus/site’s history, the beautiful dining room and meeting spaces. Elsewhere on the grounds, we drove by the Grottoes and discovered the small and very historic St. Anne Shell Chapel. The chapel was constructed in 1876 and its walls are covered with shells from the nearby Wabash River. The remainder of the campus is beautiful and peaceful with numerous religious sites and modern campus facilities as well.
Since that initial visit, we have been back several times. In fact, when we head to western Indiana to wander, my wife asks if its anywhere near St. Mary-of-the-Woods so we can visit. I highly recommend a visit to see the cathedral, find peace in the space, and enjoy the journey getting there.
On one trip we headed north on the backroads of Vigo County and into Vermillion County. We discovered that some towns have disappeared due to coal mining and subsequent reclamation. North of the town of Universal, we crossed Brouillett’s Creek and then came upon a brick-paved county road, the last one I’ve seen in Indiana.
During our many visits or my business trips to Terre Haute, I have seen and/or visited numerous other sites in the city and on Indiana State University’s campus. There is a lot of history here, interesting architecture, and so much more. Instead of driving Interstate 70 to get here, take one of the numerous other options, US 40-The National Road, US 41, US 150, SR 63, SR 42, SR 46, or my favorite, along Indiana’s backroads.