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Storms, seasickness, and the Cincinnati

These images illustrate the real-life conditions on board ships, such as the "Cincinnati."

Conditions aboard ships, like the “Cincinnati” were extremely dark and cramped, as seen in these museum replicas.

I get motion sick. Cars, trains, boats, buses. (Fortunately, I usually do okay on airplanes.) So, whenever I read Mother Theodore’s journal entry about the crossing to the United States I can only sympathize with her and her sister companions! Here are some excerpts from the journal.

“….the rolling of the vessel made us seasick. In a few hours we were so extremely weak that it was impossible to remain up; we were forced to go down to our little room. There we were fit for nothing but to take to our beds. Courageous Sister Basilide, after giving to the fishes the little she had in her stomach, came to ask whether we needed anything…… All my poor companions are nearly dead. We were all very sick. When one was feeling a little better, she went to aid another, to hold the head of one who was a little sicker than herself. You never saw such a comedy.”

In another turbulent storm Mother Theodore writes, “The vessel rolled about like a nut on the sea. When it leaned to the right, it drew our beds and all that was in the room to that side; then, regaining its equilibrium, it threw us with equal violence to the left. Our dear plump Sister Liguori fell against me with all her weight. I thought I was killed. Never did we laugh so heartily as that evening.”

The plans for the new shrine to Saint Mother Theodore include what we’re naming “the ship room”. As pilgrims leave the first space – the French room – they’ll move into the ship room, a small, dark area where they’ll see a berth similar to the one aboard the Cincinnati. Visitors will be in tight quarters, as were those six brave women who traveled here in 1840. As for me, I’m grateful that the architects didn’t include a moving floor!!!

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Sister Paula Damiano

Sister Paula has been a Sister of Providence since 1967. She has ministered as a teacher, director of vocations, pastoral associate and as a General Councilor for the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as director of programs and retreats at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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