Archive for the ‘Margaret Louisa Britton Parsons’ 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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SISTER CONSTANCE (1846-SEPTEMBER 9, 1878)

Caroline Louise Darling

Episcopal Nun

+++++++++

SISTER THECLA (1838-SEPTEMBER 12, 1878)

Mary Thecla MacMahon

Episcopal Nun

+++++++++

SISTER RUTH (1846-SEPTEMBER 17, 1878)

Helen George Darling

Episcopal Nun

+++++++++

SISTER FRANCES (1843-OCTOBER 5, 1878)

Frances Pease

Episcopal Nun

+++++++++

CHARLES CARROLL PARSONS (1838-SEPTEMBER 6, 1878)

Episcopal Priest

+++++++++

LOUIS SANDFORD SCHUYLER (1851-SEPTEMBER 17, 1878)

Episcopal Priest

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

–John 15:13, Authorised Version

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements