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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

In 1873 there were five deaconesses


In

1864 the deaconesses of the Diocese of Alabama were organized by Bishop Wilmer. Under the supervision of the bishop the three deaconesses with whom the order originated were associated in taking charge of an orphanage and boarding-school for girls. In 1873 there were five deaconesses, one probationer, and two resident associates.[83]

In the Church Home all of the work is done by the inmates. As in the foreign Homes, the deaconesses are provided with food and raiment, and during sickness or old age they are cared for at the expense of the order. They are forbidden to receive fee or compensation for their services. Any remuneration that is made is paid to the order. In one feature, however, the deaconesses of Alabama differ from either their German or English sisters, and that is in the care of their individual means. The "Constitution and Rules" says: "The private funds of deaconesses shall not be expended without the approval of the chief deaconess or the bishop."[84] This usage prevails in sisterhoods, but, outside of this instance, so far as the author has been able to learn is not known in deaconess institutions.

The rules for the associates in connection with the order are given somewhat at length, from which the following are taken. After defining an associate as a Christian woman desiring to aid the work of the deaconesses, and admonishing her that, although not bound by the rules of the Community, yet

she must be careful to lead such a life as is becoming one associated in a work of religion and charity, she is requested "to state what kind of work she will undertake, under the direction of the chief deaconess, and to report the result to her at such intervals as may be agreed upon." The following modes of assistance are suggested as most useful; namely, "to provide and make clothing for the poor; to collect alms; to procure work, or promote its sale; to teach in the school; to assist in music or other classes; to relieve the destitute; to minister to the sick; to visit and instruct the ignorant; to attend the funeral arrangements for the poor; and to take charge of or assist in the decoration of the church."

The feature of the union of the associates with the deaconesses is one whose importance can scarcely be exaggerated. There are many who would be able to serve for a short time in this relation whose valuable aid would be entirely lost if none but deaconesses who give all their time and strength could work in the order.

In the Diocese of Long Island Bishop Littlejohn instituted an association of deaconesses by publicly admitting six women to the office of deaconess in St. Mary's Church, Brooklyn, February 11, 1872. The association has not continued in the form in which it originated, but has now changed into the Sisterhood of St. John the Evangelist. Still this sisterhood retains many of the distinctive deaconess features. A sister may, for instance, withdraw from the sisterhood for proper cause. She labors without remuneration, and the sisters live together in a home, or singly, as they may please, in any place where their work is located.

In the Diocese of Western New York there are five deaconesses, with their associates and helpers, under the direction of the bishop of the diocese.


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