Above: Priscilla Lydia Sellon
Image in the Public Domain
PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON (MARCH 21, 1821-NOVEMBER 20, 1876)
A Restorer of the Religious Life of The Church of England
The description of Priscilla Lydia Sellon comes verbatim from Common Worship (2000), the most recently approved alternative to The Book of Common Prayer (1662) in The Church of England. It is a fitting description, for Sellon’s work was pioneering in the realm of Anglican religious orders for women.
Sellon, born at Hampstead, England, on March 21, 1821, was a daughter of Commander Richard Baker Sellon of the Royal Navy. Her mother died shortly after giving birth to her, and the commander remarried eventually. Our saint grew up in a loving home and blended family. She also grew up in much economic comfort.
On January 1, 1848, Sellon heard and answered a call from God. That summons was a vocation to educate poor children in Plymouth. Our saint, at a young age, routinely worked long days; a 16-hour-long work day was relatively light. She founded a free industrial school for girls, a night school for boys aged 12-16 years, a school for starving children, and a home for the orphans of sailors. Sellon also assisted female emigrants and prepared people for baptism and confirmation. In 1849 she and a few other women founded the Society of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Spirit, of Davenport. This was controversial, given the ubiquity of anti-Roman Catholic bias in English society, the English press, and The Church of England. The Oxford Movement was so controversial that some of its opponents accused Tractarians of being in league with Satan. That controversy over the Oxford Movement disrupted church life in the Anglican Communion for decades and framed the debate over Sellon’s humanitarian order. In that controversy Richard, our saint’s father, offered a vigorous defense of his daughter and her religious work.
That work was essential. Early on it included tending to patients in London suffering from cholera in 1849. Five years later Sellon sent some members of her order to Crimea under the authority of Florence Nightingale, who supervised medical care in the context of the Crimean War. Our saint, paralyzed in 1861, continued the good work until her death. In 1864, for example, she answered Emma Rooke‘s request that the order commence work in the Kingdom of Hawai’i. The mission station at Honolulu opened later that year.
Sellon died at West Malvern, England, on November 20, 1876. She was 55 years old. Her order has ceased to exist, but the legacy of its work is everlasting.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
AUGUST 14, 2016 COMMON ERA
PROPER 15: THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER
THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR
THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER
THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR
O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.
Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.
Through us give hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, peace to the troubled, and rest to the weary,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60