What’s in a name? Fortunately for Harriet Bedell, this contest won’t be decided by the number of letters in one’s name. In this category Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereshewsky would not only win 30 to 13 but he’d run the entire Lent Madness table. Two fascinating stories, two amazingly saintly lives, yet only one will move on to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.
In yesterday’s Lent Madness action, despite a late charge by old man Simeon, Phillips Brooks defeated him 52% to 48% and will face Catherine of Siena in the next round.
Enjoy today’s penultimate first round match-up and don’t forget to watch the latest edition of Monday Madness. We guarantee it will make your Tuesday even more like a Monday (it’s a Lent thing).
Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky was born to Jewish parents in Lithuania in 1831, and his early life and studies were designed with the intention that he be ordained to the rabbinate. After studies at the Rabbinical College in Zhitomeer, Russia, he moved to Breslau, Germany for two further years of graduate study. It was there that, under the influence of missionaries, and after his own reading of a Hebrew translation of the New Testament, Schereschewsky became a Christian. In 1854, he emigrated to the United States, settling in Pittsburgh. There he entered the Western Theological Seminary, with plans to seek ordination in the Presbyterian Church. After two years in Pittsburgh, he became an Episcopalian. He enrolled at The General Theological Seminary in New York City as a candidate for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Maryland. He completed his studies there in 1859 and was ordained deacon that year, and priest the next.
In response to a great need for missionaries in China, Schereschewsky continued to wander the globe, this time boarding the ship Golden Rule and moving to China in 1859. Already very talented at learning foreign languages, he taught himself Mandarin during his voyage in order to further his missionary work. The time after he landed was extraordinarily productive–by 1865, Schereschewsky had translated the Psalms and the bulk of The Book of Common Prayer into Mandarin Chinese; from 1865 to 1873, he translated the entirety of the Old Testament.
In 1875, Channing Moore Williams, who had been the Bishop for Japan and China, was assigned to Japan alone. Schereschewsky was elected as the new Bishop of Shanghai, but he declined, not trusting himself to be fit for the office. In 1877, he was elected again, and this time he accepted and was consecrated. While bishop, he founded Saint John’s University and began yet another Bible translation, this time into Wenli, the local dialect.
After developing Parkinson’s disease, he resigned his See in 1883. He remained dedicated to his translation work, even after becoming almost fully paralyzed, and typed the last 2,000 pages with the one finger he could still move. He moved to Tokyo in 1897, where he died in 1906.
Collect for Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky
O God, in your providence you called Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and sent him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his inﬁrmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land. Lead us, we pray, to commit our lives and talents to you, in the conﬁdence that when you give your servants any work to do, you also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Born in Buffalo, New York in 1875, Harriet Bedell first trained to be a schoolteacher, but her life’s work was not to be contained in a classroom. When she was thirty years old, she attended a lecture given by a missionary to China. Soon after she attended the Episcopal Training School for Deaconesses in New York City, a one-year program where she learned about religion, teaching, mission, hygiene, and nursing. Her mother balked at an overseas posting, so in 1907 Bedell accepted an assignment to serve as a missionary-teacher among the Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne) people at the Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma. She served in Oklahoma for nine years until the mission closed. She was then called to work with the Gwich’in people in Stevens Village, Alaska. She was finally made a deaconess there in 1922.
However, Alaska was not to be her life’s work. In the depths of the Great Depression, funds were scarce to run the boarding school she had helped to found. She returned to New York in 1931 to plead for funds, but the school was closed and she never returned to Alaska. One door was shut, but another would soon open.
On a speaking tour in Florida, Bedell visited a Seminole Indian reservation. Appalled by the living conditions, she wasted no time, moving right in to the Blade Cross Mission, where she lived for the next thirty years. She encouraged tribal members to revive many traditional crafts to sell in the mission store. Her friendship with the Seminole people won their respect, and her faithful witness contributed to the improvement in their quality of life. She continued to serve until Hurricane Donna destroyed the mission in 1960. She died in 1969.
Bedell’s ministry placed value on health, education, and spiritual comfort over religious conversion. Once, when asked to speak at a Seminole funeral, she translated Psalm 23: “The Great Spirit watches over all of us. He feeds us and leads us to the waters of comfort. When we walk in the shadow of death, we need fear no bad things. The love and mercy of the Great Spirit will be with us all our lives and we will always be welcome in the Great Chickee.”
Such was her verve and passion for life and work, the Rev. Howard V. Harper wrote in his essay, “Always Welcome in the Great Chickee” that Bedell “played all of life in the Key of C Major.”
Collect for Harriet Bedell
Holy God, you chose your faithful servant Harriet Bedell to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary among indigenous peoples: Fill us with compassion and respect for all people, and empower us for the work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Joseph Schereschewsky vs. Harriet Bedell
- Harriet Bedell (63%, 3,089 Votes)
- Joseph Schereschewsky (37%, 1,841 Votes)
Total Voters: 4,929