SEPTEMBER Calendar of Deacon Saints
(based on Ormonde Plater’s Calendar of Deacon Saints)
Ammon, deacon and martyr in Thrace (now in southern Balkans), with forty young women he had converted, under the persecutions of Licinius (emperor 308-324), died 322.
Ammon was singled out and slain by having a red hot poker placed on his head.
Laetus, deacon and martyr, with Vincent of Xaintes (first bishop of Dax in Gascony, France), date of death unknown, perhaps 5th century.
Possibly born in Spain, they are venerated in Toledo.
Hilaria, deacon, daughter of bishop Remigius of Rheims in Frankish Gaul, died sixth century. In 530 Remigius left a bequest to “my blessed daughter, Hilaria the deacon.”
Phoebe of Cenchreae, deacon, died about 64.
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [διάκονον] of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well” (NRSV Romans 16:1-2).
Cenchreae was the eastern seaport of the city of Corinth and a popular stop for people traveling from Syria or Asia Minor. A prominent member of the church at Cenchreae, Phoebe was Paul’s ambassador or minister plenipotentiary, bringing his letter to the church at Rome.
Four centuries later, John Chrysostom praised Phoebe’s work for the church as an inspiration and model for both men and women to imitate. He called her a saint—a holy person and a woman who served the church through the office of deacon. Today Phoebe is honored as the prototype for women deacons just as Stephen is the prototype for men deacons. The name Phoebe means “bright” or “radiant”; Apollo and Diana, gods of the sun and moon, were often referred to as “Phoebos” and “Phoebe.” The Orthodox church in Cenchreae (now the small village of Κεχριές) is named St. Phoebe the Deacon.
Memorius, deacon and martyr of Tricassium or Tricassae, Troyes in present-day France, with companions, beheaded by Attila the Hun in 451.
Also called Mesmin or Nemorius, Memorius was sent by Lupus (Loup, meaning Wolf), bishop of Tricassium, with four companions to ask Attila to spare the city, on the Seine river northeast of Paris. Attila beheaded Memorius and his fellow delegates. Although there is some doubt about this account, the relics of the martyrs are still venerated. (Tricassium is derived from “Tricasses,” the name of a local tribe of Gauls.)
Lonnie Herring, deacon and prison minister, died 9 September 2011.
Born 22 July 1937 and ordained 18 February 1996, Lonnie Lee Herring was a member of the first class of deacons in the diocese of Mississippi. He served in several small parishes in the Mississippi Delta, but his main ministry was with the inmates at the state prison at Parchman. He was the strength behind the Kairos prison ministry in Mississippi.
Ann Pew, deaconess of Philadelphia and St. Louis, died 14 September 1932.
Born in 1867, Hannah Annie Pew grew up in Burlington, New Jersey. She graduated from the Philadelphia School for Deaconesses in 1899 and was set apart by Bishop Ozi W. Whitaker of Pennsylvania. After five years working in Philadelphia, in October 1905 she came to St. Louis as the deaconess in charge of new settlement house work. She ran Holy Cross House in St. Louis from 1906 to 1912. An article in the diocesan Church News in 1912 stated:
“During the six years that Deaconess Anne was in charge of Holy Cross House she was everything to the people except their Bishop. Not only Deaconess, which I suppose means the feminine of ‘servant,’ but also their pastor, which must mean their shepherdess, for she watched over needs spiritual as carefully as ay commissioned pastor could do . . . she filled all the functions of a minister if not of a priest.”
Deaconess Anne raised the money needed to provide social services. The diocesan article continued: “For outside her salary, guaranteed to her by the Church Woman’s Club, she had no money to run the Mission which she herself did not raise.” She funded Holy Cross by setting up an early 20th century version of a boutique.
“The store was a weekly affair. Its less successful kindred are called rummage sales. But they are sporadic and of questionable benefit to purchasers, while these [Deaconess Anne’s] were regular sales and of undoubted good to those who were fortunate enough to get excellent things at the small price at which the Deaconess, Caesar-like in her authority, sold them.”
Deaconess Anne worked tirelessly for the church and for the neighborhood she loved, but her work took a toll on her health. In 1912 she underwent an operation (type unknown), and “her health would not permit her to live in St. Louis and be ‘our Deaconess’ any longer.” In ill health she moved to California to recover. After a couple of years, she returned to Philadelphia, where she worked and lived for the rest of her life. In 1923 ill health again forced her to retire.
Deaconess Anne House, in the same neighborhood of St. Louis, is a new work of the Episcopal Service Corps and the Diocese of Missouri, named after Deaconess Anne Pew. [research of Deacon Mark Sluss]
Deaconess Margaret Henderson (1950 – 14th September 2010)
Margaret attended the Methodist Training College and Bible School in Brisbane, Australia, and was ordained in 1976 at the Albert St Methodist (Uniting) Church. She was in ministry for 35 years in many locations around Queensland.
Emilas, deacon and martyr, with Jeremiah, at Córdoba in Spain in 852.
The two young men were imprisoned and beheaded in Córdoba under the Emir Abderrahman. They are two of the forty-eight Martyrs of Córdoba, described in detail by Eulogius. They were executed for capital violations of Muslim law in al-Andalus. The martyrdoms took place between 851 and 859. With few exceptions, the Christians invited execution by publicly stating their faith and beliefs. Some appeared before the Muslim authorities to denounce Mohammed; others,
Christian children of Islamic-Christian marriages, publicly proclaimed their Christianity. The lack of an interested chronicler after Eulogius’ own martyrdom in 859 has given the false impression that there were fewer episodes later in the ninth century.
Abundantius, deacon and martyr of Rome, arrested with presbyter Abundius for refusing to offer sacrifice to Hercules, tortured at Mammartine prison in Rome, and martyred by beheading, with Abundius and senator Marcian and his son John, in the persecution of Diocletian (emperor 284-305) about 304.
Susanna, deacon and martyr, adult convert, martyred at Eleutheropolis in Palestine in 362.
Susanna grew up in Palestine as the daughter of Arthemius, a rich pagan priest, and Martha, a Hebrew woman. After their deaths, she was baptized as a Christian, freed her slaves, gave her property to the poor, and decided to live as an ascetic. She cropped her hair, put on male clothing, took the name John, and presented herself at a men’s monastery in Jerusalem. The monks assumed she was a eunuch and accepted her.
Still disguised, Susanna eventually became superior of the community. After twenty years in the monastery, a visiting nun fell in love with her and tried to win her affections. When this failed, the nun accused Susanna of seducing her. The local bishop, Kleopas of Eleutheropolis, was called in with two deaconesses. Susanna revealed her gender to the deaconesses, and her name was cleared. The bishop was impressed with Susanna and brought her back to his cathedral. He ordained her a deaconess and appointed her abbess of a convent. She served as spiritual elder for many years, served the poor, extended hospitality, and prayed for the healing of many.
During the persecution of Julian the Apostate (emperor 355-363) she was arrested by the prefect Alexander and tortured for refusing to offer sacrifices to pagan gods. When her torturers realized that they could not break her faith, they threw her into prison, where she died from her wounds and lack of food. (Eleutheropolis, Greek for “city of the free,” was a Roman city on the ancient road from Jerusalem to Gaza.)
Thyrsus of Smyrna, deacon and martyr, with presbyter Andochius and merchant Felix, tortured and killed in Gaul in the second century.
Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna sent Andochius and Thyrsus to what is now Burgundy in central France. They settled in Augustodunun (now Autun), where they converted their host, a rich merchant named Felix. For teaching the gospel, all three were scourged, suspended all day by their hands (tied behind their backs), and thrown into the fire, but the fire did not consume them. Finally their necks were broken with heavy bars, killing them. They were venerated throughout Gaul.
Anna E. B. Alexander, deaconess and African-American teacher in the diocese of Georgia, died 24 September 1947.
Born about 1865, Anna Alexander was the first African-American set apart as a deaconess in the Episcopal Church. She worked in rural southeast Georgia, in an area known as Pennick, in Glynn County, a community of former slaves and poor whites. In the 1890s near Darien, she founded first the Church of the Good Shepherd and then a school. There she taught young boys and girls to read—according to legend, from the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible—in a one-room schoolhouse, which was later expanded to two rooms with a loft where she lived.
She ministered in Pennick for 53 years, being consecrated deaconess in 1907. As part of her work in Glynn County, she helped make camps possible for young white members of the diocese, and they responded by building a cabin in her honor. The diocese segregated its black and white congregations in 1907, and the African-American congregations were not invited to another diocesan convention until 1947, the year of her death.
Thomas Clarkson, deacon, English campaigner for abolition of slavery and the slave trade, died 26 September 1846.
Thomas Clarkson was born in Wisbech, in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, in 1760. He was educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and was afterwards ordained deacon. In 1785 Cambridge University held an essay competition with the title: “Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?” Clarkson had not considered the matter before, but after carrying out considerable research on the subject he submitted his essay. Clarkson won first prize and was asked to read his essay to the University Senate.
On his way home to London he had a spiritual experience. He later described how he had “a direct revelation from God ordering me to devote my life to abolishing the trade.” Clarkson contacted Granville Sharp, who had already started a campaign to end the slave trade. In 1787 Clarkson and Sharp formed the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Of the twelve members on the committee, nine were Quakers. Influential figures such as John Wesley and Josiah Wedgwood gave their support to the campaign. Later they persuaded William Wilberforce, MP for Hull, to be their spokesman in the House of Commons.
Clarkson was given the responsibility of collecting information to support the abolition of the slave trade. This included interviewing 20,000 sailors and obtaining equipment used on the slave ships such as iron handcuffs, leg shackles, thumb screws, instruments for forcing open slaves’ jaws, and branding irons. In 1787 he published his pamphlet, A Summary View of the Slave Trade and of the Probable Consequences of Its Abolition. Clarkson was a brilliant writer, and Jane Austen, who completely disagreed with his views on slavery, was so impressed with his writing style that she claimed after reading one of his books that she was “in love with its author.”
After the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, Clarkson published his book History of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade. Clarkson was not satisfied with the measures passed by Parliament and joined with Thomas Fowell Buxton to form the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery. Clarkson had to wait until 1833 before Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom. Clarkson retired to Ipswich, Suffolk, where he died on 26 September 1846.