During the first decade of the twentieth century, parish life continued largely unchanged from the earlier years of Fr. Larrabee's rectorate. Daily Masses were celebrated on weekdays. At the Solemn High Mass on Sunday only the celebrant communicated. A choir of men and boys sang full Mass settings accompanied by an organ and, on great feast days, by an orchestra of string and wind instruments. Fr. Larrabee placed strong emphasis on Christian education, and the parish Sunday school thrived. Other organizations involved parishioners in educational and charitable activities as well as service to the parish.
Services conducted during Lent and Easter of 1900 illustrate the fully developed liturgical life of the parish at the turn of the century. On Ash Wednesday Low Masses were celebrated at 7 o'clock and 9:30 in the morning, with Matins and Litany said at 10:15. A Solemn Mass with imposition of ashes was celebrated at 11:00 followed by an address to children at 4:30 in the afternoon and Vespers and sermon at 8:00.
The regular Sunday schedule during Lent included Low Mass at 8 o'clock, Sunday school at 9:30, and a children's Mass celebrated at 10:00 followed by Solemn Mass and sermon at 11:00. The day concluded with Vespers at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Throughout the Lenten season special afternoon addresses were delivered at 4:30 daily on exercises of religion (Mondays); the Church (Tuesdays); the parish (Wednesdays); and the Sacrament of the Altar (Thursdays). On Monday evenings special illustrated addresses were delivered to children. Benediction with an address on the Passion was scheduled each Friday evening at 8:00. On Saturdays confessions were heard 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon and from 7:30-9:00 in the evening.
On Maundy Thursday morning the 7:00 Mass was followed by a procession to the repository and a day of silent adoration and prayer. Benediction was conducted at 8:00 in the evening.
The commemoration of Good Friday began with Stations of the Cross at 7:00 A.M., repeated at 9:00 A.M. for the children. The 11:00 Mass of the Presanctified was preceded by Matins and Litany. A three hours devotion was conducted at noon, followed by Evensong at 3:30. Easter morning Masses were celebrated at 6:00, 7:00, and 8:00. An 11:00 Solemn High Mass was preceded by the regularly scheduled children's Mass at 10:00. Solemn Vespers at 4:00 was followed by a presentation of children's carols and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
At the Solemn High Mass celebrated each Christmas and Easter, more persons were in attendance than could possibly be accommodated in the church. Prior to several of these feast days, tickets were issued to parishioners, assuring them priority seating. Consistent with his interpretation of the canons, and in order to maintain an accurate record of communicants in good standing, Fr. Larrabee regularly asked each parishioner to complete and return to him a card containing a record of the church at which the parishioner received communion on Easter Day.
Father Larrabee emphasized throughout his rectorate the primary importance of regular and frequent attendance at Mass. Each great feast day occasioned an additional special obligation to attend. Prior to Ascension Day, 1906, the rector wrote to his parishioners that it was "imperative that every man, woman, and child in the Parish shall manage in some way to attend at least one of the services." Boys in the choir were excused from school to participate in the High Mass. After Ascension Day the following year he further wrote that "it is always a cause of regret that so many of our people are positively debarred from the late Mass on great Feasts that fall on working days. But many others, some by dint of extraordinary efforts, were able to be present, and were happy and thankful to have taken part in so appropriate a service on this triumphant Festival."
The chapel remained open each day from the hour of Mass in the morning until after Evensong. This provided each parishioner, the rector noted, with "daily opportunity of visiting the Blessed Sacrament and offering prayer before the Sacred Presence."
During the first decade of the century music which accompanied worship at the Church of the Ascension was widely known for its beauty and general excellence. Newspaper accounts of liturgies contain frequent references to vocal and instrumental music. Typical of these was an article in the Times Herald which described a Solemn Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of President William McKinley celebrated at the church on September 18, 1901:
A faint, sad prelude from Schumann's Mass was played by the organist. Then the strains of the music became louder and more impressive as the choir of fifty sweet-faced boys followed the crossbearer to the altar. They wore black and white gowns and as they approached the altar each boy knelt a moment before taking his accustomed place. Six candles burned on the altar, and six more were carried by members of the choir. There were also incense bearers. Then the music softened to a sobbing tone and the choir voice of a boy soprano sang of hope beyond this world . . . Suppressed weeping could be heard throughout the edifice and men were not ashamed of tears they shed for a President dead . . . The organist played another selection from the music and the fresh voices of the choir chanted a hymn for the burial of the dead . . . The service closed with the singing of the hymn, "Nearer, My God, to Thee."
At each Solemn High Mass the choir sang Mass settings in Greek and Latin, including complete presentations of the Kyrie Eleison, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. By far the most popular and frequently presented setting was Gounod's "St. Cecilia" Mass. Other settings included those composed by Mozart, Dvorak, Weber, and Guilmant. Representative of music which the choir presented on high feast days was the program of music sung by the choir, assisted by organ and orchestra, on Easter Day, 1900:
Prelude Third Sonata Mendelssohn
Solemn Procession "Hail Festival Day"
Offertorium "God hath appointed a day" Tours
The Mass "St. Cecilia" Gounod
Recessional "Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem"
Postlude "Fantastic Triumphale" Dubois
In 1905 the choir consisted of thirty-one boys and nine men. Both the organist and choirmaster were paid salaries by the vestry. Although the choir was a voluntary organization, certain boys received small remunerations for perfect attendance. The choirmaster had little difficulty recruiting boys for the choir; however, men interested in serving as choir members were often in short supply. The full choir rehearsed once weekly, on Friday evening. Boys attended additional rehearsals which were scheduled on Tuesday afternoon, Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon. In 1906 at Michaelmas medals were awarded to the two boys of the choir "best in reverence, deportment, and proficiency in music." Separate presentations were made of gold (rector's) and silver (choirmaster's) medals.
A choir military band, organized in 1905 by members and ex-members of the choir, had 33 active members in January, 1906. The purpose of the band was to create an interest in the choir among the new boys and to hold the older boys together until their voices became sufficiently settled to let them resume their work in choir as members.
Choirboys participated in an annual, popular summer "encampment" which for several years was conducted at Pine Lake, Indiana, near LaPorte. Each year the choir organized and presented a major fund-raising event to finance the summer encampment program. In May of 1900, for example, the considerably augmented choir presented a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance at the Lincoln Cycling Club. A list of patronesses of the production included the wives of Bishop McLaren and the Rt. Rev. Charles Palmerston Anderson (who had been consecrated early in the year to serve as coadjutor). A Journal reviewer commented:
The opera proved a success even beyond the expectation of its friends. A very well trained orchestra of 16 pieces and a chorus of 65 voices were features seldom found in an amateur performance and the work of the principals was thoroughly enjoyable.
In 1901 the choir presented Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. The fund-raising program in 1902 was a "Japanese evening entertainment" consisting of a dinner followed by musical selections which included Neil's "Rendition of a Japanese Lullaby," Sullivan's "Three Little Maids from School," and "Japanese Love Song" by Gaynor.
The rector paid a weekend visit to the encampment in August, 1906. Arriving at the choir camp late Friday afternoon, he found the boys "on a beautiful little lake, their tents, seven in number, nestling beneath a thickly wooded bluff, and close to the water's edge . . . The bugle sounded for supper immediately, and it was a sight to cheer any man's heart to look down the long table at 25 bright-eyed, clean-skinned, sun-browned boys whose faces gave evidence of the success of the outing."
A bugle announced reveille the next morning at 6:30. At 7:30, following breakfast, the bugle sounded "church call" at which time the boys, assembled in front of their tents, joined in prayers and sang a hymn together. Each morning members of the choir military band practiced. Swimming and other recreational activities consumed the boys' time during the day. After supper at 5:30, "all amuse themselves as they please, finally gathering around the camp fire, while the stars come out overhead."
In June, 1908, Father Larrabee announced to the parish that it would no longer be necessary to conduct fund-raising events on behalf of the summer choir encampment. As The Living Church had noted in its issue of July 22, 1905, the Church of the Ascension had been named a beneficiary of the will of Pedro C. Lorado and was in receipt of 163 acres of land in South Dakota and several thousand dollars specifically designated for the choir. Mr. Lorado, Spanish by birth and descent, had attended the Ascension for many years while remaining a member of the Roman Catholic Church. The legacy of Pedro Lorado, over $5,000, was invested and the interest from the amount supported encampments after 1908.
Choirboys, as well as all other children and youth of the parish, were viewed by Fr. Larrabee as very significant members of the Ascension community. In a sermon delivered on March 8, 1903, and subsequently reprinted in the Tribune, the rector observed that "I know not how the things we love and cherish are to be perpetuated unless they are taught by Christian men and women to their children."
For Fr. Larrabee, Christian education provided by the parish had the important purpose of teaching children the fundamentals of scripture, tradition and practice necessary for an understanding of the Catholic Faith. In 1905, parishioners, also keenly interested in education, served as superintendent, treasurer-director of music, and organist of the parish Sunday school. Others taught the two senior classes (St. Paul and St. Mary), three middle classes (Guardian Angel, St. Ignatius, and St. Michael), two elementary classes (Good Shepherd and St. Agnes) and one primary class (Holy Innocents). In 1906-1907 the academic year consisted of a Christmas Term (September 30-December 30) and an Easter Term (January 6-May 26). Textbooks were provided for the various grades, and scholars who completed satisfactory work were advanced to higher levels.
An equally important instrument of Christian education, the rector believed, was the children's Mass, celebrated each Sunday at the conclusion of Sunday school classes and before the Solemn High Mass. Addressing a Sunday school conference at the Church of the Redeemer on October 7, 1903, Fr. Larrabee spoke of the children's Eucharist as a valuable component of the Sunday school work carried on in his parish. A teacher present from a different parish, who had received her training at the Ascension, commented that the children's Eucharist was the most vivid recollection of her childhood.
In addition to boys who served as choir members and acolytes, girls also contributed to liturgies at the Ascension. To complete the parish's 1903 celebration of the patronal Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, a service of Benediction was conducted in the evening. Choir, acolytes and sacred ministers participated in a solemn procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Initiating a practice which continued in the years to come, 20 young girls from the Sunday school, in white dresses and veils, carried flowers which they scattered while marching before the procession.
Although the choir and Sunday school were important institutions in the life of the Ascension, other parish organizations functioned during the concluding years of Fr. Larrabee's rectorate. In 1905 the Women's Guild enlisted ladies of the parish who were willing to devote a portion of their time to parish aid work. The guild met each Friday after the 9:30 Mass. A Women's Auxiliary met once monthly. Members of the Altar Guild prepared the altar for Mass each day of the week. A Committee for St. Luke's Hospital collected linens and second-hand clothing which were contributed to the hospital. The Girls' Friendly Society had an active chapter at the Ascension. A group of mothers met regularly to discuss common problems.
The parish's chapter of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament held a devotional meeting in the afternoon of the second Sunday of each month. The rector and several members of the parish were also members of the Guild of All Souls, which held yearly Chicago-area meetings at the Church of the Ascension and elsewhere in the diocese throughout the decade. Fr. Larrabee played a prominent leadership role in the Chicago organization of guild members.
The size of the congregation remained relatively constant during the period 1900-1909. A report of the Diocesan Convention of 1900 indicated that the parish consisted of 94 families and 82 other individuals, a total of 500 persons. The parish's 1909 convention report noted 107 families, 195 additional individuals, and again a total of 500 parishioners. In the year preceding the 1909 convention 164 Masses had been celebrated on Sundays and 535 on weekdays. In addition to 757 other services conducted at the church, the clergy had heard 687 confessions.
During the first decade of the century, the Church of the Ascension was the site of three events of major importance to the parish. In 1902 the parish and diocese celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rector's ordination to the priesthood. Priests from the Holy Cross and Benedictine religious communities conducted a two-week mission in 1906. The parish's jubilee was commemorated in 1907.
Thursday, June 2, 1902, the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fr. Larrabee's ordination to the priesthood, marked a watershed in the history of the Church of the Ascension. Bishop McLaren presided and three other bishops (the bishop of Quincy and the bishop and bishop coadjutor of Fond du Lac) were in attendance along with 65 priests and approximately 500 laymen. The choir of 35 boys and men was accompanied by organ and reinforced by a special orchestra of 12 pieces.
During the Solemn High Mass, which began at 11:00 A.M. and concluded at 2:00 P.M., Bishop McLaren preached on the exalted position of the priesthood of the Catholic Church. Parish historian Henry Ranney described the liturgy:
The ceremonies at the time of the consecration bordered on the sublime. The sacred ministers and the master of ceremonies in their festal vestments, bishops vested in their copes and mitres, a score of prominent ecclesiastics and priests in the marks of their office, five thurifers and a dozen torchbearers all gathered about the high altar while the celebrant pronounced in hushed tones the most sacred words of the Mass ... A Solemn Te Deum was sung, after which the bishops, clergy, inferior and sacred ministers filed out to the music of Gloria in Excelsis from Mozart's Twelfth Mass.
A luncheon followed at the Lincoln Cycling Club. Toasts were proposed and addresses delivered by Bishop Anderson (representing Bishop McLaren); Bishops Grafton, Weller, and Taylor; as well as Mr. F. C. Morehouse, editor of The Living Church. The Rev. Professor Hall of the Western Theological Seminary spoke on the history of the parish.
Speakers that afternoon referred to the excellent qualities of Fr. Larrabee's pastoral work, highly appreciated by parishioners and widely recognized outside the Ascension. It is likely, however, that only a few of the many persons present were aware of the rector's generous financial support of the parish. Fr. Larrabee regularly tithed one-third of his annual salary of $3,000 back to the parish; he also paid one-half of his assistant's annual salary of $600. (In 1898 the vestry was unable to pay the rector his salary and issued him instead a $3,000 promissory note, which was repaid in 1909.)
The Living Church published a lengthy account of the anniversary celebration. An editorial noted that the occasion was not only a tribute to the personal worth of the person honored, but also evidence that the day had long passed when leaders of the Catholic revival were suspected of disloyalty. Many may differ with them, but expressed differences were no longer the occasion for distrust and invective.
The editorial also viewed the celebration as witness to the almost unprecedented harmony between Churchmen, particularly clergy, in the city of Chicago. It was doubtful, the editorial suggested, that there was another instance in the American Church where such complete cordiality existed between those of all shades of intellectual conviction as was found in Chicago.
The clergy of Chicago, in their unbroken unity and fellowship, present such an example to the clergy of other cities and communities in the American Church as might well be emulated. This is itself a happy testimonial to the statesmanlike administration of the beloved Diocesan which began in bitter strife more than 26 years ago, but which long since took upon itself the present prevailing characteristics. Nor has the tactful courtesy of the rector of the Ascension, himself the senior of the rectors now in service, been a small factor in producing this result.
The high regard of clergy and laity throughout the diocese for Fr. Larrabee was noted in an article in The Living Church reporting the Diocesan Convention of 1904, at which delegates were elected to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. "A special feature of the election for General Convention was the large vote for the Rev. E. A. Larrabee, who is now senior of all Chicago rectors. On the first ballot, he received 66 out of 76 clerical and 30 out of 38 lay votes, being much more than were given to any other churchman."
In January and February of 1906, as the parish approached its jubilee and Fr. Larrabee neared the end of his tenure as rector, a two-week mission was conducted at the Ascension by the Rev. James Huntington, O.H.C., and by the Rev. Herbert Parrish, O.S.B. The mission presented, in Fr. Larrabee's view, an exceedingly valuable opportunity for the spiritual renewal of parishioners as well as an occasion for reaching out to influence beneficially the lives of persons not previously in contact with the Church.
[James Huntington, founder of the first religious order for men in the Episcopal Church, was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1880. After serving briefly a mission congregation of German and English garment workers outside of Syracuse, New York, Fr. Huntington, joined by two colleagues, became associated with the parish of the Holy Cross in New York City and began a ministry among German immigrant residents of tenements on the East Side of New York. This ministry of 11 years was characterized by an active concern for social reform.
[With the approval of Bishop Potter of New York, members of the newly-founded community wore a distinctive habit; observed the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; and ordered their time in accord with a rule of regular prayer and meditation. On November 25, 1884, Bishop Potter received the final vows of Fr. Huntington at a ceremony also attended by the Rev. Arthur Ritchie, who had been rector of St. Ignatius Church since May. Fr. Huntington was the sole member of the order until the profession of Fr. Sturges Allen in 1888.
[In 1892 the two professed members of the order and one novice, abandoning their work with the poor of New York's East Side, moved to Westminster, Maryland. In 1904 the six members of the Order of the Holy Cross and several novices moved to the order's current home in West Park, New York. At the time of Fr. Huntington's death in 1935, the order had 21 professed members and two novices.]
The first two missions at the Ascension had been conducted by Cowley fathers in 1870 and 1877 during the rectorates, respectively, of Canon Dorset and Fr. Ritchie. Writing with reference to the second mission, Fr. Larrabee noted that, "Many still look back to this Mission of the Fathers of St. John the Evangelist and date from it their first full knowledge of the Catholic Faith, and of the Sacramental Life." A mission in 1886, two years after Fr. Larrabee's appointment as rector, had been conducted by a Dr. Mortimer and Fr. Sword. As noted, during Passiontide, 1898, Fr. Dolling presented not a mission in its technical sense, but a series of afternoon addresses and evening sermons as well as additional sermons on Good Friday and Easter.
The old familiar definition of a mission, wrote the rector, is that it is "an extraordinary effort to reach souls." Parish routines have a somewhat dulling effect, and occasionally it is desirable to have a decided change from ordinary methods. A mission effects this change. Ordinary activities are for a time suspended while day after day for two weeks, focus is entirely on "the spiritual welfare of the Parish, the Community." Fr. Larrabee described the mission as "a systematic effort."
It is all carefully planned. It is a spiritual campaign. The great principles of the Catholic religion are reviewed. New current objections to the Faith are dealt with. Catholic doctrine is presented not piecemeal but as a complete whole. Each truth is seen in the light of another. Day after day the beauty of God's plan for man is impressed upon the mind and heart. The instructions, sermons, addresses are arranged in series, so that the line of teaching taken up on the first day is continued at the same hour on all succeeding days of the Mission. Thus a succession of sledgehammer blows are struck, with cumulative force as the Mission proceeds.
Although Fr. Larrabee made no mention of "evangelization," the term clearly refers to an important objective of the mission. Urging parishioners to tell other people about the mission and encourage them to attend, he wrote that "many, many souls, perhaps not themselves knowing why they are unhappy, are really longing for those helps which a mission affords. Let it not be our fault that our friends do not hear that the mission has something for them."
The rector urged parishioners to treat strangers to the Ascension attending the mission with openness and warmth:
This Mission is not for ourselves alone, but for others. We must, as a Parish, make strangers feel at home. Many church people acquire a kind of stiffness and reserve which seriously interferes in their winning other people. Few of us are free from it. At the cost of a great effort, if need be, let us get rid of it. We do not need to preserve the freezing decorum of church manners during a Mission. Let us unbend. We must try to get near the people during the Mission and make it easy for them to understand us ... May we make good use of the opportunity and thereby win strangers to love the Parish Church, and encourage them in getting all possible good from the Mission.
In preparation for the mission, cards containing prayers of special intention were placed in church and chapel pews, and the congregation was asked to pray for the mission's success. The rector requested contributions to help defray expenses associated with the mission, and 5,000 brochures advertising the event were printed and widely distributed.
The mission opened on Wednesday, January 24, 1906. On each weekday until the closing of the mission on Wednesday, February 7, morning Masses were celebrated at 6:30, 7:00 (with short address), and at 9:30 (with instruction or address). The children's mission was conducted at 4:00 P.M., and the 7:45 mission service included a sermon and instruction. On Sundays regularly scheduled Masses were celebrated in the mornings. The children's mission at 3:00 was followed by a 4:00 address to men, 5:00 Vespers and Benediction, and a 7:45 mission service. Special addresses to women were given on weekday afternoons.
Attendance varied considerably. At some times the church was filled, and at other times few attended. At the early weekday Masses the average daily attendance was 48. The women's addresses were very well attended, and between 80 and 90 children participated in the children's mission each day.
Fr. Larrabee viewed the children's mission as an outstanding success. The missioners used the "French catechetical method of St. Sulpice," and the interest of boys and girls from the beginning to the end of the two weeks was exceedingly high. The children heard instructions and sermons; by the conclusion of the mission they had learned, and could recite perfectly, 55 exact answers concerning questions of faith. In addition, many volunteered carefully prepared "diligences" or compositions on the topic of the previous day's instruction.
Persons gathered for the concluding night's service solemnly renewed the vows of baptism. "No one could have observed the joy too deep for words," wrote Fr. Larrabee, "in those who afterwards in the chapel knelt before the Mission Priests for their personal blessing and not have been assured that seed had been sown which was to bear lasting fruit."
How such a season of instructions fills one with renewed wonder and gratitude for that marvelous plan devised by the Almighty and All-Merciful God for our salvation! What a glorious heritage is ours in the Faith and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church! How reasonable, how beautiful, how worthy of love it all is! Thus encouraged and strengthened shall we not as a people throw ourselves loyally and earnestly into the work not only of living out that religion ourselves, but in ever-increasing boldness in witnessing to its claims, ever-enlarging love in winning others to share it with us.
[According to his biographer, Vida Dutton Scudder, Fr. Huntington conducted numerous retreats and missions throughout the United States. No one who heard Fr. Huntington, she commented, "could fail to recognize a man who lived in the immediate Presence of God, or to realize the earnest exposition of Christian experience, the penetrating, yet sweeping exposition of the Mysteries of religion. Listening, one never thought of the form of the addresses; they were direct, sometimes almost too ample, outpourings of a consecrated mind and heart."]
With the mission concluded, the parish turned its attention to the forthcoming jubilee of 1907. Reminiscent of festivities associated with the 1902 anniversary of the rector's ordination, a Solemn High Mass was celebrated at 10:30 A.M. on Thursday, October 7, a day which fell within the octave of the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.
Communions were made by the faithful at 6, 7, 8, and 9 o'clock. The congregation present at the principal Eucharist came by invitation; tickets had been issued to those whom the rector felt had prior claim to attend. Bishop Anderson (diocesan since the death of Bishop McLaren in 1905) presided. Also in attendance were Bishops Webb of Milwaukee, Osborne of Springfield, and Weller, coadjutor of Fond du Lac. Sixty priests from the diocese and elsewhere were present. The choir, augmented by the organ and orchestra, again sang the Gounod "St. Cecilia" Mass setting. Fr. Larrabee was celebrant; Fr. James E. Craig, the rector's assistant, was subdeacon; and the Rev. George Craig Stewart, rector of St. Luke's, Evanston, served as subdeacon.
Bishop Anderson chose as the text for his sermon St. John 18:36: "My kingdom is not of this world." In his paraphrase of the sermon, Fr. Larrabee noted that the bishop dealt with various historical schools of thought in the Anglican Communion, pointing out both elements of good and weaknesses associated with the Evangelical, Broad, and High Church parties. The bishop asserted that men who were identified with work which was the logical development of the Oxford Movement must hold high ideals of the kingdom of God, but at the same time must be men of their age, aware of signs of the times.
Speaking with some feeling of hesitation, as upon a matter which, perhaps, he had not sufficiently thought out, the failure which might threaten such work today would probably lie in ignorance or forgetfulness of race characteristics and the peculiar requirements of each national church.
Speaking of the high ideals which informed the Church of the Ascension, the bishop drew by way of contrast a picture of the slovenly condition of many churches a hundred or even fifty years ago. Such a picture, he said, might be called abnormal, but it was not at all unusual. "If, on the other hand, it might be said that the services of this parish were abnormal, he thought that no devout Churchman today would hesitate as to which of the conditions, the one of defect, the other perhaps of excess, was to be preferred."
Meanwhile, the bishop continued, both within the Anglican Communion and outside her pale, the work of ritual reform proceeded. Of the Church of the Ascension it could surely be said that it took the supernatural things of the kingdom of God at their face value. "It pared down no doctrine, it explained away no Sacrament. Its work in the diocese and in the Church at large had been to assert the supernatural side of religion, to stand up for that which was 'unearthly,' and in what he said for himself, he felt safe in saying for the Clergy and the Diocese, that for every such good work he and they alike wished the Parish of Ascension God-speed."
With the jubilee celebration concluded, the Ascension continued in its fifty-first year with the usual festal Solemn High Masses celebrated at Christmas, 1907, and Easter, 1908. During the summer of 1908, as had been his custom in previous summers, Fr. Larrabee divided his time between Nashotah and the Ascension, returning to Chicago each weekend to hear confessions. A priest at Nashotah had put at Fr. Larrabee's disposal a house for the rector's use during the summer. The house was located just within the mission domain and contained an oratory on the second floor with altar, accessories necessary for saying Mass, and vestments. "It means everything to a Priest's vacation," wrote Fr. Larrabee, "to be able to maintain his daily Mass and begin the day as at home, with offering of the Holy Sacrifice."
Fr. Larrabee's associations with Nashotah had for many years been close. In addition to residing in the community during summer vacations, he served as a member of the seminary's Board of Trustees. Given these close associations, his long rectorship at a prominent urban parish, and leadership in the Catholic movement, it is perhaps not surprising that in the spring of 1909 Fr. Larrabee was offered the position of dean of Nashotah. He accepted and late in the summer of 1909 began a very difficult period of administrative service.
In August of 1909, however, as Fr. Larrabee prepared to leave the Ascension, he wrote to his parishioners that a few days after they read his message, his rectorate would be ended. He could not preach a farewell sermon.
There are too many memories, too many associations. They run through well nigh a generation. They are entwined with many lives, and enshrined in the recesses of the heart, where they may not without violence be disturbed. They are almost entirely concerned with holy things. Words can add nothing to them. They live, and will live on, through the same indwelling of God's Holy Spirit, and the same working of His grace which gave them birth.
Fr. Larrabee became dean of Nashotah at the time of a crisis which struck the Catholic movement in the Episcopal Church. During the period 1892-1907 a very close connection existed between Nashotah and the Companions of the Holy Saviour, an organization of priests centered at St. Elizabeth's Church, Philadelphia, whose members observed a strict rule involving the saying of daily offices, regular meditation and study, and regular sacramental confession. During the early nineteen hundreds the Companions became increasingly dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church, saw reunion with the Roman Catholic Church as a necessity, and hoped for the formation of a uniate body under obedience to the Roman Church.
In 1906 William Walter Webb, a member of the Companions who had served as president of Nashotah since 1892, was succeeded by Joseph G. H. Barry, dean of the Fond du Lac cathedral. Considerable friction developed between Fr. Barry and the Companion group, which hoped to sustain its influence at the seminary.
The General Convention of 1907, which adopted an "open pulpit" canon, provided the occasion for the secession of several priests and members of religious orders to Rome in 1907-1908. The 21 secessionists included two priests who taught in the preparatory department at Nashotah, a professor and five seminarians at Nashotah, all but one of the priests at St. Elizabeth's, the mother superior of the Sisters of St. Mary, and all members of the Franciscan community at Graymoor.
The difficulties which Fr. Larrabee encountered as dean at Nashotah were noted by the Church historian George E. DeMille, who reported that "... under Edward Larrabee, a saint, but neither administrator nor disciplinarian, a period of near-anarchy ensued."
Attending his successor's installation at Ascension in November, 1909, Fr. Larrabee heard Bishop Anderson comment on what was the single most significant characteristic of the former rector's ministry at the Ascension:
His splendid success in shaping the parish was not due alone to executive ability, nor to his eloquence, nor to his graciousness of manner--though he had all these qualities--so much as it was due to the fact that you, my dear people, were convinced that he loved you and had a deep interest in your personal, spiritual welfare. Now, that is the key of the proper relationship between priest and people.