Who is Sister Cecilia and why is she our"saint"?
In 1889, Bishop Watson described her as “one of the most valuable spiritual agencies in the diocese, working for the working class and having done a large amount of missionary work.”
In 1894 Reverend Strange (later served as Bishop) reported “she has been one of the choice vessels of the grace of our Heavenly Father and one of the lights of the world in her generation.”
A FIRST MIRACLE: An orphan and widow herself, Sister Cecilia was called from Louisburg, NC to Wilmington to help with St. James House for destitute widows and orphans after the Civil War. Later as a sister in the Sisterhood of the Good Shepherd, she became sister in charge and rapidly outgrew Dr. J. Armand DeRossett Jr.’s St. James House. Sister Cecilia established the first free day school for working mothers in Wilmington and Parish School for working children, and grew the Sunday School to 177 and day school to 123. She managed St. James House, started Sunday School, acted as family counselor and sent in annual reports without ever mentioning her name.
She died shortly after she became ill in 1892 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Major General Whiting’s plot, with her casket born by "her boys." Based on reports of the day, there was not a dry eye in the funeral.
SECOND MIRACLE: Almost a hundred years later the now Church of the Good Shepherd Vestry voted to open a soup kitchen. Over the 20 years of operation at the church, almost a million meals were served and services added to aid the poor and homeless in the first major outreach in Wilmington. Her spirit is alive and moving Good Shepherd.
“The clouds of prejudice and misunderstanding which have so long enshrouded this whole subject of sisterhood in the church seems to be gradually vanishing as the light to experience dawns upon those willing to be taught.” Annual Report 1876. They were transitioned to deaconesses/disbanded in 1899.
The resolution urging her inclusion in the Great Cloud of Witnesses book of saints passed Sat. Feb. 8, 2020 at the annual convention of the Diocese of East Carolina. It remains for the national convention to finalize her sainthood and become Wilmington's Saint.
Join us as we honor and celebrate Sister Cecilia and the courageous women of the Sisterhood of the Good Shepherd.