Today the church remembers Constance, Nun, and Her Companions, 1878.Late in the summer of 1878 yellow fever struck Memphis, Tennessee, killing thousands. The Episcopal cathedral, St. Mary"s, and its adjacent Church Home were in the center of the most infected area and became shelters for victims. The cathedral staff and the Sisters of St. Mary, who operated the Church Home, faced enormous burdens in caring for the sick and dying. Sisters on retreat in Peekskill, New York, when the epidemic broke out, instead of keeping a safe distance, rushed back to Memphis. Sister Constance was the first of the nuns to be stricken. As she died on September 9, her last words were “Alleluia, Hosanna,” simple words of praise remembered and inscribed on the cathedral"s high altar. Sister Constance"s companions in service to the sick and dying, Sisters Thecla and Ruth, soon followed her to the grave, as did Sister Frances, headmistress of the Church Home. She had nursed some thirty children at one time and had watched twenty-two die. The Rev. Louis Schuyler, a chaplain to the Sisters of St. Mary, also died of the fever, as did Canon Charles Parsons. Parsons was blessed with a vision of heaven as he lay dying and his last words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” On this day we honor those who gladly risked their own lives in order to save the lives of many and to assuage the final suffering of others. Embolden us to work for the healing of all those in need, seeking to love others as you have loved us, Lord Christ. Amen.
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We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death; Insipre in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.