Tribute to Sister Athanasius
Sister Athanasius Fogarty, directress of the Military Hospital in Indianapolis during the Civil War, was greatly respected as a sister-nurse. She served at the hospital from May 17, 1861, to August 1865. The necrology (obituary) in the Sisters of Providence Archives for Sister Athanasius reads in part:
“Sister Athanasius (Margaret Fogarty) born in County Roscommon, Ireland, May 15, 1834. Entered Community November 7, 1855. Took Vows August 15, 1859. Died April 11, 1900. Of an ardent, vigorous turn of mind, this dear Sister brought into every action of her daily life a generous self-application which proved her purity of intention. During the first 26 years of her religious life, she was variously employed, first as a teacher of primary grades, then as Directress of the Military Hospital in Indianapolis. … Next as Superior of St. John’s Home for Invalids from August 1865 until August 1868. Again, as [a] teacher in our orphanages for 13 consecutive years. …
“In after years when Sister Athanasius on her bed of suffering petitioned Congress for an allowance in recognition of her service in the military hospital during the Civil War, her claim was strongly endorsed by Dr. Kitchin [sic] and Dr. Fletcher who witnessed her devotion and charitable services to the wounded and dying soldiers. To every duty, this dear Sister gave herself with unswerving fidelity, but it was chiefly throughout her painful prostration for eighteen years before her death that her great faith, spirit of prayer, and cheerful submission to God were manifest. Rheumatism had so crippled Sister that for many years she was unable to help herself even in the least way. At times her pain was intense. Deafness and blindness of one eye made the last few years of her life a complete sacrifice, the loss of conversation and inability to read being added to her other sufferings. …”
An interesting tidbit
In the Civil War files in the Sisters of Providence Archives is the following note about Sister Athanasius and her unique relationship with Dr. Fletcher:
“A load of wounded and dead soldiers was brought in, and Dr. Fletcher was among the supposed dead. Sister Athanasius saw his foot move and by force got his body out and put it on the floor of an enclosed room where flour had been kept. The Sisters worked all night with him and the next day he revived and told them all they had been saying — prayers and all.
“In gratitude he sent Sister Athanasius a $12 check every month. When Sister was laid up with rheumatism he visited her, and sent the first wheelchair that came to Saint Mary’s.”