Florence Li Tim-Oi vs. Enmegahbowh

Hey, it's the final battle of the week and the second matchup of the Saintly Sixteen! Today Florence Li Tim-Oi faces Enmegahbowh.

Yesterday, Joanna the Myrrhbearer soundly defeated Augustine 65% to 35% to become the first saintly soul to reach the Elate Eight.

Oh, and if you're looking to refresh your knowledge by re-reading the first round information? Go to the Brackets tab and scroll down. Right underneath the updated bracket, you'll find links to all the earlier matchups.

Have a great weekend full of Lenten life, and we'll see you bright and early Monday morning as Bertha of Kent faces Edmund.

Vote now!

Florence Li Tim-Oi

Florence Li Tim-Oi had five brothers and two sisters. Her family lacked the resources to continue her education past age 14, but she resumed her studies at age 21 and finished at age 27. That’s determination!

Upon her baptism into the Anglican church, she took the name Florence because she was born in May, a month of flowers and blooms. Florence means I blossom, I flower, I flourish. Yeah, she did! She also chose it because of Florence Nightingale, which you probably remember from her bio. Both Florences felt a call from God - Nightingale to help through medical care and Li through spiritual care.

After hearing a priest issue a call in his sermon at the ordination of an English deaconess where a call for someone to step forward to be a Chinese deaconess, Li Tim-Oi knelt and prayed, “God, would you like to send me?” Call heard and received!

Li Tim-Oi served in the Portuguese colony of Macau as a deacon. One of the war refugees records this about Deacon Li: “Life in Macau at this time was not easy. We were very short of food and sometimes were unable to find any. Miss Li visited us and managed to bring us a little rice and dried beans and we could make soup. She also visited others who needed help.” Inspired by Deacon Li Tim-Oi, two of the brothers became priests in South Africa after the war. Not one, but two!

She visited a middle school in Macau, resulting in seventy-two girls asking to prepare for baptism. Her bishop reportedly said: “No other man pastor has yet had that experience in the Anglican Church in South China, but she is not primarily an evangelist; she is a quiet, competent, and sympathetic pastor.” It sounds like evangelism to me!

Reverend Li could not practice her priesthood for thirty years for political reasons. Someone asked her how she sustained her faith during that time. She said, “I just went up the mountain and nobody knew.” Nobody but God!

Even though Reverend Li suffered multiple indignities and hardships, she kept her focus on those she served. Ted Scott, the Primate of Canada, said: “She was never bitter, never harbored any resentment against those who caused her suffering. She had the resources to forgive all that had been done to her.” Reverend Li said this about herself: “I am just an earthen vessel with God’s treasure inside me.” She also said: “I know I’m not a diamond. Beautiful diamonds experience many cuttings and polishing.” Raw diamonds are beautiful!

After Reverend Li’s death, her sister Rita provided initial funding for  the Li Tim-OI Foundation, which “exists to  empower Christian women as agents of change within their own cultures.” More than 250 women are ordained priests, and many others live out their calls as social workers, teachers, legal advisors, diocesan secretaries, and many other service careers that people need. Amen!

Miriam Willard McKenney


When Methodists abandoned missions in Minnesota in 1840, Enmegahbowh had what the Rev. Jackie Bernacchi, who currently pastors the churches he later helped found on the White Earth Reservation, describes as his “Jonah” moment.

Enmegahbowh, who was Ottawa, had been working with the Methodists as a missionary and interpreter and said they had “failed to meet the wants of the Indians and failed to secure a single convert.”

Discouraged and missing his parents back in Ontario, he boarded a ship home with his wife Biwabikogizigokwe (also known as Charlotte), who was Ojibwe, and perhaps two children.

The ship encountered high winds, and the captain turned back.

“I believe, as I believe in God, that we are the cause of almost perishing in the deep waters. I believe that although poor, God wanted you to do something for our dying people,” his wife told him, according to Verne Pickering and Stephen Schaitsberger’s book, “Stands Before His People: Enmegahbowh and the Ojibwe.

Enmegahbowh agreed, but couldn’t imagine he could have success where “white missionaries with means, education, experience” had failed.

“To be recognized by my Heavenly Father and to be impeded on my journey to the rising sun, I am too small! Too poor! It is impossible!” he wrote.

The couple set out again for Canada. This time, their ship encountered a storm, and, Bernacchi said, Enmegahbowh had a “mystical sort of experience with Jonah, who kind of accusingly said, ‘Are you going to do what I did?’”

The wayward biblical prophet Jonah appeared to Enmegahbowh, telling him, “Ah, my friend Enmegahbowh, I know you.”

After telling Enmegahbowh he was doing the exact thing he had by running from the people God told him to serve – and cracking, “There is no whale in this lake, no fish big enough for your huge body” – Jonah tells him to repent.

“God is great. He knows of your every step. He governs the elements of the world and He has sent this wind to tell you that you cannot escape his notice. … May the Great Spirit pardon you and bring you to dry land,” Jonah said.

Enmegahbowh took the vision to heart and, without being cast overboard and swallowed by a fish like Jonah, decided to return to Minnesota and to the Ojibwe people.

He went on to become the first Indigenous deacon in the Episcopal Church and, later, its first Indigenous priest, remaining with the people when they were forcibly relocated to the White Earth Reservation and translating hymns that continue to play an important role in the culture and preservation of the Ojibwe language.

The ship went on to sink less than a month later.

— Emily McFarlan Miller


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68 comments on “Florence Li Tim-Oi vs. Enmegahbowh”

  1. Both are worthy candidates to win this round, and to even go on to The Golden Halo, but I'm moved by today's eloquent write-up for Enmegahbowh. So, he gets my vote.

  2. I cast my vote for Florence Li Tim Oh and all the quiet, competent, and sympathetic pastors and evangelists who have faithfully ministered as agents of change against the odds.

  3. Enmegahbowh gets my vote today. Florence is certainly worthy and will probably win. However, E’s message resonated with me today more than Florence’s.

  4. I identify with Enmegahbowh, having several times when I prepared for one path, but heeded God's guidance another way. His life helps others to be open to the call of God.

  5. Florence’s bio omitted the fact that she was ordained priest at a time when there was no other woman priest in the Anglican communion. After the war she was shunned by the Anglicans until the church recognized that women could be ordained.

    1. Florence's write-up in the first round covered her being the first woman ordained so long before general ordination was available for women. (Desperate times call for desperate measures.) I usually have to go back to the originals to refresh my memory before I vote.

    2. I believe that part of her bio was in the first round write up. I liked her quiet persistence to do the next right thing in God’s name.

  6. Florence was the first female priest and ‘Em first indigenous priest. Both served and supported their people. Too bad there can’t be a tie! They both deserve to win

  7. If yesterday's match-up was a cakewalk, today's is a walk on a tightrope. I want to vote for both of these wonderful examples of faith and fortitude, but alas.....

    I ended up voting for Florence, but it wasn't an easy choice because Enmegahbowh also deserves the halo. Maybe next year?

  8. Both saintly stories are so well-told today! Thank you, Lent Madness writers!
    While I’d love to see a photo of his hymnal translated into Ojibwe in the upcoming rounds, I’m going with The Rev Florence for my sainted grandmother of the same name.

  9. Li Tim-Oi’s story has inspired me so much in my own journey as a priest. Her humility and willingness to wait for God’s time is an inspiration!

  10. It's the Jonah story that got me--the one I cited when my Commission on Ministry asked "why a deacon?". Because God has consequences for those who turn away from His direct call, consider Jonah. And then, I also want to see us all struggle with spelling "Enmegahbowh" correctly. Both wonderful, hard choice.

  11. Did God really intend for the Church to serve as an instrument of imperialism, genocide, and cultural holocaust? I know that Emnegahbowh personally was none of these things--and neither was Chief Seattle, for that matter--but they acted as unwitting agents and representatives of those outcomes at a rather unsavory time in Episcopal Church history. We need to address the incredible damage done by Anglican and other Christian missionaries to indigenous peoples in the US and Canada, and it feels as though voting for either of these men, much as they personally deserve our respect, is a way of papering over that terrible crime. For that reason, I am compelled today to vote for Florence Tim-Oi (as I previously voted for Dorothy Sayers).

    1. An important point, for sure. I've thought about this in considering my vote (which went to Florence Li Tim-Oi). And I agree, however:

      European (and, later, U.S.) imperialism deeply affected East Asia, too -- the runup to the Opium Wars stands out as an example. And East Asians also had/have ancient cultural traditions that have been deeply disrupted by European interference. Different situations, for sure, but still, I couldn't consider this a decision-making point. Just a thought.

    2. Good point. Would God use Cyrus II to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem? Surely not. Too corrupted for our sensibilities. God’s ways must be made to conform to our sensibilities.

    3. I share your feelings about this difficult time. I voted for Dorothy then and for Florence today. I have faith that First Nations people who served a Christian church did good and did it for love of the Lord, but their inescapable political consequences are troubling.

    4. Yes. Thank you for articulating this so clearly. In the first round of voting, I was so troubled by Enmegahbowh's role in the Dakota War that I abstained from voting (the portrayal of Dorothy Sayer also left me troubled). I had just been thinking about the Dakota Wars already, from reading Louise Erdich's most recent novel, The Sentence. In the novel she places the Dakota Wars, the forced starvation of the Ojibwe, the loss of land in what is now Minnesota, alongside the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I am sure there is much good in Enmegahbowh's life, but from that particular episode he strikes me as a man tragically torn between two cultures, who, perhaps striving for peace, aided the oppressors.

  12. I voted for Enmegahbowh today because his "Jonah moment" captured my imagination, making me wonder what I would do, or how many of us have such moments. I too would be happy to see both win.

  13. I confess that my tears came in torrents
    When Dot Sayers lost her chance to face Florence.
    I have got (sad to say)
    Bracket vacuum today.
    Hence this verse, to stay Nature’s abhorrence.

  14. When Florence Li Tim Oi was ordained as a deacon in 1944 she became the first woman to be ordained in the Anglican Church and was licensed by Bp. Ronald Hall to serve as a priest in his diocese. He wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he had "resisted the presumption to give her the name Cornelia, but that really describes what has happened". Archbishop Temple did not approve but his letter arrived after the ordination.In 1946, under duress, she resigned from priestly ministry.
    Even though the Church of England wasn't yet ordaining women, the 40th anniversary of her ordination was celebrated at Westminster Abbey and she was welcomed at Lambeth Palace.
    (Her story is told in the book 'Much Beloved Daughter' by Ted Harrison.)

  15. These are both remarkable people. But having worked for women’s ordination in the Diocese of MA in the 1970s with my friend the Rev. Kathryn Piccard for whom Florence Li Tim-Oi was an icon and example. I must vote for her. I am glad I have known about her for such a long time and would like to see her win the golden halo.

  16. I voted for Florence because the Christian church has done great harm to the people who were here first.

  17. For those who may want to read something written by the reverend Father John Johnson Enmeghabowh (Enami'egaabaw, meaning "He that prays for his people while standing") there are several texts of his available. One is his letter on the death of his friend Chief Isaac H. Tuttle written January 13, 1874 from White Earth Reservation, MN I found it deeply moving.

    Fr Enmeghabowh's greatest legacy is the lasting peace he helped forge between the Ojibwe and Sioux nations. Some of that story can be found in Fr Enmegabowh's own words here: https://archive.org/details/enmegahbowhsstor00enme/page/n11/mode/2up

    Reading his words and the words of others who new him best, I am persuaded that Fr. Enmeghabowh deserves to share title of Apostle to the Indians with Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple.

  18. I expected to vote for Florence Li Tim-Oi in this round, but after reading both bios, I was close to voting for Enmegahbowh.

    However, it seems to me that it was Enmegahbowh's wife, Biwabikogizigokwe, who was the real inspiration for his turnaround. I wonder what else she said or did, in addition to standing and working with him, that hasn't come down to us.

    So I stuck with my first impulse, to vote for Florence Li Tim-Oi.

  19. This was a most difficult choice for me. I have great respect for Enmegahbowh and felt that both he and Florence brought peace in Christ to great numbers of people. Florence got my vote because of her enormous prayerful self-determination, with very little outside support, to follow God's will against what seemed like impossible situations. Again, I lean towards caregivers too.

  20. Very hard choice today. My students made great and humorous pitches for both in class yesterday (class doesn't meet today), but my vote today goes for Enmegahbowh

  21. You know I voted for these people in the first round so now I have to choose betwixt them!
    Enmegahbowh wasn’t on the F.Scott Fitzgerald was he. While I love the Jonah moment, I’m Going With the Flow today due to working in Water Treatment & all the spring flowers that have sprung up! Go Flo to the Elate 8!

    1. I think you mean the Edmund Fitzgerald, and while you're correctly recalling one of the ships sunk on the Great Lakes, that particular loss was long after Enmegabowh's time. (Apologies to all who will have "Superior, it's said / Never gives up its dead" stuck in their heads for the rest of the day.)

  22. It is wonderful to have the chance to hear these stories. I had heard of Florence, but really knew little about her, and Enmegahbowh was completely new to me. He exemplifies what so many of the people called on by God feel. I am too small, too weak ... and yet when they learn to trust in God, they find the strength and size to do the job. But it was Florence who won my heart and vote, particularly for her willingness to forgive and go on doing God's work. She seemed to trust God's call from the beginning, although I am sure there were times when she questioned her abilities. I will try to recall her steadfastness when I feel challenged beyond my abilities.