In 1921 Fr. Larrabee, now 69 years of age, resigned his position as dean and president of Nashotah House and returned to the Ascension to serve the remaining three years of his life as associate priest. Throughout the period of his deanship (1909-1921) Fr. Larrabee had many times visited the Ascension to preach and celebrate Mass. Members of the Larrabee family continued to reside in Chicago while the former rector worked at Nashotah.
On the fourth Sunday after Easter, 1924, gravely ill with heart disease at St. Luke's Hospital, Fr. Larrabee reported to the rector: "I can no longer say my offices. My prayers are hardly more than ejaculations and repetitions of the Sacred Name. The time has come when I must rely upon others: Our Lord, first, then Blessed Mary and the Saints, and then all the faithful who are praying for me."
Following his illness and hospitalization of five weeks, Fr. Larrabee died on Friday evening, June 13, at 9:45. When he received the Last Sacraments at the beginning of the first of the two most serious phases of his illness, Fr. Larrabee remarked that it was the first time he had ever made a sick communion. "After that the Father received Holy Communion about every other day," wrote the rector. "Although he realized that he might receive Holy Communion at any time as Viaticum, yet he felt easier, as the result of a habit of a lifetime, to receive immediately after midnight before he had partaken of any other nourishment, which was given him during the night that, as always, the Lord's Body might be the first Food of the day."
Whitsunday of 1924 was the fortieth anniversary of Fr. Larrabee's coming to the Ascension as rector. When he received communion that day, he spoke of his anniversary. Last communion and extreme unction were administered on Wednesday, June 11, shortly before he entered a coma from which he did not recover. As the Blessed Sacrament was borne into the room, he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" His body, which lay in state at the Ascension in choir during the afternoon and evening of Monday, June 16, was visited by great numbers of persons. Throughout the day and early evening acolytes formed a guard of honor, and during the later evening and night, men of the parish maintained the watch.
A Solemn Requiem Mass, which followed the Burial Office and preceded the Absolution, was celebrated at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, June 17. The bishop suffragan of Chicago presided at the Mass, and the bishop of Milwaukee was also in the sanctuary. The bishop of Chicago, who was on his way to Europe, sent a message expressing his loving sympathy. The church was crowded into the street. Honorary pall bearers were chosen from priests of the diocese; active pall bearers, priests who had been students at Nashotah House during Fr. Larrabee's deanship, all sat in choir. Fifty vested priests were in the nave of the church and many other priests were scattered throughout the congregation. Fr. Stoskopf celebrated the Mass, assisted by Dean Ivins and Fr. Bowyer Stewart of Nashotah House. The choir sang the Missa Penitentialis. Fr. Larrabee's remains were interred in Graceland Cemetery near other deceased members of his family.
The bishop of Milwaukee wrote that neither in this country nor in England had he ever witnessed a tribute equal to the one accorded Fr. Larrabee. "I have never seen a large congregation so affected by the loss of any one. I do not wonder. He was a great pastor and a very holy priest."
A committee appointed by Bishop Griswold adopted the following memorial minute:
He was one of Dr. DeKoven's tenderly cherished spiritual sons, and, under that loving guidance, he gained the spirit of unswerving devotion to the truths that Jesus taught, that made him strong to meet the oppositions of prejudice, and to soften and conquer them with the weapons of gentleness and love. He lived what he taught, and he taught in love.
During all the forty-eight years of his ministry he stood unswervingly for the Faith, and he taught it clearly and fearlessly. Singleness of purpose, absolute integrity, and a transparent holiness of life, characterized him to a very unusual degree. Before all else he was a priest, and from him none of the many who sought his help turned away without receiving the wise counsel and the ghostly strength it was his to give.
A priest who had studied at Nashotah during Fr. Larrabee's deanship wrote: "I can recall now his position at the altar. No one I ever heard, could say or sing the Mass as he could. He lost himself in his character as a priest. That was the underlying theme of his entire course of study, the priesthood. So I will love to remember him. It was a blessing to know him but a far greater privilege to have been one of his pupils and to have come under his influence."
During his period of service at Nashotah, Dean Larrabee was responsible for nearly all aspects of the seminary's administration. His duties included the screening of applicants for admission, awarding of scholarships, assignment of rooms to students, adjudication of student discipline cases, publication of seminary bulletins and catalogs, scheduling of classes, preparation of reports to the Board of Trustees, employment of faculty members, solicitation of funds, and supervision of arrangements for maintenance of the seminary's buildings and grounds, as well as construction of new buildings.
Dean Larrabee's years at Nashotah were not without difficulties. During the construction of the original library building in 1910, the seminary's Lewis Hall and Cloisters were gutted by fire, a most serious loss. Although in 1911 both structures were rebuilt, in 1916 another devastating fire completely destroyed Bishop White Hall, the most prominent building on the Nashotah campus. A building named the "Turkey Roost" burned to the ground in 1919.
Letters written to Fr. Larrabee during the period 1913-1915, now contained in the Nashotah archives, refer to other problems which may have troubled the dean. A number of pieces of correspondence concern matters typically of minor aggravation to deans; they include, for example, appeals for the award of an honorary baccalaureate degree "in absentia" to a Japanese priest who had received no formal seminary training; strongly stated petitions for scholarship assistance; an insistent parental request for the early return home of a student to attend a family reunion; an impassioned appeal from the widow of a priest who had left his entire estate to Nashotah that Dean Larrabee might somehow help to have the will changed to name her, instead, as beneficiary; and a graduate's adamant objection to an alleged current rumor that in violation of house rules, he had secretly married during his senior year at Nashotah.
Other letters, however, suggest what may have been more serious matters of concern. A student dismissed from the seminary for disciplinary reasons, a complex case involving considerable "hearsay" evidence, complained bitterly and at length that he had been most unjustly treated and had experienced at the seminary a notable lack of "Christian charity." A letter from the dean of the Western Theological Seminary concerning the nomination of a professor at Nashotah to serve on the Western faculty, noted that three Nashotah students had requested transfer to Western to complete their studies with the professor. Mention was made of "internal conditions at Nashotah which may seem to be more or less connected with said nomination," presumably a reference to disagreements between the dean and some members of the faculty, a situation not uncommon in the highly politicized context of academic administration.
Whatever shortcomings may have characterized Edward Larrabee as disciplinarian and administrator, the accomplishments of his tenure as dean, a direct continuation of his ministry at the Ascension, are noteworthy. In his role as priest, Fr. Larrabee markedly influenced the developing vocations to the priesthood of many of his seminarians. Nashotah's preeminent emphasis on Catholic liturgical expression and spirituality are to a great extent the heritage of Dean Larrabee's years at the seminary.
Edward Larrabee, who had been addressed as "Father" at the Ascension, bore the title with him to the seminary, and for the first time the clergy-faculty at Nashotah were similarly addressed. Of far greater importance, reflecting his work at the Ascension, was Fr. Larrabee's attention to liturgical development. The Rev. Howard Baldwin St. George, reflecting on his 25 years as a professor at Nashotah, wrote that Dean Larrabee "... took infinite pains that the solemnities of the Mass (indeed, all solemnities) should be worked out with meticulous care, so that the service from the beginning to the end should move with that precision and smoothness which was due to the honor and glory of Almighty God, and which also would make articulate that devotion which it was intended to express."
The Rev. Francis W. G. Parker, O.H.C., another former student at Nashotah, wrote that "Dean Larrabee realized that while mere rules leave men cold, an ideal will receive enthusiastic support."
He set Christ, the ideal priest, before the students and strove first to follow Him himself. They saw him daily at the altar. It was the high-water mark of his day. It was there that he lost himself in his character of priest. He knew himself and was known, as a sharer in the priesthood of Jesus.
In the daily life at the House, he scarcely ever missed an office in chapel. In the morning the students saw him in the Sacrament chapel making his meditation. His example also drew many to say their private prayers in the same place.
The worship at Nashotah, always dignified became more like that of the parish of the Ascension. Solemn Mass on great feasts was a glorious thrill. All was reverent, joyous, and without fuss.
Following the Solemn Eucharist at Nashotah commencement exercises in the spring of 1928, a statue by the Florentine sculptor Angelo Lualdi, presented by the Larrabee family to commemorate Edward Larrabee's service as dean, was unveiled and dedicated. A procession formed of bishops, priests, and students marched from chapel to the cemetery where the memorial, erected on a slightly elevated knoll, overlooks the graves of many clergy and lay people closely associated with the history of the seminary. The imposing bronze crucifix, standing on a base of Travertine stone, is a figure in eucharistic vestments which "... represents Our Lord as great High Priest who has once for all made sacrifice for sin on Calvary and has permanently entered the Holy of Holies and eternally intercedes for the sins of the world."
Later in the year on St. Martin's Day, November 11, a statue of St. Michael, patron of the Church of the Ascension, was presented by the Guild of All Souls in memory of Fr. Larrabee, placed in the church and dedicated. For many years Fr. Larrabee had served as superior of the guild. The Ascension memorial was also executed by Mr. Lualdi, who had previously completed commissioned works for Washington's Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul and St. John's, Boston, the church of the Cowley fathers.
Five years earlier, in July, 1923, less than a year before his death, Fr. Larrabee had accompanied the rector of the Ascension to England to attend the Second Anglo-Catholic Congress. The congress was held in London just ninety years after the beginning of the Oxford Movement. On Tuesday, July 10, the first of three days the congress was in session, the Mass of the Holy Ghost was celebrated in St. Paul's Cathedral.
At 11:20 A.M. the procession of Bishops (among them being the Greek Archimandrite Pagonis and the Russian Metropolitan Eulogios) entered from the North-West Chapel. When the Bishops were seated in the sanctuary the procession of the Cathedral body entered, preceded by a verger and a cross bearer. At 11:30 the three Sacred Ministers entered vested in albs, amices, stoles, and white copes. Vested priests already occupied seats in the choir and under the dome. The music of the Mass was Palestrina's Aeterna Christi Munera. The sermon was preached by the Reverend Arthur Montford, Vicar of the Church of the Ascension, Lavender Hill, and Chairman of the Anglo-Catholic Congress Committee. The Bishop of Willesden, taking the place of the Bishop of London who could not be absent from the National Assembly then sitting, gave the Absolution and the Blessing.
Sessions of the congress were held in the Albert Hall, which was crowded to its utmost capacity; on each evening a session was conducted in the Queen's Hall, at which two papers and a concluding speech were given. Papers and addresses were delivered among others by the Rev. Fr. James Huntington, superior of the Order of the Holy Cross; the Rt. Rev. Charles Gore, sometime bishop of Oxford; the Rt. Rev. and Rt. Hon. A. F. Winnington-Ingram, lord bishop of London; and the Rev. Dr. Francis J. Hall, professor of dogmatic theology, General Theological Seminary, New York.
On the last day of the congress Requiem Masses were said by priest-members of the congress for the founders of the Oxford Movement. At the afternoon session His Beatitude Metropolitan Eulogios (Metropolitan of the Russian Church in Northern and Central Europe) addressed the members assembled, noting that the Russian Church ". . .has ever regarded with sisterly love your Movement which has reached such success, for already love and prayer unite you with us." At 8:00 P.M. the congress concluded with a service of thanksgiving in the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. A company of 15 bishops and 1,100 priests walked in procession from Suffolk Street to the church.
Standing among the 2,000 vested priests under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on July 10, Fr. Larrabee remarked to the rector: "I shall never see a gathering like this again." For Fr. Stoskopf the congress was a witness to the present and future victory of the Catholic movement in the Anglican Communion. "It betokened," wrote the rector, "the triumph under God of those Catholic principles to which Fr. Larrabee had dedicated his life."
He had been a quarter of a century in the lead of the slow moving Catholic army but now, in England, he saw that the whole trend of the Catholic Revival was in the direction of those very principles for which he had suffered in time past, when he won the battle for the shortened Mass, Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the Veneration of Our Lady and the Saints, and the Sacrament of Penance as an ordinary part of common Christian living. He saw that now all leading Catholics were heart and soul where he had been long years ago at the commencement of his Priesthood.
Triumphal notes were also sounded by the Third and Fourth Anglo-Catholic Congresses, attended by Fr. Stoskopf in 1927 and 1930. The Blessed Sacrament provided an appropriate theme for the 1927 London congress; at the time a proposed revised Church of England prayer book was the subject of considerable controversy. During July the rector was the house guest of Bishop Gore; in August he joined other members of the congress on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The Fourth Anglo-Catholic Congress of 1930, also conducted in London, had 27,000 members, 5,000 more than the number of individuals from throughout the Anglican Communion who had paid dues for membership in the 1927 congress. A Solemn High Mass at Stamford Bridge Athletic Field was described by an observer as "without a question, the most magnificent act of worship that the Anglican world has seen since the Reformation." Twenty thousand persons gathered in the great stands, and hundreds of priests as well as 11 bishops were present. At the conclusion of the Mass the Patriarch Meletios of Alexandria (the lineal spiritual descendant of St. Athanasius) gave his blessing from the altar.
July 5th was children's day at the congress. Of the 6,000 persons in attendance at Albert Hall, 600 children took part in a "Pageant of Youth." Entering the hall were 15 processions symbolic of Holy Mother Church, the Seven Sacraments, the Queen of Heaven and the Saints.
In they streamed, rank after rank, splendidly costumed in gorgeous color, with banners flying, crosses going before, while a hundred censers with their billows of incense smoke filled the hall up to its lofty dome with a blue and fragrant mist . . . Last of all came St. George in golden armour, with his attendant retinue. As he mounted the stage, the vast assemblage, old and young rose and sang, as they never sang before in their lives, William Blake's hymn, which is taught to the children in every school in England,
'I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.'
During the same decade that the great Anglo-Catholic congresses in London provided a focal point for the Catholic movement throughout the Anglican Communion, important convocations were held in the United States which celebrated and solidified Catholic belief and practice in the Episcopal Church. In successive years between 1925 and 1928, Fr. Stoskopf attended Catholic congresses conducted, respectively, in New Haven, Connecticut; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Albany, New York; and New York City.
At the Fourth Catholic Congress of 1928, Fr. Stoskopf presented a major paper on "The Catholic and the Religious Life." The rector discussed the means by which the religious life strengthens the Catholic by witnessing to doctrinal orthodoxy, as well as Christian morality, discipline, and worship. With reference to Catholic discipline, Fr. Stoskopf noted that laymen influenced by ideals of the religious life "are not Mass missers, priest baiters, non-fasting and unabsolved communicants, or polygamists under the guise of remarriage after divorce." Further, the religious life makes the clergy better priests. The religious ideal of clerical celibacy is hastening the day when the Church will realize
that her Catholic inheritance necessitates a reform of the undignified, unwise, and uncatholic practice which permits one in priest's orders. . . to be a courting, or still worse, a courted man . . . that a priest, if married, must be married before ordination, and that according to Catholic tradition, a priest is not a marriageable man.
By the mid-1920s priests and laymen associated with the Catholic movement in the Episcopal Church, influenced by the example of international and national congresses, had founded regional and local fellowships and associations to promote the objectives of the movement. Before 1924 an organization of Catholics was founded serving the First, Second, and Third Provinces; a Fellowship of Catholic Priests was established in Connecticut. The Church of the Ascension was the site of the earliest planning of a similar association of priests and laymen in Chicago.
In May, 1924, two meetings were held which led to the establishment of the Catholic Club of Chicago. A committee consisting of Fr. Stoskopf and five other priests sent out the call for a meeting which was held at the Ascension on the 15th to consider the best methods of carrying on the maintenance and defense of the Catholic Faith. Approximately 45 priests of the diocese attended, and discussion focused on the need for a fellowship which would create a Catholic consciousness among the laity.
At the beginning of May a call was also sent out by a committee at the Church of the Ascension asking all interested clergy and laymen to meet at the Ascension on the evening of May 22 to consider the organization of a Catholic Club for clergy and laity "for the advancement of the Catholic Faith and the association and instruction of Churchmen of Catholic principles." Plans and the call were initiated by laymen and preceded plans for the meeting of Chicago priests held the preceding week. At the meeting a resolution for the formation of a Catholic Club was adopted; a committee of four laymen and four priests (including Fr. Stoskopf), representing seven parishes, was appointed to make preliminary arrangements for a formal organization.
During the remaining years of the decade the Catholic Club held monthly week night meetings consisting of dinner, an address, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. On April 18, 1926, the club met at Calvary Church and was addressed by the Rt. Rev. Campbell Gray, bishop of Northern Indiana, on fundamental verities of the holy Faith. Bishop Philaretos of the Greek Orthodox Church was guest of honor at the club's meeting in December, 1927, at the Church of the Redeemer. An Orthodox priest and the lay editor of the Orthodox Archiepiscopal Magazine of North America each spoke, hailing the club as a vehicle for reunion and noting that unity might well center in the Blessed Sacrament, particularly in the service of Benediction, which provided an occasion for common worship of the exposed Majesty of God.
For Fr. Stoskopf and his congregation, the last half of the decade of the 1920s began as a period of great optimism and confidence in the future. Throughout the Anglican Communion, and particularly within the American Church and diocese of Chicago, the Catholic cause seemed firmly established. The City of Chicago shared in the nation's sense of thriving economic prosperity. At the Ascension serious consideration was given to ways by which the parish might expand to accommodate its growth, specifically to provide a convent to house the Sisters of St. Anne and additional space for parish activities.
In May, 1927, the rector announced that negotiations were under way to acquire a parcel of land extending 104 feet to the south of the church, which contained a factory building, a residential structure, and a building behind the residence which had once served as a coach house. He reported that the vestry and representatives of the parish outside the vestry had formed a committee to study terms of the purchase. According to Fr. Stoskopf, the committee viewed the opportunity of the property's acquisition as "the greatest that has ever been presented to this Parish for strengthening and increasing its Catholic work and various activities including the extension of the Faith and work among women, children, and people in general, particularly the poor."
Negotiations for the purchase of the property concluded the same year in October. Because terms of the contract required payment of $115,000, an amount far beyond the means of the parish, it was suggested that a drive under experienced management would produce more than the necessary sum. A firm specializing in fund raising was retained, and consultants were confident that as much as $250,000 could be raised. Encouraged by this possibility, the vestry committed itself to the acquisition of the property and signed a purchase agreement.
According to a plan developed by the vestry and consulting firm, the entire property would be turned over to the Father Larrabee Memorial Trust Foundation. Consultants wrote what was to have been a city-wide appeal for funds totalling $250,000. The appeal noted that the north building, renovated and furnished as a parish house, "will permit a great extension of the social work of the Church, particularly among the boys of the neighborhood." The south building will be devoted to use of the Sisters of St. Anne,
and the structure in the rear of this convent will, as quickly as funds permit, be converted into a large modern dormitory for homeless children under six years of age, regardless of their creed, race or previous location in the city. They will be sheltered for shorter or longer periods as may be necessary. Besides providing a home for the Sisters, the new convent itself will accommodate a number of children who will be taken in immediately.
The fund raising drive never materialized. The consultants and Chicago Association of Commerce were enthusiastic for the drive to begin, and only formal diocesan approval was required. However, Fr. Stoskopf and the vestry encountered what they viewed as entirely unexpected and unforeseeable opposition from high diocesan authorities which, according to treasurer C. R. Larrabee, amounted "almost to downright hostility." The attitude taken and the reasons given to the vestry "made it plain that all hope not only of the instant campaign but of any similar campaign must be abandoned, and that the Vestry would have to look solely to the Parish for the necessary funds."
Through 1929 attempts to lease the factory building and sell all or a part of the property on reasonable terms failed. At the end of the year the vestry determined that to meet financial requirements additional money would have to be borrowed, hopefully from within the parish. Parishioners were urged to purchase six percent notes, secured by a second mortgage on the property. Although in 1930 $6,000 was required to carry the newly acquired property, the entire amount came from building damages received from the city because of the widening of LaSalle Street. By 1932 carrying charges had become an item in the parish's regular annual budget.
The widening of LaSalle Street in 1930, which necessitated the reconstruction of the west wall of the church, provided benefits to the parish. In addition to reimbursing the carrying costs that year, the city's payment of building damages was sufficiently large to pay $35,000 in construction costs and provide all funds needed to have a new roof placed on the church, repair the sanctuary arch, and make alterations in the parish house at a cost of $7,000.
The construction project completed during the summer of 1930 was directed by the architectural firm of Armstrong, Furst, and Tilton, which had designed the Western Theological Seminary buildings in Evanston. John Tilton, son of the architect who had originally planned the church building, was in charge. The west wall of the church was removed and a new wall erected approximately three feet east of its previous location. The west entrance was eliminated and new entrances constructed on the north and south. The ten foot crucifix which formerly hung within the church was placed on the outside of the west wall. The words, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" were cut in stone above the crucifix, and a stone canopy was placed overhead. This arrangement was suggested to the rector by an exterior crucifix on a church in the Soho district of London, which Fr. Stoskopf had visited. Confessionals, previously located in the vestibule, were placed within the church. The organ, which was in the back of the church, was removed during reconstruction and reinstalled as work progressed. In addition, the factory building immediately south of the church was razed.
On the Feast of St. Lawrence, the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, August 10, 1930, a new cornerstone of the church was blessed before the sermon at High Mass. The clergy, acolytes, choir and congregation processed outside and grouped themselves in front of the stone, which was already set in its place. After the Form of Blessing of a Cornerstone from the Priest's Prayer Book, the stone was sprinkled with holy water and censed. A metal capsule within the stone, later sealed, contained the prayer book in use at the time (with a special flyleaf which omitted reference to "Protestant Episcopal Church"), a brief history of the parish, a list of communicants in good standing, and some photographs. The stone bears the inscription--A.M.D.G.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
To the greater glory of God
The old cornerstone with its inscription recut was placed nearby.
In 1931 the Church of the Ascension approached the fiftieth anniversary of the laying of the original cornerstone and seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the parish. Chicago with the entire nation had plunged into the great economic depression, with its disastrous consequences for millions of Americans. An appeal from E. L. Ryerson on behalf of the Joint Emergency Relief Fund was published in the October parish magazine. Mr. Ryerson pointed to the enormity of the crisis in Chicago and surrounding communities where 400,000 individuals, normally self-supporting, were now unemployed, many having had no employment for several months. With their resources exhausted, they and families dependent upon them were in dire distress.
Speaking of "holding the line for the Church in time of depression," Bishop George Craig Stewart urged his people to maintain financial support of the parish, the diocese, and the general Church; to forward social service work of the diocese through its institutions; and to make all possible contributions to the Joint Emergency Relief Fund. A pastoral letter adopted by the House of Bishops in April, 1932, noted that the Church was not a business institution, lessening its work when depression came. "When factories shut down, the Church must speed up; when business ebbs, the Church must be a flood tide; man's extremity is God's opportunity."
Suffering and distress are widespread. Underneath the surface there is an overwhelming spiritual need. Discouragement, disillusionment and despair must give way to courage, hope and faith. Our compassionate love goes out to all those who in unemployment, in anxiety, in fear, are the victims of a world which does not follow Christ.
The Church of the Ascension, by no means a wealthy parish, was not unaffected by the depression. Some parishioners became unemployed, and others lost considerable deposits in savings accounts of banks which failed, as well as securities and other investments which had become valueless. Contributions to the church declined and, in some cases, were discontinued altogether. By the spring of 1932 the parish was staggering under a crushing debt. The endowment fund had been considerably depleted, and approximately $75,000 was needed to pay off real estate indebtedness and rehabilitate the endowment fund.
Funds on account to meet regularly recurring parish obligations became so short that one month the treasurer was unable to supply the rector with his salary check. At a meeting of the vestry, Fr. Stoskopf in no uncertain terms berated vestry members, noting that they clearly held responsibility for temporal affairs of the parish, and were definitely accountable for providing somehow or other the resources for such minimal essentials as the rector's salary. During the following week, however, the treasurer received an "anonymous contribution" for exactly the amount required, a gift from Fr. Stoskopf to pay his own salary.
In 1929 the parish had celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rector's ordination to the priesthood and the twentieth anniversary of his rectorate at the Ascension. In March, 1932, as plans were being made for the golden and diamond jubilee celebration later in the year, word was received of the death of the Rev. Dr. Francis J. Hall. As noted, Francis Hall, the distinguished theologian, professor, and author at Western (later Seabury-Western) and General Theological Seminaries, received his earliest religious instruction at the Ascension during Canon Dorset's rectorate, and was the parish's first acolyte and a member of the first vested choir. A student of James DeKoven at Racine College, Dr. Hall completed his studies for the priesthood at the Western Theological Seminary, and the day after his ordination celebrated his first Eucharist at the Ascension early in Fr. Larrabee's rectorate. A close friend of Fr. Larrabee (and later of Fr. Stoskopf), Dr. Hall was present at the consecration of the church in 1896 and the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fr. Larrabee's ordination to the priesthood in 1902.
At the time of his death, Francis Hall's contributions were held in the highest regard. The Living Church commented that Dr. Hall "... was one of the greatest theologians that the American Church has yet produced. Moreover his clear, straightforward method of writing made his published works easily comprehensible despite the profundity of thought underlying the words. Dr. Hall has been an important factor in the intellectual growth of the Church in this country, and his published works will long remain as a witness and memorial to his life's work."
"Dr. Hall was the most distinguished son of the Church of the Ascension," wrote Fr. Stoskopf. "If the 75 years of life of the Church of the Ascension, a period almost exactly coincident with the life of Dr. Hall, had produced him alone, the existence of the parish would be justified by this fruitfulness."
Francis Hall's major accomplishment in his day, according to the Rev. William Haugaard, professor of Church history (Seabury-Western Theological Seminary), was to provide a singularly important Anglican adaptation of Thomist thought. Dr. Hall's works, which together constitute an Anglican Summa Theologica, represent an extraordinary achievement, unique in the history of the Church. (Ironically, this adaptation was in progress just as revised understandings of Thomist thought began to appear in the works of such twentieth century French scholars as Pierre Mandonnet, Etienne Gilson, and, later, Jacques Maritain.) Through the years scholars and general readers both within and outside the Episcopal Church have found much to admire in Dr. Hall's clear and precise exposition of traditional Catholic theology.
Because Hall's "Summa" was primarily the adaptation of another system, Dr. Haugaard continued, it had the disadvantage of neither confronting nor drawing upon any of the major creative theological strains of the early twentieth century. His system in effect by-passed consideration of such trends as growing Protestant liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, and Catholic modernism. He remained uninfluenced even by the liberal Catholic theology of Bishop Gore and his colleagues, current in Anglican circles during Dr. Hall's lifetime, which attempted to make the insights of Biblical criticism compatible with Catholic theology.
Few professors of theology today, Dr. Haugaard noted, view the corpus of Hall's work as a norm for theology. However, his contributions were of considerable historical interest and did, as The Living Church suggested in 1932, enhance the intellectual life of the Episcopal Church.
Commemorating the witness of Francis Hall's life, as well as the contributions of many others associated with the Ascension during the past 75 years, the parish celebrated its two anniversaries in October and November of 1932. On the first Sunday in October, which fell within the octave of St. Michael and All Angels, the High Mass was celebrated by the rector with Bishop Stewart pontificating and preaching. The Mass concluded with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament culminating in Benediction. At a jubilee dinner that afternoon Mrs. Newton Lull, a parishioner, recounted the laying of the cornerstone, at which she had been present in 1882. Fr. Stoskopf preached on fundamental verities of the Catholic Religion at Solemn Evensong and Benediction that evening.
The liturgical celebration of the diamond and silver jubilee concluded on the first Sunday in November, which fell within the octave of All Saints. The Rt. Rev. Reginald Weller, bishop of Fond du Lac, preached at the High Mass. The day was Bishop Weller's seventy-fifth birthday, and parishioners feted him with a birthday cake and reception following the Mass.
"It is tragic that our Jubilee coincides with the depression of 1932," the rector wrote earlier in the year. "However, we must turn the tragedy into a blessing." As noted, the parish needed $75,000, $1,000 for each year of the diamond jubilee.
This is a huge sum. Yes, but it is no larger than parishes without number have raised for the building of a new church. We inherit the blessings of a past generation in our splendid church buildings and it is the task of this generation to pay off our debts and to establish ourselves for the future with our entire property free from debt and our endowment funds brought back to normal.
Fr. Stoskopf would not discourage efforts to raise the funds needed by means of immediate contributions. But times were far from normal. While remembering the parish at Mass one morning, there occurred to him another way to secure the future which he intended to translate into reality.
What would you pledge for love to the parish and as an act of thanksgiving to Almighty God if you could take God into partnership with you for the restoration of your material prosperity? This year people have lost their jobs. Their income has been cut in some cases to less than one-tenth of what it was before. Their material prosperity has shrunk in proportion all along the line in income and in investments. Are you an optimist? Then certainly you can afford to be generous in the proportion of a future increase which you believe will eventually come. Are you a pessimist? Very well then, the signing of my pledge will cost you not one cent if prosperity does not return.
Members and friends of the parish were mailed pledge cards which read: "Out of this valley of depression as an act of faith in God, my Church, and my Country I hereby pledge to the Church of the Ascension, Chicago, in celebration of its Diamond and Golden Jubilee the sum of $____or____% of my future increase to be paid only when Almighty God has restored to me such a measure of material prosperity as I enjoyed three years ago. This is a solemn and conscientious undertaking of an anticipated Thanksgiving Offering."
During the great depression Fr. Stoskopf, independently wealthy from an inheritance, expressed his optimism concerning the future by making major investments in "blue chip" securities which in later years very greatly appreciated in value. At the same time that he pledged $5,000 in 1932, the rector reminded parishioners of a similar means of making a future pledge to benefit the parish.
Every Christian ought to make his will an important religious act. Practical heathens often begin such a document, 'In the Name of God. Amen.', and the Christian who so commences, or better, 'In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.' can perform a last act of worship of that God in Whose Faith he has been baptized and in Whose grace and mercy he has died, by leaving his goods, or at least a portion of them for the propagation of that same Holy Faith.
Fr. Stoskopf's will, the rector's own "last act of worship," and the will of his sister, Miss Alice Louise Stoskopf, provided exceedingly generous bequests, trust funds which since 1957 have been the parish's principal source of financial support.