Appleton Episcopal Ministries held its annual Service of Recognition for The Order of St. Katharine deaconesses, the first Saints of the Diocese of Atlanta, on Sunday, June 4, 2017, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Macon, GA. The commemoration honored the women of the early Appleton Church Home who spent their service caring for girls orphaned from the Civil War.
“Let us remember together these deaconesses not only as the first saints of the Diocese of Atlanta, but also as pioneering women in ministry and as ministry innovators...serving those on the margins,” The Reverend D. S. Mote, who holds a doctorate in religion, and is Missioner for Engagement and Innovation in the diocese, said in her Homily.
In November 2016, the 110th Annual Council of the Diocese passed a resolution making these deaconesses the first saints of the Diocese of Atlanta. The office of deaconess is recorded in scripture – a ministry to the poor and the sick, according to The Reverend Mote. She added that the office became largely unused after the Middle Ages until the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church revived it in the mid-1800’s.
In 1882, Bishop of Georgia John Beckwith performed the ceremony of setting aside deaconesses for the work of the church at the Appleton Church Home, opened in 1870. The Appleton deaconesses serving between 1870 and 1935 were Sister Margaret, Sister Katherine, Sister Sarah, Sister Mary, Sister Maggie, Sister Louise, Sister Elenor, Sister Kate, and Sister Sophie.
During the commemoration, attendees visited the burial sites of Sisters Margaret, Katherine, Sarah, Sophie, and Katie at Rose Hill. “The four deaconesses not buried at Rose Hill remind us that life is fluid, and change is constant,” The Reverend Mote said. “Yet every season of service makes a contribution to the whole; each of us is constantly creating our own legacy whether we recognize it or not.”
“The Appleton Church Home has moved through different seasons of service as well. From 1870 to 1990, Appleton was 120 years of all girls. Then in 1991, the residential program ended and after-school and summer programs for boys as well as girls began. Appleton has continued to evolve and to innovate to address the needs of children across the decades.”
This summer, Appleton Episcopal Services opens the second Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in the Diocese of Atlanta at St. Paul’s in Macon - the legacy of Appleton and the Deaconesses to serve children continues.