My papa was born June 19, 1910. Several years ago, I dabbled in genealogy research. I bought the Family Tree Maker that came with records on lots of CDs. I would pick up the project and put it down in spurts of interest. In the Summer of 1998, I began attending Inquiry sessions to learn more about the Catholic Church. My mom knew of my interest and it reminded her of some things about her father — my papa. I don’t know if I’d heard the story before but it seemed I had not. She said that her daddy and granny had moved to Terre Haute, Indiana after the accidental death of his father. Dates confirm his death April 30, 1929. All mom recalled is that they worked in a hospital and boarded at a convent. Perhaps he had studied the church Catechism. That Summer, I did my best to research for more information — even emailing a convent to find leads. I became fascinated with the stories of women religious communities and was often sidetracked in my research.
Mom gave me a few items that were papas — an ebony crucifix that is about the size that would be worn on habit rosary — a medal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help that I wear to this day — two prayer pamphlets 1) “A Daily Visit to The Blessed Sacrament” IMPRIMATUR, William Turner, Bishop of Buffalo, and 2) “A Remembrance of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart” — and then there is papa’s journal. Papa liked to write and he wrote two poems of Catholic influence dated 1929 and 1930. I have these old photos taken in front of a statue of St. Therese of Lisieux. In faded pencil are written “Mother St. Anthony’s Hospital Terre Haute” on the back of one photo. The other photo is written April 1930 on the back.
I was very prayerful as I discerned entering the Catachumenate — to formalize my intentions. One night I had a dream. I was sitting on a church pew — the front row — a deceased uncle was sitting on my left and I was looking down at the floor — a prayerful posture. I was gazing down at shoes as I realized someone was standing in front of me. I raised my eyes up to look into the smiling face and laughing eyes of my papa. I felt assurance. I put aside my genealogy ventures for quite some time.
The research spurt came more recently as Ancestry[dot]com brought research to a web based environment. I played around with free access information. I found census records for the various places my papa lived with his parents and sister. In March 2007, I found the gem I’d been looking for — the 1930 Census taken of St. Anthony’s Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana. I scanned the names and there was my papa listed as a “painter” and my great-grandmother listed as a Widow and servant. Papa was 19 and learned the painters trade while there–it was his lifelong profession. My jaw dropped in amazement at the long list of Sisters names — the nuns — close to thirty names. Many had German parents as I learned they were founded originally in Germany. With this information, I learned that the hospital was founded by the Sisters of St. Francis — Franciscan nuns. St. Anthony’s Hospital was a teaching hospital for nurses. This order of Sisters founded several hospitals. Even tonight as I write this, I’ve discovered an online book from the Vigo County library that tells of the hospital.
As these discoveries unfold, it is interesting that I find myself Catholic and a Franciscan. I have no idea what sent my great-grandmother and my papa to Terre Haute — to those jobs at the Catholic hospital. I don’t know how far my grandfather got with his study of the Catechism. The hospital is no longer named St. Anthony’s and is Terre Haute Regional Hospital.