I have posted on a number of health issues addressed in various Reports to this summer’s General Convention. However, there are a number of Reports that are not obviously related to health issues that may also be of interest to chaplains. One this year is the Report of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.
The largest portion of this year’s Report is “Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints.” This is an extensive revision – some would say a replacement for - the well known “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” approved for the Episcopal Church. “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” has published the calendar of approved celebrations in the Episcopal Church, along with the approved lessons and collects and some historical information. I use it each year as I remember those worthies in the Episcopal Calendar who have some relationship with health care: St. Luke (October 18); Florence Nightingale (August ); and Constance and Her Companions, the Martyrs of Memphis. Luke was a physician, of course; and Florence Nightingale was arguably the founder of modern professional nursing. The Martyrs of Memphis are remembered as those Episcopal religious and clergy who stayed in Memphis, Tennessee, during the yellow fever epidemics of the 1870’s to care for those too poor to leave the city.
There has already been a good deal of discussion about “Holy Women, Holy Men.” It lays out principles for adding persons to the Calendar, including some new categories cor consideration. It greatly expands the calendar, adding many possible worthy individuals to remember. In those additions are new men and women, many persons of color, and a number of people significant in Christian history who were not – or who once were and then left being – Anglican. If you’re interested in broader discussion, I would suggest reading here or here.
What was interesting to me was the addition of a number of persons whose Christian lives were lived out or had some affect health care. New in the list in “Holy Women, Holy Men:
- Cannon, Harriet Starr: First a member of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion, she left with four other women to found the Community of Saint Mary. Not only were most of the Sisters among the Martyrs of Memphis members of CSM, but the Community continues to run health care institutions. (May 7)
- Chisholm, James: Episcopal priest in Portsmouth Virginia, like the later Martyrs of Memphis, he remained with his congregation during an 1855 epidemic of yellow fever that depopulated the city. “He brought spiritual comfort, food, such medical assistance as he could minister, and even dug graves.” Toward the end of the epidemic, he died of the disease himself. (Sept 15)
- Fr. Damien and Sr. Marianne of Molokai: Fr. Damien is famous for his work in the leper colony on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. He eventually contracted Hansen’s Disease himself and died. Sr. Marianne was Roman Catholic nun “who was asked to found a leper hospital for women on Molokai and to take over the work of Fr. Damien among the males.” (April 15)
- Grenfell, Wilfred Thomason: “British medical missionary to Labrador and Newfoundland where he established hospitals and founded the first Seamen’s Institute.” (Oct 9)
- Innocent of Alaska: Innocent was a Russian Orthodox missionary to the Aleuts in Alaska, and became the first Orthodox bishop in the New World. In his work with the Aleuts, he persuaded them to be vaccinated for smallpox and kept scientific journals of flora and fauna in the area. (March 30)
- Mayo, William W., and Charles Menninger , with their sons: The Doctors Mayo are, of course, known for the Mayo Clinics and Hospitals in Minnesota, while the Doctors Menninger are known for the Menninger Psychiatric Clinic, initially in Topeka, Kansas, and now in Houston, Texas. Both clinics were noted for bringing the best clinical care and research to care for the bodies, minds, and spirits of their patients. (March 6)
- Passavant, William:. As a Lutheran pastor and social reformer, he established the first Deaconess Hospital in Allegheny, as well as other hospitals in the Upper Midwest. (Jan. 3)
- Vincent de Paul: Founder of the Vincentians, he established many charitable projects including hospitals, orphanages and ministry to prisoners. He also founded the Daughters of Charity. That community continues to be a major provider of health care today. In addition, a number of other communities that find there vocation in health care follow the Vincentian Rule. (Sept. 27)
There are others whose lives would be of interest to chaplains, including the four Army chaplains who died in the sinking of the USS Dorchester in World War II; Mother Ann Seton; and Bartolomé de las Casas. However, these I’ve mentioned have had some direct effects on health care.
It remains to be seen whether “Holy Women, Holy Men” will be approved in General Convention, or whether it might be approved with some changes. At the same time, these additional observances can offer some interesting possibilities. For Episcopal chaplains especially they might offer the opportunity to show in our various ministries how much history and interest the Episcopal Church has in contemporary health care. Certainly, this will be a topic of interest in this summer’s General Convention.