Today is the day we Springfield, Ill., residents get to take special pride of association with our most famous and beloved resident, Abraham Lincoln. Today is the 217th anniversary of the 16th President’s birth.
We Springfield Dominicans like to claim a special link to Mr. Lincoln, but until today, after 35+years in the community, the whole story slipped through my consciousness.
In 1874 when the city dedicated the recently completed monument above Mr. Lincoln’s tomb, two of our founding sisters had the honor of unveiling the statue of the president. This photo commemorates that event. But I guess I’ve been asleep on February 12 for the past 35 years. Only this morning did I realize that on Mr. Lincoln’s birthday, we also pray for the repose of the soul of Sister Rachel Conway, the eldest of our founding sisters, who died on this day in 1911. She and Sister Josephine Meagher were the honored unveilers-of-the-tomb.
“By a strange coincidence…” says her memorial card—the one we read at breakfast in the Motherhouse dining room every year on this day—”she was called to her eternal reward on Lincoln’s birthday.”
But wait! It continues “…at the time a vast number of statesmen, including President Taft, were gathered in Springfield to commemorate the one hundred and second anniversary of Lincoln’s death. The authorities in charge of the celebration obtained permission to have the bell of the chapel at Oak Ridge tolled and a guard of honor stand at the entrance to Calvary [the neighboring Catholic cemetery] as her funeral cortege moved slowly past the tomb of Lincoln.”
May you rest in peace Sister Rachel and Mr. Lincoln. Springfield would not be what it is today without you. Well done, good and faithful servants!