Archive for the ‘Harriet Starr Cannon’ Tag

Feast of the Martyrs of Memphis, Tennessee, 1878 (September 9)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Martyrs of Memphis

Icon Writer = Brother Tobias Stanislaus, Brotherhood of Saint Gregory, Yonkers, New York

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SISTER CONSTANCE (1846-SEPTEMBER 9, 1878)

Caroline Louise Darling

Episcopal Nun

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SISTER THECLA (1838-SEPTEMBER 12, 1878)

Mary Thecla MacMahon

Episcopal Nun

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SISTER RUTH (1846-SEPTEMBER 17, 1878)

Helen George Darling

Episcopal Nun

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SISTER FRANCES (1843-OCTOBER 5, 1878)

Frances Pease

Episcopal Nun

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CHARLES CARROLL PARSONS (1838-SEPTEMBER 6, 1878)

Episcopal Priest

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LOUIS SANDFORD SCHUYLER (1851-SEPTEMBER 17, 1878)

Episcopal Priest

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THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES HELPING OTHERS DURING AN OUTBREAK OF YELLOW FEVER.

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Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

–John 15:13, Authorised Version

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GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN.

–Inscription on the monument to the Martyrs of Memphis in Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee

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The residents of Memphis, Tennessee, were not strangers to yellow fever in the late 1860s and the 1870s.  Three times in ten years epidemics of the disease afflicted the city.

Charles Todd Quintard, elected the Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee in October 1865, sought the help of the new Sisters (later Community) of Saint Mary, founded in 1865, to participate in the process of rebuilding his diocese.  Monasticism, reviving within The Episcopal Church at the time, was controversial; many Evangelical-minded Episcopalians, with their learned hostility to Roman Catholicism, objected not only to the existence of Episcopal nuns but to the fact that they were full habits.  Bishop Quintard obviously did not share this bias.

Mother Harriet Starr Cannon, who had founded the order in 1865 and who served as the Superior, agreed to Quintard’s request.  She sent Sisters Constance, Amelia, Thecla, and Hughetta (then a novice) to Memphis in 1873.  They arrived in late 1873, in time for an outbreak of yellow fever in which about 2000 people in October and November.  The sisters ministered to the suffering.  The nuns were finally able to open the school for girls at St. Mary’s Cathedral in 1874.  Sister Constance, the Superior at Memphis, served as the headmistress of the school, at which Sister Thecla taught English and Latin.

The yellow fever epidemic of August-October 1878 was worse than that of 1873.  About 25,000 people–more than half of the population–left Memphis, leaving about 20,000 inhabitants.  These were those who chose to remain (to help the others) and those who could not leave.  Nearly nine out of ten of those who remained contracted yellow fever.  About one-fourth–5,150–of the 20,000–died.  The average number of deaths was about 200 a day.  The city buried 1,500 of these victims in a mass grave.

Although many people fled for safety, others volunteered to come to Memphis, to join those who had chosen to remain.  Those who risked their lives to help others included doctors, nurses, priests, ministers, nuns, and prostitutes.  Thirty Episcopal priests and some nuns chose to come to the city at that time.  Four Sisters of Saint Mary died between September 9 and October 5.  Among these nuns was Sister Ruth, who died at the age of 32 years.  She had left New York state to help victims in Memphis.  Sister Hughetta (died in 1926), who had been in Memphis since 1873, remained.  She was relatively fortunate, for she only contracted dysentery.  W. T. Dickinson Dalzell, a physician and an Episcopal priest, of Shreveport, Louisiana, went to Memphis, to help.  He had contracted yellow fever some years before, so he knew that he would survive the outbreak.  His medical skills were essential.

Charles Carroll Parsons (1838-September 6, 1878), the Rector of St. Lazarus-Grace Episcopal Church, Memphis, also died.  He, a member of the West Point Class of 1861, had served with distinction in the U.S. Army, been an artillery commander, and risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the Civil War.  After that conflict he had become a professor at his alma mater.  Then he had studied for the priesthood, the ranks of which he joined on March 5, 1871.  Immediately prior to arriving in Memphis (to become the Rector of Grace Church, not yet united with St. Lazarus Church), in 1875, Parsons had been the Rector of Holy Innocents’ Church, Hoboken, New Jersey.  Our saint’s widow was Margaret Louisa Britton Parsons (1844-1927).  A personal connection with Charles Carroll Parsons contributed to bringing Louis Sandford Schuyler (1851-September 17, 1878), Assistant Rector of Holy Innocents’ Church, Hoboken, to Memphis, to help the suffering.  Schuyler wanted to minister to those who suffered even though he knew he was almost certainly making a one-way trip.

The yellow fever epidemic of August-October 1878 had devastating effects on Memphis.  Not only was about one-ninth of the population dead (within two months), but the city went bankrupt and lost its charter for fourteen years.  The worst effects were the lost lives.  What might the 5,150 dead have become had they survived?  How many more lives might they have improved?

Bishop Quintard dedicated the high altar of St. Mary’s Cathedral in honor of the four martyred nuns on Pentecost Sunday 1879.

One legacy of the martyred nuns was the increased support for the revival of monasticism in The Episcopal Church.  The Sisters/Community of Saint Mary expanded their work and new orders came into existence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SCUDDER, U.S. UNITARIAN THEN EPISCOPALIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BYROM, ANGLICAN THEN QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILSON CARLILE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE CHURCH ARMY

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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:

Inspire 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 forever.  Amen.

Job 16:6-9

Psalm 25:15-21

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

John 12:24-28

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 571

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Feast of Harriet Starr Cannon (May 7)   1 comment

Above:  Harriet Starr Cannon

Image in the Public Domain

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HARRIET STARR CANNON (MAY 7, 1823-MARCH 29, 1896)

Foundress of the Community of Saint Mary

Harriet Starr Cannon founded the Community of Saint Mary (initially the Sisters of Saint Mary), the first stable religious community for women in The Episcopal Church, in 1865.  This new order was quite controversial in the denomination at the time.  Was it a Papist threat to the Protestant purity of The Episcopal Church?  That was what many critics alleged?

Cannon was not religious until the 1850s.  She and her older sister, Catherine Ann, were natives of Charleston, South Carolina.  There, on May 7, 1823, Harriet entered the world.  The girls’ parents died of yellow fever when Harriet was 17 months old.  An aunt with five children in her household already raised the sisters in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Harriet lost an eye in an accident, but had generally happy childhood.  Not surprisingly, our saint was close to her older sister, who married then moved to California in 1851.  The plan was for Harriet to join her there.  Nevertheless, in 1855, as Harriet was preparing to leave for the West Coast, Catherine Ann died, leaving Harriet feeling alone.

Harriet, thrown into a crisis, emerged and devoted the rest of her life to God.  In 1856, in New York City, she joined the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion (defunct in 1940), under the direction of William Augustus Muhlenberg and Anne Ayres.  Our saint worked as a nurse to the poor at St. Luke’s Hospital.  In 1863 conflict within the Sisterhood led to Cannon and three other sisters leaving the order.

That departure was the prelude to the birth of a new order, the Sisters (later Community) of Saint Mary.  Horatio Potter, the Bishop of New York, received Cannon, Jane Haight, Mary Heartt, Amelia Asten, and Sarah Bridge as the first five sisters of the new order on February 2, 1865.  Our saint served as the first superior of the order, which established institutions (hospitals, convents, schools, mission houses, and orphanages) from Peekstill, New York (the site of the motherhouse) to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Memphis, Tennessee.  The deaths of Sisters Constance, Thecla, Ruth, and Frances, four of the six Martyrs of Memphis, during an outbreak of yellow fever in Memphis while ministering to victims of the disease in August-October 1878 decreased hostility to the renewal of monasticism within The Episcopal Church.  The legacies of these Martyrs of Memphis included the expanded work of the Sisters/Community of Saint Mary and the founding of the Community of Saint John the Baptist (1881), the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity (1882), the Community of the Transfiguration (1898), and the Order of Saint Anne (1910).

When Cannon died, aged 72 years, on March 29, 1896, her order had grown to 104 sisters.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FABER, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SCUDDER, U.S. UNITARIAN THEN EPISCOPALIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BYROM, ANGLICAN THEN QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILSON CARLILE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE CHURCH ARMY

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Gracious God, you called Mother Harriet and her companions

to revive the religious life in the Episcopal Church by founding

the religious community of Saint Mary, and to dedicate their lives to you:

Grant that, after their example, we may ever surrender ourselves to the revelation of your holy will;

through our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Esdras 2:15-24

Psalm 131

Hebrews 13:1-2, 5-8, 15-16

Mark 9:33-37

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 361

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