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‘Eclipsed’ in the Archives?

In less than one month, on April 8, many Midwesterners will be putting on their solar eclipse glasses to glean at the 2024 total blackout of the Sun.

The path of totality – which is where people can see the Moon completely block the Sun – will be much more magnificent than it was during the eclipse of 2017.

It is estimated that more than 31 million people will have a great view of this spectacular phenomenon.

The path includes the majority of the state of Indiana, including Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

It Happened here Before!

And 155 years ago, another total solar eclipse was seen by many Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

On August 7, 1869, Earth experienced another total solar eclipse, with many Indiana residents experiencing totality, including those in Bloomington, Terre Haute, Evansville and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

At the time of the 1869 eclipse, the Sisters of Providence were preparing for their August retreat.

The following can be read in “History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Volume II,” written by Sister Eugenia Logan, SP:

“The summer of 1869 brought a decision to do nothing further about the Institute plans, but to do more on the missions which needed help. Father Dominic Niederkorn, S.J., came to give the August retreat which opened on a solemn note. In the late afternoon of August 7, the sun went into total eclipse, a phenomenon completely visible as it so seldom is, in the Middle West. The chronicler says of it:

‘This is a day which will be long remembered on account of the magnificent spectacle it provided, a total eclipse of the sun. About 5 p.m., the shadow was plainly discernible on the sun, and in half an hour, the obscuration was complete. There was darkness as at night, the little birds flew to rest, and several stars were plainly visible … This total darkness lasted about seven minutes, then the sunlight shot forth and the birds seeing their mistake, began to twitter and fly about the stars quietly withdrew from sight. One lovely feature in that splendid scene was the fairylike penciling of the shadows of the trees during the few moments immediately preceding and following the total obscuration of the sun.’”

What a Find!

Sister Marie Grace Molloy, SP, who ministers in the Congregation’s Archives Department, happened upon this passage in the book and wanted to share it.

She even learned that the missing piece where the ellipsis is in the chronicle stated “even in close proximity to the sun.”

We hope you all get an opportunity to witness this remarkable moment on April 8 as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has stated the next total solar eclipse to appear in Indiana until 2044.

For those interested in purchasing a copy of the “History of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Volume II” or other books related to the Sisters of Providence, visit Linden Leaf Gifts.

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Jason Moon

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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  1. Avatar Denise on March 11, 2024 at 10:15 am

    Thank you, Jason. I loved learning this. You and S. Marie Grace are always a good team.

  2. Avatar Paula Damiano, SP on March 11, 2024 at 10:48 pm

    I appreciate knowing this…. thanks so much. Now I’m looking forward to it even more!

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