Tuesday, June 09, 2009

General Convention 2009: "Holy Women, Holy Men"

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.


Mary Sue said...

I have to share this comic because it's the only thing I can think of when I hear about Florence Nightengale these days. You have to watch out for us Marys, we're stubborn.

Marshall Scott said...

Mary Sue, thanks so much for this.

For those interested, there's more information here and here. The Wikipedia article notes that late in life she had become a Roman Catholic. Because she was a woman of the British Empire, if in a number of locations, I find myself curious whether she was Anglican, or perhaps Kirk of Scotland (as her father may have been).

It's a fascinating history, especially in light of the connections (of sorts) with Nightingale. Is anybody from Liturgy and Music aware of this?

Anonymous said...

Father, I'm out of place again. But my mother is reading a book about Florence Nightengale and a war and the book said she refused to associate with catholic nurses. Is that true.

Marshall Scott said...

Little Brother, you are not out of place. The question is appropriate to the comments above.

You know, I can't say for sure. Let me do a little research. That said, if your mother's book is non-fiction, or is fiction with a lot of research behind it, the book may be accurate. I'll just have to do some digging.

Anonymous said...


The book my mom is reading is fiction. The title is "The Rose of Sebastopal(sp?). The book says Florence Nigntengale was afraid the catholic nuns would give out catholic pamphlets, and urge her nurses not to associate with catholic nuns.

My dad, who is catholic, is not big on saints, at least catholic saints. He says they are chosen as saints because of what they do for the church not what they do for others. He says Saint Thomas More was really in to persecution and torture of heretics and really strange attitude toward physical love between men and women.And More is a saint just because he fefied the king. A little brother.

Marshall Scott said...

All right, Little Brother (and others): here is what I've found looking through some sites on the web.

The author at this page, an Episcopal historian, says of the 38 nurses that went with Florence to the Crimea that "10 were Roman Catholic nuns, 14 were Anglican nuns, and the remaining 14 were 'of no particular religion, unless one counts the worship of Bacchus.'" He also states that Florence was attracted to the Roman Catholic Church, but had sufficient differences so as to choose not to join. Note, too, that there was still significant discrimination in general in Great Britain against Roman Catholics socially and politically.

The author at this site points out that Kaiserwerth, a German hospital she visited and admired was founded by a Roman Catholic religious order.

The author at this site suggests that among the 38 nurses there were differences and perhaps arguments based on religion: "sectarian squabbling among the nurses, which Nightingale called the 'Protestant Howl' and the 'Roman Catholic Storm.'"

We might also note that Mary Seacole became a Roman Catholic some time after her encounters with Nightingale, and may have been sympathetic before. It's not impossible that religion might have been a difference between them. On the other hand, it seems more likely that the generalized prejudices about race were enough, and that the generalized prejudices about Roman Catholics might have added to tension, but wouldn't have changed things much.

Little Brother, look into the scholarship behind your mother's book, and see what that opinion is based on. From these three sites it doesn't look like she "refused to associate with Catholic nurses." However, that doesn't mean she didn't reflect the general prejudice against Roman Catholics that was common in the society she lived in.

Anonymous said...

I keep getting my "can" in trouble. My mom is a volunteer at a public library. She never finished the book I mentioned, but says it was really about the crimeon war. Florence Nightengale was a character in the book and it just mentioned in passing about the squabbles among the nurses. Mom was not being critical of Florence Nightengale.

This has been my debut(?), with one exception, in commenting on blogs. I had a blog of my own for a year and posted a lot, but said things I should not have and got threatened. So I'm off to a bad start, but will get better. I hope.

Marshall Scott said...

Well, this was fine. We've discussed elsewhere that some sites can get pretty rowdy. However, in most if comments relate to the topic being discussed and are respectful in tone the comments are acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Florence Nightingale died in South Street, Park Lane, London, on 13 August 1910 and is remembered on the anniversary of her death in the Church of England. That makes a lot more sense than making it some other day ... however convenient it may be to us.

Less confusing to me, certainly: I was ordained on the feast day of Florence Nightingale.

John Leech said...

Sorry about 'anonymous' signature above - lost track of a password.

(howls of derisive laughter, howls of derisive laughter)

But really if Florence Nightingale died 13 August why move her feast day to the 12th? or to May? or the convenient weekend nearest my birthday?

Marshall Scott said...

John, I presume her feast is on the 12th because we'd already established the 13th for Jeremy Taylor. Now, as to why move her any farther from the actual date of her death - I have no idea.

By the way, I understand this was discussed this morning in the legislative committee on Worship, and was passed. It will be sent to the Bishops first, and then to Deputies, if I recall correctly.

Unknown said...

I have been checking various options for episcopal calender selections. I need several dozen for my congregation.

Marshall Scott said...

John Marshall, you might want to see what happens at General Convention this summer. Holy Women, Holy Men has been subject of controversy these past six years, and there will be discussions again in Salt Lake City, unless I'm much mistaken. In the meantime, if you'll search on line there is a parish that has made the whole thing as currently approved (for trial use) on line.