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Willing Hearts app: The Sisters of the Holy Cross’ service as nurses during the Civil War is a remarkable story of faith, courage and finding joy amidst an angry, divisive time in our country.  Yes, within days of volunteering to serve as nurses, Sisters of the Holy Cross found themselves in the middle of war, with little or no supplies and in challenging times nearly impossible to envision.

Sister Paula (Casey) wrote about her arrival, “Of course we never knew what war was until that 7 [sic] day of Dec 1861.  Then we tasted it to the fullest extent.” 

It is impressive how the Sisters faced these difficulties head on, and by doing so saved countless lives.  Prior to the Civil War, “nursing” was just beginning to become a recognized profession. But many of the Sisters had helped their communities during the horrific cholera epidemics of the 1850s, and through those arduous periods gained healthcare experience.  Throughout the Civil War, the Catholic Sisters never hesitated to go onto battlefields to succor the wounded and dying.  They were not afraid to nurse patients in the pest-houses suffering from a multitude of contagious diseases, although they lost two of their own during the war, both from disease.  The Sister-nurses helped establish nursing protocols and procedures that became the roots of the modern nursing profession.  Those that served on the USS Red Rover, the "Queen of Hospital Naval Ships," became the foremothers of the Naval Nursing Service.

Willing Hearts
Sisters of the Holy Cross
Civil War Nurses
1861-1865
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