History, photos and stories of these unsung heroes of the Church
In the Episcopal Church, Deaconesses were faith-filled women who were the early pioneers of servant ministry. Being "set apart" as a deaconess was one of the few ways women could serve the Church in the years before the ordination of women.
It's been recorded that four deaconesses were ordained by Bp. William Whittingham of Maryland in September, 1857. At the time, women in the USA were not ordained as deacons. In 1970, the last of some 500 deaconesses were ordained. That same year, when General Convention voted to allow women to be ordained as deacons, the deaconesses were automatically included in this group.
Episcopal Deaconesses Feast Day - September 22
General Convention 2022 passed Resolution A008, authorizing this commemoration for trial use for the triennium 2021-2024; in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.
The Episcopal deaconess movement describes a ministry of women who were set apart for service by their bishops, beginning in 1857 and ending with the ordination of women as deacons, authorized by General Convention in 1970.
Episcopal deaconesses joined a wider, multi-denominational movement that began in Europe in the 19th century. Read the full text.
A listing of Deaconess Commemorations can be found on the Sisters in Faith website. Compiled by Deacon Patricia Marks.
IN THE NEWS
Sister Priscilla, the Last Deaconess, Still Active at 87
The Living Church, March 2022
Sister Priscilla is the last of the deaconesses. Referring to the friends of St. Paul, she joked “Phoebe and Lydia were in the class before me.” In 1962, she studied at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, now known as Bexley Seabury Seminary, for her training as a deaconess.
We share the sad news that Sister Priscilla "slipped into eternity" on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. The Sisters of the Transfiguration mourn her passing, as do many of us.
Procession of Deaconess candidates, NYC, 1914
Know of a deaconess we've missed? Please contact Deacon Anne, webmaster.