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Deaconess for China Set Apart at Cathedral in New York

By Elizabeth McCracken

From The Living Church, February 3, 1946

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008

A congregation unusual even in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine assembled on January 25th, in St. Ansgarius' Chapel of the cathedral, for the setting apart of Miss Evelyn May Ashcroft as a deaconess. Not only the several officiants and the candidate, but also the members of the congregation, represented the Church overseas.

Miss Ashcroft was a missionary in the district of Shanghai at the outbreak of the war between China and Japan. She was transferred to the Philippine Islands, to work in All Saints' School, Bontoc. After Pearl Harbor, she was interned by the Japanese with the other Americans first in Baguio and then in Bilibid Prison, Manila. With the others in Bilibid, she was rescued by General MacArthur last spring.

Miss Ashcroft felt the call to the diaconate of women while in Baguio internment camp. She studied for the examinations required by canon 50 then and there. At the time when she was ready to take the examinations, the men and women of the camp were separated by a barbed wire fence. Bishop Wilner, Suffragan of the Philippines, and the Rev. Wayland S. Mandell and the Rev. Clifford E. Barry Nobes, members of the standing committee, gave her the examinations, across the barrier.

Bishop Roberts of Shanghai, now back in China, asked Bishop Manning of New York to act for him in the setting apart of Miss Ashcroft. Bishop Gilbert, acting for Bishop Manning, was the officiant at the beautiful and impressive service on January 26th. The Rev. Dr. F. L. Hawks Pott, president emeritus of St. John's University, Shanghai, presented the candidate. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Canon Sparks of the cathedral. At the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the celebrant was the Rev. Canon James Green of the cathedral. Fr. Nobel read the Epistle and Fr. Mandell the Gospel. The Bidding Prayer was read by the Rev. Dr. Charles N. Shepard, warden of the New York Training School for Deaconesses and Other Church Workers. The boys of the cathedral choir sang. Among those present in the congregation were Dr. John W. Wood; the Rev. Raymond Abbitt, who was interned for the duration of the war in the Philippines; Mrs. Musher, widow of the late Bishop Mosher of the Philippine Islands; Deaconess Kate Sibley Shaw, Deaconess Elsie W. Riebe, Miss Nellie McKim, Miss Elda Smith, Miss Marian E. Davis, and Miss Elizabeth Falck, all missionaries in the Orient.

After the service, the congregation were guests of the New York Training School for Deaconesses, at St Faith's House, to luncheon. Deaconess Ashcroft has been living and studying at St. Faith's since October. She leaves soon for Shanghai, to take up her work there under Bishop Roberts.

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