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Seven sisters honored for Civil War service

Saturday, May 2, was a beautiful day.

The air was crisp, the sun was shining and there was a sense of pride and honor on the grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

Yes, students at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College were set to graduate, but there was more taking place on Saturday, May 2.

The day also saw seven sisters honored for ministering as nurses during the Civil War. Sisters St. Felix Buchanan, Mary Rose O’Donaghue, Athanasius Fogarty, Sophie Glenn, Eugenia Gorman, Mary Frances Guthneck and Matilda Swinley were recognized during a plaque unveiling ceremony at the Sisters of Providence cemetery.

“Let this marker stand as a tribute to our admiration for you,” General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson said.

National Society Prayer

(Note: The following was recited during the dedication)

By Charles Gordon Ames

O God of purity and peace, God of light and freedom, God of comfort and joy, we thank thee for our country. This great land of hope whose wide doors thou has opened to so many millions that have struggled with hardships and with hunger in the crowded old world. We give thanks to the power that has made and preserved us. A nation that has carried the ship of state through storm and darkness, and has given us a place of honor and power that we might bear aloft the standard of impartial liberty and impartial law. May our altars and our schools be filled with homes of intelligent and contented industry, that through the long generations our land may be a happy land and our country a power of good will among the nations. Amen.

The National Society Daughters of the Union, Governor Oliver P. Morton Chapter, helped with the project. The organization’s chapter regent, Sharon Kennedy, began discussions regarding the plaque after reading an article about the seven sisters in HOPE Magazine.

Kennedy then met with Sister Marie Grace Molloy during a breakfast reunion meeting of alumnae of Saint John’s Academy.

The organization funded the marker, which was placed near the cemetery entrance gates. The marker was constructed by Wagner Signs, Indianapolis.

According to information in the Sisters of Providence Archives, then Governor Oliver P. Morton sent word to Monsignor Augustine Bessonies, pastor of St. John Catholic Church in Indianapolis, to contact the Sisters of Providence to help with nursing duties at City Hospital, located in Indianapolis.

Then Superior General, Mother Mary Cecelia Bailly, replied and the group of sisters took charge of the hospital in May 1861.

An article published in 1864 in the Indianapolis Daily Journal reported a soldier said, “next to home it was the sweetest, quietest spot he had ever found.”

The sisters who served were also honored in 1923 with government headstones marking their graves through the help of friends, the State President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Chairman of the Nuns’ Memorial Committee.

In addition, the Sisters of Providence were also honored for their service during the Civil war on the Nuns of the Battlefield Monument, located in Washington, D.C.

Sister Denise welcomed the large crowd at the event before three Civil War re-enactors presented the American Flag and the State of Indiana Flag. The three re-enactors were in Vigo County for another event, but read about the dedication and elected to attend. Sister Denise then read short biographies of each of the honored sisters.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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