Feast of Stephen G. Cary (September 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Peace Sign

Image in the Public Domain

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STEPHEN GORDON CARY (SEPTEMBER 21, 1915-JULY 30, 2002)

U.S. Quaker Humanitarian and Antiwar Activist

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It seems to me that in our (American) support of militarism we crucify Christ afresh every day.

–Stephen G. Cary, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 433

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Stephen G. Cary comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via A Year with American Saints (2006).

Cary, an academic and an antiwar activist, entered the world at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 21, 1915.  After graduating from Germantown Friends School in 1933, our saint matriculated at Columbia University, New York City.  He graduated with a B.A. in economics and a minor in chemistry (1937), then a M.A. in International Administration (1943).  While a university student, Cary worked in the accounting department of General Electric (1937-1939) and as a building materials salesman for the John Manville Sales Corporation (1939-1941).

Our saint, a pacifist, was, of course, a conscientious objector during World War II.  Therefore, he served in the Civilian Public Service (1942-1946).  During that time, he directed the public service camps in Big Flats, New York, and in Elkhorn, Oregon.  And, in 1943, he directed the Overseas Training Unit of the Civilian Public Service at Swarthmore College.

Cary began his long-term involvement in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in 1946.  He was one of the directors of relief operations in Europe in 1946-1948.  Therefore, our saint was partially responsible for the AFSC winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.  Over the decades, Cary held various titles and fulfilled a range of duties, as needed.  His final title was Chairman (1979-1991).

Cary was consistent in labeling militarism as evil.  The Holocaust was evil.  The Killing Fields of Cambodia were evil.  U.S. shells fired from U.S. naval vessels landing and killing civilians was evil.  The devastation of napalm was evil.  Cary was unpopular in certain political circles in the United States of America, of course.  He conducted a fact-finding mission that preceded and informed a decade’s worth of AFSC in South Vietnam.  Our saint joined an ecumenical fast in front of the White House in 1971.  And, the following year, he joined a group that attempted to prevent the loading of ammunition aboard the U.S.S. Nitro, on a mission to supply aircraft carriers engaged in the Vietnam War.

Cary also supported social justice movements at home and abroad.  He demonstrated in favor of the Poor People’s Campaign (1968).  Our saint also represented the AFSC at a 1969 seminar for young professionals and leaders of Francophone and Anglophone African countries, newly independent.  These leaders needed to contact each other and work together, he affirmed.

Cary also had a long-term association with Haverford College.  He sat on the Board of Managers (1955-1969) then served as the Vice President of Development (1969-1974).  Next, our saint was the Vice President of Finance and Development (1974-1977), the Acting President (1977-1978), and the Senior Vice President (1979-1981).  He earned his nickname, “Mr. Haverford.”

Cary enjoyed his life.  Nature was one of his loves.  He hiked in the Himalaya Mountains and around the Baltoro Glacier in Pakistan.  Our saint sailed in the Pacific Ocean, too.

Cary, aged eighty-six years, died in Chatham, Massachusetts, on July 30, 2002.  Survivors included Elizabeth, to whom he had been married for fifty-four years; Comfort Richardson, his sister; his children, Anne Sampson, Charles Cary, and Dorothy Cary; and seven grandchildren.

Cary wrote in Intrepid Quaker, his posthumously-published autobiography:

As a Quaker, I believe that there is a Light that dwells within each human being on earth, and gives to each of us the capacity to know directly the will of God.  It follows for us that the presence of this Light endows each life with a sacred dimension, so that it must not be debased or exploited or destroyed for any reason or under any circumstance.

Cary lived that ethic.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil 

and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Stephen G. Cary] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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