Anglican Notables – Priscilla Lydia Sellon (Religious) – 20 November

[This is a series of biographical sketches of Anglican men and women whose lives have been exemplary in virtue and/or have made significant contributions to Anglicanism’s expression of the Gospel.  Written from the perspective of full communion with the See of St. Peter, including such papal statements as St. John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, this series will occasionally acknowledge differences between Anglicans and Catholics where they exist and will do so in a spirit of charity and respect.  However, the intent is to focus less on differences than on opportunities for mutual enrichment between the Anglican and Catholic traditions and on shared spiritual treasures that already unite us.]

Priscilla Lydia Sellon – 20 November

[The image is a photo of Priscilla Sellon taken around 1865.]

Priscilla Lydia Sellon (21 March 1821 – 20 November 1876) was one of the first to found a religious order for women in Anglicanism.

Bishop Henry Phillpotts, bishop of Exeter, asked for help in caring for the poor in Devonport.  Sellon responded to the appeal and sought the advice of Edward Bouverie Pusey, whom she knew, and local clergy.  Her efforts eventually became organized along the lines of the rule of St. Francis de Sales.  Since the re-establishment of religious life in the Church of England was almost ex nihilo, there was little in the way of institutional consistency or support.  This means that though the foundation of any religious charism is going to be fraught with trials, setbacks, and confusion, the efforts of pioneering founders of religious orders in Anglicanism often called for even stronger resolve and character.  Sellon apparently had these qualities and was thus able to see her fledgling efforts established, eventually, as the Society of the Most Holy Trinity (SMHT).

Following is a brief account of the The Society of the Most Holy Trinity, also known more simply as the Society of the Holy Trinity. 

It “was established by Lydia Sellon[27] in 1849, the second Anglican religious order established for women, to minister to the poor in the seafaring community of Devonport, hence their popular name, the Devonport Sisters. The Society expanded rapidly, and in the 1850s absorbed several smaller London communities, including the first-established, the Sisterhood of the Holy Cross (or ‘Park Village Community’).[28] The order grew large and very active, from its work with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, to the establishing of a convalescent hospital and a grammar school (St Christopher’s). The rule of the order was based on that of St Francis de Sales.[29] From 1860, the community was resident at Ascot Priory in Berkshire, which remained its headquarters until the closure of the community in 2004.”[1]

The SMHT moved into Ascot Priory, built for the new order, in 1860.  But not long thereafter, Sellon was struck by paralysis.  She died fifteen years later on 20 November 1876.

[Ascot Priory Chapel]

[1] Former religious orders in the Anglican Communion – Wikipedia

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