Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mother Angela Gillespie, born February 21, 1824

Mother Angela Gillsepie
Eliza Maria Gillespie was in Washington county, Pennsylvania, on February 21, 1824, the daughter of John Purcell Gillespie and Mary Madeleine Miers.  Her mother was a convert to the Roman Catholic Church. Her cousin, James G. Blaine, was an early playmate. A precocious child, "Lida" taught herself to read before she was four.

After her husband's death in 1836, Mary Gillespie took her three children to her former home, Lancaster, Ohio. Eliza Maria first attended the school of the Dominican sisters at Somerset, Ohio, and completed her studies at the Visitation Convent at Georgetown in Washington, D.C., in 1844.

She was 37 years old when the Civil War began.
Visitation Convent, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Eliza's cousin, Thomas Ewing of Ohio, was eminent in public life, and she became a prominent figure in the social life of Washington, D.C., and of Ohio. Her sympathy was roused by the sufferings of the Irish people during the Irish famine; she and her cousin, Eleanor Ewing, (the future wife of General William Tecumseh Sherman) collected a large sum of money for the relief of Irish families. 

In 1853, Eliza felt the call to the religious life and determined to enter the order of the Sisters of Mercy. She went to Notre Dame, Indiana, to bid farewell to her brother who was there engaged in his studies for the priesthood. She received the religious habit in 1853, taking the name of Sister Mary of St. Angela. She was then sent to France, where she made her novitiate at the convent of the Sisters of Bon Secours, at Caen.  Sister Angela returned to America and was made superior of St. Mary's Academy.  

When the Civil War broke out, Mother Angela organized a corps of the Sisters of the Holy Cross to care for the sick and wounded soldiers. She established hospitals, both temporary and permanent, and, when generals failed to secure needed aid for the sick and wounded, she made trips to Washington on their behalf. Her headquarters were at Cairo,  Illinois.

She died in 1887.

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