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William McGarvey and the Open Pulpit
An Intimate History of a Celibate Movement in the Episcopal Church,
and of Its Collapse, 1870-1908.

By Edward Hawks
Priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1935.

Chapter 17. Rehoboth, Delaware

DIRECTLY AFTER the closing service at St. Elizabeth's Church the Companions left Philadelphia for Rehoboth, a small seaside town in Delaware. Here they had engaged a house for the summer months, hoping to avoid all unpleasant curiosity. Fortunately the Paulist Fathers then sent their novices here for the long vacation, and there was the certainty of having daily Mass in the small frame church. It was also a place of retreat for the Sisters of St. Francis who were engaged in hospitals in Philadelphia. It is probable that it was the Sisters in St. Agnes Hospital, near St. Elizabeth's Church, who suggested the thought of the renting of this house. When the seminary closed, Bourne and I were invited to join the others. We were a large family. We kept up our religious life and the suggestion that we were "sporting with sports," as The Living Church informed its readers, was rather ridiculous. Rehoboth was; in fact, a very dreary place to all except those who sought fresh air and sunlight. We enjoyed it. It was the first time that the ideals of the C. S. S. S. were able to be fully realized. We were left quite alone, save for the occasional visit of a priest from Philadelphia, sent by Archbishop Ryan to see that we were not in need of anything.

On the Monday following the departure from St. Elizabeth's Church, McGarvey waited upon the Archbishop and arranged with him for the reception of the converts into the Church. The date set for the ceremony was 27 May, the eve of the feast of the Ascension. There were seven candidates: McGarvey, Cowl, Hay ward and McClellan of St. Elizabeth's; Bowles and Gromoll of Chicago; and Edgar Cowan, a curate of Dr. Mortimer, who was a member of the C. S. S. S., but had never belonged to the Community. It was proposed by Archbishop Ryan that we should all be sent to Rome to study for the priesthood. McGarvey, who had a dread of being anywhere outside of Philadelphia, begged that we might be kept at Overbrook, which was destined to become our future place of training for the Catholic priesthood.

Before the day set for the reception McGarvey received the following letter from Archbishop Ireland, which I cannot refrain from quoting:

Rev. Dear Sir,

During a brief stay in the East I have heard and read of your journeyings of mind and heart toward the fullness of Christian light and truth, and cannot refrain--unknown as I am to you--from writing to you and to your companions a word of sympathy and encouragement. I readily understand the depth of the sacrifices you are making and the perplexities of soul into which you may be thrown by the newness of your present situation.

The heroism which so far has inspired your movements, the richness of divine grace which the Almighty is vouchsafing to you will, beyond doubt, lead you onward to a happy issue, however cloudladen the sky above you may appear for the time being.

Permit me to say that as a member of the Catholic hierarchy I stand ready to do anything in my power to assist any of your friends in shaping out their future if any help from me--in counsel or in act--happens to be desired.

Praying God to bless and guide you and your friends, I am Very sincerely,


Archbishop of St. Paul.

I return to St. Paul to-day, 13 May, 1908.

There was one amusing incident which took place before the ceremony of reception into the Catholic Church. Archbishop Ryan made careful inquiries of each candidate as to his previous baptism. He pointed out that it was not permissible to perform even a conditional rite without there being a substantial reason for doing so. In most cases the converts had been baptized by Low churchmen, whose disbelief in sacramental regeneration might make a careless administration of the sacred ceremony a possibility. There were only two cases which presented any difficulty. Hayward had been christened by his own father, a High churchman. He was very anxious to receive conditional baptism, to which Archbishop Ryan was quite averse. His ingenuity was called upon to find any reason for his wish. It was at last decided that he might have received the waters of regeneration on his hair instead of his skin; it being presumed that his father might not have been aware that there was a theological doubt in such a case. On the other hand, Bowles had no reason to offer that would justify a conditional baptism. He was quite satisfied and preferred to receive none. When Archbishop Ryan discovered that he had been christened as a child by the famous Bishop Cheney, who left the Episcopal Church as a protest against baptismal regeneration, it became a question whether he should not be baptized absolutely. This little incident is characteristic of the two men.

Bourne and I were not present at the reception and the confirmation that followed; the rules of the seminary would not permit of our taking part. We were soon to be united with our old friends again when the holidays began.

At Rehoboth we led a busy life, for our correspondence was very great.1 McGarvey's second tract was published and had been sent to every minister of the Episcopal Church and to many laymen who might be interested. We met with denunciations from some and sympathy from others. After Fay's reception there were no more clerical conversions for some months. On the other hand a large number of lay people were received into the Church especially in Philadelphia. Father Doran was gathering a harvest of souls; and his position as a curate in a church close to St. Elizabeth's gave him a great opportunity.

On 8 July we received the news that Mother Edith, Superior of the Sisters of St. Mary at Peekskill, had left there for Philadelphia, and had gone to Archbishop Ryan seeking admission into the Catholic Church. McGarvey was requested to come to Philadelphia at once. He took me as his companion. At the old rectory of the Cathedral we learned the details of a remarkable story. Mother Edith had arrived in secular clothes in great distress. She had managed to slip away to the railway station during the confusion which followed her announcement to the Community that she was about to leave. Archbishop Ryan had taken her at once to Cornwells and placed her in the care of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. She was there now and wished to see McGarvey. Accompanied by the Archbishop, and his secretary, Father Kavanagh, we all went to the convent. We found her much distressed, and alarmed by the fact that two of the Sisters from Peekskill were at that moment in another room waiting to see her and to implore her to return. She was much embarrassed by her lay attire, her head being covered with a black silk scarf. Miss Edith Pardee had been superior of the convent at Peekskill for twenty-five years. Before that she had been in charge of Kemper Hall, Kenosha, Wisconsin, for ten years. She was therefore no longer young, and the strain of breaking so long a life in the cloister was very great. Before we left she felt strong enough to see the sisters and to tell them that if they could not live without her, as they asserted, then they must all do as she had done. These sisters had brought her some little presents; it was remarkable that one of them should have been a Catholic prayer-book. We stayed with her and Mother Katharine Drexel, superior and foundress of the convent at Cornwells, for several hours and then returned with the Archbishop. During the next few years we were often to be the guests of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Bourne and I said one of our first Masses there. Before that happy day, and during the first week of the year 1909, all of the Companions, now students at Overbrook, were present at the religious reception of Mother Edith and Sister Eliza, one of the several members of her former community who followed her into the Church. Sister Edith, as she was now called, outlived McGarvey, and became a useful member of her new association. Before her death she was made superior of the convent at Rockcastle, Virginia.

Although it is not my desire to draw especial attention to the number of the converts of 1908, it may be well to record their names. Bourne and I were received into the Church on 20 February; the Rev. James B. Haslam, once a member of the Companions, was received on 1 March. He studied for a time with the Paulists and on their finding him ill-adapted to their life, he returned to the Episcopal Church, and afterward entered the estate of matrimony. A little later the Rev. Henry Yost, Rector of the Episcopal Church at Roxborough, Philadelphia, made his submission. He is at present a professor at the Catholic High School in Philadelphia, having decided not to enter the priesthood. During Lent a number of Nashotah students became Catholics, to whom reference has already been made. At Easter the conversion of the Rev. John G. Ewens (now a member of the Congregation of the Missions) was announced. At the same time the Rev. Russell Wilbur made his submission in St. Louis. He studied in Rome, and as a priest of the diocese of St. Louis he is known as a brilliant preacher and writer. To these may be added the names of two Companions who became Catholics, and priests a little later: the Rev. James S. Raker, at one time an instructor at Nashotah, and the Rev. Charles Meyer, who had been private secretary of Dr. Barry. It is a great happiness to make still another addition. The Rev. Selden Delany became a Catholic in 1930. The private secretary of Bishop Webb, the Rev. Louis Small, although not a Companion, was so closely associated with us all at Nashotah that his conversion, sometime after 1908, ought to be mentioned here. There were a few others of the Percival-McGarvey circle who never entered the Catholic Church. Most of them are now dead. Some of them renounced their "Catholic" ideals. With the death of Bishop Webb, 15 January, 1933, the Percival movement may be said to have come to an end.

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