Veterans Day: Honoring Sisters who served
Today, Thursday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, a federal holiday for honoring military veterans. Today, as a nation, we recognize the service of all American veterans. The day was originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I.
Did you know that four Sisters of Providence served in the military? One of those sisters served our country during World War I. Two more served during World War II and another served during the Vietnam War.
Before joining the Congregation, Sister Francis de Lourdes Reilly, SP, served as a World War I Army Nurse. In addition, Sister Catherine Hartman, SP, served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve in the United States Marines during World War II. And Sister Ruth Sondhaus, SP, served in Naval Intelligence during the war.
Sister Pat Linehan
Another Sister of Providence, Sister Patricia “Pat” Linehan, SP, also served our country. She was in the Navy Nurse Corps for 25 years and during the Vietnam War and served as a nurse on the Navy hospital ship Repose, AH-16.
Sister Patricia, who currently ministers as a freelance artist in Terre Haute, was not a member of the Congregation during the Vietnam War. But she had entered the Congregation previously. She attended school at Providence Juniorate (Aspirancy) and entered the novitiate.
Sister Pat was sent to minister in the Congregation’s infirmary after entering the novitiate and said she then realized nursing was her calling. But at the time, Sisters of Providence were teachers, not nurses. So, she left the Congregation and worked for a few years before she could afford to attend nursing school. She then attended the St. Francis School of Nursing at St. Anthony Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Vietnam War nurse
She worked for a couple years as a Registered Nurse before entering the Navy Reserves in 1964. She was assigned to Naval Hospital Oakland as a staff nurse from 1964-66 before serving on the Repose from 1966-67.
“I served 13 months on the Repose,” Sister Pat said. “It’s really hard to describe because it’s a lot like being in a hospital except that we were floating around the South China Sea with the wounded population on board. The ship’s crew and hospital crew were essentially stable, rotating off after 13 months. Wounded soldiers were evacuated in stages when strong enough to travel with minimal medical care. First they went by helicoptor to Da Nang. From there, they were staged to the next medical facility along the chain to the United States and the nearest properly-equipped military hospital to their homes.
“We had a very limited population to take care of those folks. But we had probably some of the best prepared people and medical equipment around. There were three operating rooms and we operated on a platform that pitched and swayed. There were some very unique features and there were some that were very common in any hospital.”
Sister Pat said after her time on the Repose, she was sent back to the States and served in San Diego for four years.
After her time in the Navy, Sister Pat came back to Indiana and moved to the Greenwood area. There, through Providence, she ran into several Sisters of Providence. The rest is history. With the invitation of then General Superior Sister Nancy Nolan (RIP), SP, and the rest of the General Council, Sister Pat returned to the community in 1993 and began ministering at St. Ann’s Clinic in 1996.
“I helped get the facility open and with establishing patient care and administrative protocols,” Sister Pat said. “I was there until 2003.”
She then attended Indiana State University, earning a Master’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Since then, she has ministered as a freelance artist. She sells some of her products at Linden Leaf Gifts, the gift shop at the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Other Sisters of Providence and Sisters of Providence Chaplains have ministered and served our country during times of war.
For example, Chaplains Monsignor Augustine J. Rawlinson was a veteran of World War I, while Monsignor James P. Galvin was a veteran of World War II.
In addition, 11 Sisters of Providence ministered in military hospitals during the Civil War. These includ Sister St. Felix Buchanan, Sister Helena Burns, Sister Frances Ann Carney, Sister Athanasius Fogarty, Sister Sophie Glenn, Sister Eugenia Gorman, Sister Mary Francis Guthneck, Sister Louise Maloney, Sister Henriette MacKenzie, Sister Mary Rose O’Donoghue and Sister Matilda Swimley.
Sister Merry Marcotte, SP, also served with the American National Red Cross for six years, including two years in Vietnam as a caseworker in military hospitals. She passed away in 2008.
And Sister Josephine Bryan, SP, served as a registered nurse in the Vietnam War as a volunteer with Catholic Relief Services under a contract with the United States Aid for Independent Development (USAID). Sister Josephine currently ministers in health care and outreach ministries based in Apple Valley, California.
Take some time out of your day today and thank all the veterans who have served our beloved nation. They deserve our gratitude for their service and our ongoing prayers.