The True Story of Sister Mary Lucy Dosh
A young girl was born in Pennsylvania about 1839, whose name was Barbara Dosh. Through the untimely death of her parents, Barbara and her siblings became orphans.
Because of the kindness of Mother Catherine Spaulding, of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Louisville, Kentucky, they were taken in and tenderly cared for by the nuns. Observing Barbara’s obvious talent for music, Mother Catherine decided to send her to St Vincent’s in Union County, Kentucky, so that the gift that God had given her might be cultivated for useful purposes in her adult life.
A year or so later, Barbara was noticed by a wealthy childless couple who anxiously wished to adopt her and give her all the material luxuries of life that she had lacked, she had by this time acquired a love of the religious life and wished to give her life to God. Thus she later became a nun in the order of the Sisters of Nazareth, to be known henceforth as Sister Mary Lucy Dosh.
Upon her profession of faith, Sister Mary Lucy came to Paducah to teach music at St Mary’s Academy, which had been formed in September 1858 as an auxiliary to the Union County religious community.
Paducah, however, was soon to be plunged into the horrors of the Civil War in April 1861. Unlike the rest of the state, Western Kentucky was largely sympathetic to the South, even though the state held the position of "armed neutrality." Paducah was occupied by the Federal authorities, who commandeered area churches as military hospitals. The Federal forces soon requested aid from the Sisters of St Mary's, and their religious superiors gave them a special dispensation to act as nurses within the hospitals.
Sister Mary Lucy was young, and unproven as a nurse. But she willingly went about the tasks assigned to her; tasks which required every ounce of courage and strength that she had, of which she gave unstintingly. She and softly in her beautiful voice as she worked, for which the soldiers silently blessed her, as it reminded them of their mothers, sisters, and sweethearts back home. She reduced the amount of food she herself consumed, so that more nourishment could be given to the sick and wounded. This act of self-denial was to ultimately cost Sister Mary Lucy her life.
An epidemic of typhoid fever broke out, and Sister Mary Lucy's voice was not heard in the hospital for two or three days. Then several days later, the horrible news came; having contracted the disease herself, and in a weakened state, she had quietly gone to her heavenly home, on December 29, 1861, at the age of 22.
The hospital doctors were downcast; the soldiers were heartbroken. How could this have happened to such a courageous young nun who had selflessly given so much comfort to relieve the suffering of others? How could it be that such an innocent nun could perish, who had been so far removed from the politics of either Cause? The whole military community was stunned into grief stricken silence.
Sister Lucy's remains were placed aboard the US Gunboat Peacock. They were accompanied by a guard of six Union officers and six Confederate officers, the latter,
prisoners of war and convalescents at the Union hospital. These twelve men stood tirelessly at attention throughout the entire journey, on each side of her coffin. In this manner, Sister Mary Lucy was given a guard of honor to Uniontown, Kentucky. When the somber cortege reached Uniontown, it disembarked from the Peacock, and then began its overland journey of seven miles. The wagon wheels creaked, while the torchlights on each corner of the modest conveyance dimly lit the way in the cold December night. The somber group finally reached St Vincent’s. Sister Mary Lucy was laid to rest with the rites of her church and with military honors performed by her escorts.
After the burial services were over, the twelve officers of two different armies parted company, one contingent heading to service in the North, the other, to service in the South. Impressed as they were by the admirable conduct and gallantry shown by the Southerners on the journey, the Federal officers allowed the Southern officers their freedom, and in that act offered a tribute to the memory of Sister Mary Lucy Dosh, who had nursed all men as simple children of God, regardless of earthly loyalties.
That day, truly, the war had stopped in Kentucky.