Born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, 21 February, 1824; died at St. Mary's convent, Notre Dame, Indiana, 4 March, 1887. She was the daughter of John Purcell Gillespie and Mary Madeleine Miers, the latter a latter a convert to the Church. After her husband's death Mrs. Gillespie in 1838 went with her three children to her former home, Lancaster, Ohio. Eliza Maria first attended the school of the Dominican sisters at Somerset, Ohio, and completed her studies at the Visitation Convent at Georgetown, D.C., in 1844. Her kinsman, Thomas Ewing of Ohio, was then eminent in public life, and this fact, joined to her beauty and accomplishments, made her at once a prominent figure in the social life of Washington and of Ohio. Her sympathy was roused by the sufferings of the Irish people during the famine, and she and her cousin, Eleanor Ewing, by their joint efforts, collected a large sum of money for their relief. In 1853 she felt the call to the religious life and determined to enter the order of the Sisters of Mercy. She went to Notre Dame, Indiana, to bid farewell to her brother who was there engaged in his studies for the priesthood, and here she met Rev. Edward Sorin, provincial of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in the United States through whose influence she was led to cast her lot with this small and struggling community. She received the religious habit in 1853, taking the name of Sister Mary of St. Angela. She was then sent to France, where she made her novitiate at the convent of the Sisters of Bon Secours, at Caen, making her religious profession by special dispensation 8 December, 1853, at the hands of Very Rev. Father Moreau, the founder of the congregation.
In January, 1850, Sister Angela returned to America and was made superior of St. Mary's Academy at Bertrand, Michigan. On 15 August, 1855, she transferred the academy to its present location near Notre Dame, Indiana, and procured for it a charter from the Indiana legislature. When the Civil War broke out Mother Angela organized a corps of the Sisters of the Holy Cross to care for the sick and wounded soldiers. She established hospitals, both temporary and permanent, and, when generals failed to secure needed aid for the sick and wounded, she made flying trips to Washington on their behalf. Her headquarters were at Cairo, Illinois, in ill-provided buildings. The close of the war left her physically enfeebled, but she returned to St. Mary's and resumed her educational work, and compiled two series of readers for use in Catholic schools, the "Metropolitan" and "Excelsior".
In 1869, at the advice of Bishop Luers of Fort Wayne, the Sisters of the Holy Cross in the United States determined on a separation from the members of the congregation in France. This was effected with Mother Angela as superior of the new community. Under her rule thirty-five institutions were founded throughout the United States, among them St. Cecilia's and Holy Cross Academies, Washington, D. C.; St. Mary's Academy, Salt Lake City, Utah ; St. Mary's Academy, Austin, Texas ; St. Catherine's Normal Instiute, Baltimore, Maryland ; and Hawke's Hospital, Mt. Carmel , Columbus, Ohio. Mother Angela was the moving spirit in the establishment in 1865 of the "Ave Maria", to whose pages she made many contributions. On laying down the burdens of her superiorship, Mother Angela was chosen mistress of novices at St. Mary's, and in September, 1886, she was again made the head of St. Mary's Academy, at which post she remained until her death.
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