Bishop William Sheridan, Rev. George Minnix, and Mrs. Loretta Curtis Receiving Plaque, St. Mark's Howe, 19741 2019-07-22T17:02:33-07:00 John David Beatty 85388be94808daa88b6f1a0c89beb70cd0fac252 32716 3 Bishop William Sheridan, Rev. George Minnix, and Mrs. Loretta Curtis receiving a plaque dedicated to the late Rev. Richard Curtis, former rector of St. Mark's Howe. The date of the ceremony was 1974. Bishop Sheridan wears the miter worn by Bishop John Hazen White in 1895. plain 2019-10-08T16:45:33-07:00 John David Beatty 85388be94808daa88b6f1a0c89beb70cd0fac252
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St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Howe (formerly Lima), and Howe Military School
The Episcopal Church in LaGrange County can trace its origin to 1834, when Bishop Philander Chase, formerly of Ohio and later Bishop of Illinois, visited Lima from his home in Gilead, Michigan. He held services for nine local Episcopalians and preached. Between that time and 1851, no attempt was made to establish a parish, though itinerant Episcopal priests, including the Rev. Henry W. Whitesides, would visit occasionally due to its proximity to the Michigan state line.
A church called St. Mark's was organized formally in the spring of 1851, forming a vestry and inviting the Rev. John O. Barton of Wisconsin to become the first rector. Barton, a Nashotah graduate, held services on the second floor above the Williams store in Lima. In July 1852, the congregation laid the foundation for a simple church edifice using a plan designed by W. R. West, architect of Cincinnati. John Badlam Howe and James Blake Howe, local residents and sons of an English-born Anglican priest in Boston, gave most of the funds for its construction. The new church, a small rectangular wood-framed chapel nicknamed "the little brown church," was located on the south side of Defiance Street. Its length stood parallel to the street and had a steeple with a bell on its east end. The yard surrounding the church was enclosed by a fence, and inside was a crystal chandelier providing light. It included a small organ which James B. Howe played.
After Barton resigned and moved to Lafayette, the Rev. Albert Bingham arrived in May 1853, and two months later the church was consecrated by Bishop Upfold on 28 July 1853, with Barton returning for the service. Bingham left in 1855, and the Rev. Henry C. Stowell arrived for a few months in the spring before returning to New York. Bingham then returned to Lima but died four years later after the church had experienced considerable growth.
Several rectors of short duration followed. The Rev. Wellington Forgus of New Jersey assumed the rectorship in 1868 but moved to St. John's, Bristol, in 1874. His daughter Sally is said to have improved the church's choir during this period. Bishop Talbot ordained two priests, the Rev. F. R. Cummings, a former Presbyterian, and the Rev. Abraham Gorrell, a former Methodist, in 1870. In 1876, the Irish-born Rev. Samuel C. M. Orpen arrived, beginning a period of active ministry. Under his leadership the parish established St. John's Mission in LaGrange, which became a separate parish two years later but eventually folded. One writer recalled that Orpen was "a splendid worker among the young people of the village and made the church with its religious and social activities the very center of the lives of those who were privileged to have a part in it." Orpen built a large Sunday school class, baptized 35 and sponsored 39 confirmations during his rectorate.
In 1883, John Badlam Howe died, leaving $18,000 for a new church in Lima dedicated as a memorial to his family. Orpen led the congregation in raising additional funds and broke ground for a new building in July 1884 on land formerly owned by the Presbyterian Church. The new building was larger and constructed of wood and brick in a cruciform shape. It was consecrated by Bishop David Buel Knickerbacker on 21 May 1885. The LaGrange Standard called it "a substantial brick building, artistic in design and graceful and harmonious in proportions."
Howe had also left money for a church school, leaving thirteen acres and $10,000 toward a school for boys to study for the ministry. The money was left in trust to the Bishop of Indiana until $50,000 could be raised. After Bishop Knickerbacker deliberated, a new school, the Howe Grammar School, opened in September 1884.
Under the Rev. Dr. Charles Nelson Spalding, Orpen's successor, the former brown church on Defiance Street was moved to the campus to serve as a chapel for the boys, while Bishop Knickerbacker acquired additional 30 acres two miles west of the school. Beginning in 1890, the grammar school became Howe Military School, offering drilling, officer training, and military instruction for the boys who attended. By 1894, a former graduate, Warren William Holliday, was made Commandant of Cadets.
On 28 November 1902, school leaders laid the cornerstone of St. James Chapel, designed by architect John Sutcliffe and given in memory of James Blake Howe, John B. Howe's half-brother. It was modeled after the chapel at Magdalene College, Oxford, with ornately carved pews that faced the main aisle. An unsubstantiated tradition holds that a student did much of the carving work in exchange for tuition at the school. The chapel was completed in four stages and included a crypt below for members of the Howe family and future bishops of the diocese. A transept was added in 1909, the Mother Chapel in 1914, and bells in 1915. Stained glass windows with the images of bishops look down at the scene. At the time, most of these figures had blank faces, which were to be painted in when new bishops were elected.
Under the leadership of the Rev. John Heyward McKenzie, who became rector of St. Mark's in 1895, the school grew substantially with an influx of students and the construction of more classroom buildings. McKenzie attempted to hold worship services both at the chapel and at the parish in Lima, but by 1908, the task of maintaining both churches proved impossible. The older church was decommissioned, and all services at St. Mark's were moved to the St. James Chapel on the Howe campus. Indeed, the town of Lima would change its name to Howe in 1910 at the insistence of a railroad line because of confusion with Lima, Ohio. McKenzie died in office in 1920 and was praised as a far-sighted leader.
Howe School continued to grow under McKenzie's successors. The Rev. Charles Herbert Young headed the school from 1920 to 1933. The Rev. Robert J. Murphy arrived in 1934 and held many leadership positions in the diocese. During his tenure in 1955, the chapel was resurfaced with Indiana limestone to bring it into harmony with other campus buildings. In 1960, All Saints Chapel, a separate facility, was constructed on the Howe campus for use by its cadets. Murphy retired in 1968, and several priests followed, including Theodore Sirotko, Richard Curtis, George Minnix, and Philip Morgan.
Howe Military School flourished for more than a century. The bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana served on its board of directors, and the two entities enjoyed a close relationship. However, by the twenty-first century, declining enrollments forced the school to curtail many of its operations. The relationship between the school and the diocese became strained and ended in 2016. Three years later in 2019, the school officially closed its doors. St. Mark's continued to hold services at St. James Chapel on the Howe School campus until 2016. Afterward, the parish moved to a building the parish owned at 709 Third Street in Howe. Built in the 1940s, it had been used formerly as its parish hall. It was remodeled to include both worship and hall space. In its sanctuary, the parish uses the original altar of St. Mark's that had formerly been stored in the crypt of St. James.
Anne Wade Haglind, A History of St. Mark's Parish, Howe, Indiana (undated typescript).
Raymond R. Kelly, Here's Howe: The First 100 years. (Indianapolis: Raymond R. Kelly, 1984).
Karen Yoder, Historic Howe: The Philomaths of Howe, Indiana (Kearney, Nebraska: Morris Publishing, 2014).
St. Mark's, Howe, Marriages, 1896-1912, typescript
John Oliver Barton, 1851-1853
Albert Bingham, 1853-1854
Henry Cook Stowell, 1855
Albert Bingham, 1856-1858
William Henry Stoy, 1858-1859
Henry M. Thompson, 1859-1867
Wellington Forgus, 1868-1874
Samuel Campbell Montgomery Orpen, 1876-1885
Charles Nelson Spalding, 1885-1895
John Heyward McKenzie, 1895-1920
Charles Herbert Young, 1920-1933
Kenneth Owen Crosby, 1933-1934
Robert James Murphy, 1934-1968
Theodore Francis Sirotko, 1968-1970
Richard Arthur Curtis, 1971-1974
George Myers Minnix, 1974-1986
Philip Morgan, 1986-2000
David Yaw, 2000-2010
Michael Thomas Fulk, 2010-2015
Rachel N. Evans, 2016
Beverly Collinsworth, 2017-2018
Paul Wheatley, 2019-
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William Cockburn Russell Sheridan, Fifth Bishop
William Cockburn Russell Sheridan was elected the fifth bishop of Northern Indiana on 15 April 1972, and he called the event the "most terrifying experience of my life." He had expected another candidate to be elected, and he had not prepared himself for the experience. Sheridan was the first, and to date only, bishop to be elected from its own fold of priests and was consecrated on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, 24 June 1972, in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Church on the University of Notre Dame campus. The gift came because of his close friendship with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh and Bishop Leo Pursley of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Among the consecrans were Bishop Francis C. Rowinski of the Polish National Catholic Church whose orders are considered valid by the Vatican. Following the tenures of two bishops who were not considered pastoral and were not well liked, Sheridan proved himself to be both a pastoral and beloved bishop.
Sheridan was born in New York City on 25 March 1917. His mother was English-born and a devout Anglican; his Irish-born father was a Roman Catholic and an alcoholic. William grew up in Baltimore and attended St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, Maryland; then he spent a year at the University of Virginia before the Great Depression forced him to drop out for lack of funds. He later was accepted into a baccalaureate program at Nashotah House Seminary, receiving a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1939 and a liberal arts degree from Carroll College in Wisconsin in 1943. Many years later Nashotah granted him honorary Master's and Doctor's degrees. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1943 by Bishop Noble Powell of Maryland and the same year married Rudith "Trudy" Treder of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. They would have five children, including twin sons.
After ordination, Sheridan served briefly at Mt. Calvary Church, Baltimore, and as curate at St. Paul's Church, Chicago. He was also briefly a priest at Emmanuel Episcopal Mission, in Garrett, Indiana. In 1944, he became rector of Gethsemane Episcopal Church, Marion, and vicar of St. Paul's Gas City. In 1947, Bishop Reginald Mallett ordered him to St. Thomas Church, Plymouth, where he served a long rectorate of 25 years. For ten years he was also chaplain of Culver Military Academy.
Sheridan was a strong Anglo-Catholic and a conservative at a time of profound change in the national Church. He set out to be a pastoral bishop after years of cold formality from his predecessor. In this regard he brought several innovations to his episcopate. One was his decision to rotate the diocesan convention to various parts of the diocese, with every third year held at the cathedral in South Bend. A second was to build relationships among the priests of the diocese by having them and their wives to dinner at the residence. He had planned for clergy across the diocese to get to know one another better, and as many as two or three suppers were served weekly.
Third, Sheridan instituted the bishop's pastoral weekend when making visitations, spending two days meeting with vestries, ECW chapters, guilds, and the ill in hospitals. "As I look back at those years," he later wrote, "the 'Pastoral Weekends' were an arduous undertaking, but I felt they were absolutely necessary." He held approximately 35 such weekends each year, traveling between 27,000 and 33,000 miles a year and sleeping annually in some 60-70 motels. He regarded the liturgical and theological unity of the diocese, still strongly conservative and Anglo-Catholic, as its greatest asset, echoing what Bishop Klein before him had believed. In particular he relished the compliments of a fellow bishop who, in observing a diocesan convention, commended Sheridan for the harmony and spiritual warmth that existed among the priests with no apparent competing interests or jealousies.
Sheridan remained steadfastly opposed to the ordination of women and refused to allow women priests to serve in the diocese. He also led the opposition in the House of Bishops and was frequently quoted in the press at the time. He did allow the Rev. Sarah Tracy to serve as deacon in 1985, and he made a distinction of women serving in the diaconate and those in the priesthood. He also blasted Bishop John Shelby Spong for his series of books that questioned the traditional teachings of the Anglican faith and called him the "great heretic of our time."
As a strong ecumenist with ties to many local Catholics and Protetants, Sheridan felt that the ordination of women challenged the historical nature of the priesthood and rendered it impossible for Anglican orders ever to be recognized by Roman Catholics, a long-desired goal. It also strained much of the ecumenical dialogue that he had worked decades to cultivate. "I could almost literally weep at the anguish of hundreds of priests and thousands of lay people," he wrote, "as the contemplate the possibility of the future ordination of women priests and bishops being forced...As your Chief Pastor, I see the possibility of the sheer, tragic, unnecessary WASTE OF SOULS."
For this opposition, Sheridan has endured some criticism in more recent historiography, which has compared him unfavorably to Bishop John Pares Craine of Indianapolis, who was among the first to support women priests and was a strong advocate for civil rights. Jason Lantzer has observed in an article for Anglican and Episcopal History that opposition to women priests remained in the Diocese of Northern Indiana even after Sheridan's successor, Francis Gray, assented to the ordination of women in 1989. In the late 1970s, during Sheridan's episcopate, the Rev Jackie Means of the Diocese of Indianapolis, ordained by Bishop Craine, came to Gethsemane Church in Marion to preach at the invitation of the rector. Her sermon so distressed the congregation - as did the news of it upon reaching the diocese - that the congregation formally voted not to recognize women's ordination. However, in 1997, little more than a decade later, the parish called the Rev. Megan Traquair, who had a successful rectorate.
The diocese suffered economically for most of Sheridan's episcopate due to a national recession in 1973. Many parishes were in arrears in paying their diocesan assessments, and many could barely afford to keep their rectors and vicars. Sheridan recalled, It was a severe blow to the finances of the Diocese of Northern Indiana. One parish was once $6,000 in arrears of its assessment... That recession, of course, destroyed any plans for a capital funds drive in the diocese. Somehow we never defaulted on our fair share quota to the National Church, but often at the cost of trimming many diocesan projects." An Episcopal Church-wide initiative called Venture in Ministry (VIM) sought to raise funds across the national church for missionary use in parishes and dioceses. Each diocese formed a VIM committee to design a plan that best suited its needs.
Sheridan worked to establish a strong, caring pastoral presence, but he was not, by his own admission, an administrator. Instead, he relied on his Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Bradley McCormick, to assist with many tasks. That included editorship of the diocesan newspaper, The Beacon, which Sheridan regarded as an essential tool of communication. Some in the diocese considered the bishop somewhat comical and noted that he sometimes got lost in the liturgy of services he conducted. But Sheridan saw McCormick as invaluable and "made it possible to try to be a 'pastoral bishop.'"
Of the new prayerbook, which was introduced in several trial versions in the 1970s, Sheridan became an enthusiastic supporter. The trial liturgies allowed for the celebration of daily offices, encouraged weekly communion and greater congregational participation, all of which appealed to the High Church wing of the Episcopal Church. The roll-out came with much experimentation and varying degrees of success. At Trinity Fort Wayne, the new prayerbook with modern language was used at the 9 and 11 o'clock services, with Rite I reserved for 7:30. A small group continued to keep the 1928 prayerbook alive at special services on Saturdays. St. Paul's, La Porte, and Gethsemane, Marion, both resisted the new prayerbook and were reluctant to implement its use. At Trinity Michigan City, the new book was used at the main Mass, together with musical experimentation. Fr. Robert Center, its rector, also taught classes on the history of Eucharistic liturgy. In the end, the transition to the new prayerbook proved successful and varied celebrations of the Eucharist became commonplace.
As a deeply traditional Anglican for whom the symbols of faith were very important, Sheridan took a romanticized view of the episcopate. He enjoyed being photographed in his cope and miter, and he was frequently shown clutching his pectoral cross. Yet he was quick to point out that they were only symbols of the office and not the office itself. "A bishop is, or ought to be, a servant of Christ Jesus our Lord, a servant with many responsibilities to his Savior and King. He is called to that office. God have mercy on him if he has sought after the Episcopate - or even lusted after it. He is to 'share' that servanthood. The work share cannot be stressed too much. He is to share both in the happiness and the pain of the Diocesan family. A Father-in-God is to have a special love for priests and deacons in his care...in addition to the lay people. A Father-in-God must be quick to try and inspire others - in order that they will also carry the opportunities and burdens of the Holy Gospel and the Church into life itself as witnesses for our Blessed Lord. There is a saying: No bishop, no church; no church, no sacraments; no sacraments, no certain grace; no grace, no salvation."
Although Sheridan was born with a Baltimore accent, it morphed into something more mid-Atlantic or even English-sounding after becoming a bishop, which some regarded as an affectation but was actually a way for him to overcome a stuttering problem. Once, a woman at Trinity Fort Wayne stooped down to kiss his ring, and he exclaimed, "Oh, ma'lady!" in a way that generated smiles. He was at ease with both pastoral conversations and small talk. On another occasion, while processing in his cope and miter, Sheridan heard a little boy call out, "There goes the king!" He stopped and turned and said, "No, there goes the king's servant." The bishop also had a most welcome lighter side. He was known to State Police for speeding on U.S. 30 and was frequently given warnings but with a sense of humor. On another occasion, he was in a diner wearing his magenta shirt and a waitress came up and said, "How are you, robin red-breast?" He found the story funny and often told it with great relish. If he regarded the symbols of the episcopate a bit too seriously in some ways, his capacity for laughter and self-effacing humor won him many friends and was a marked contrast from his predecessors.
After his retirement in 1987, Sheridan threw his support to the Episcopal Synod, which worked to oppose women's ordination, even though it had become commonplace throughout the Church. His successor, Francis Campbell Gray, allowed women priests into the diocese in 1990 as he worked to bring Northern Indiana into the greater fold of the national Church. Even though he disagreed with Gray privately, he always publicly voiced his admiration and support. To priests who confided that they wanted to go over to Roman Catholicism, Sheridan consistently advised against it, stating that they had taken an oath to uphold the Church and should be bound by that vow. The Catholic Church, he said, had even greater problems than the Episcopal Church.
Near the end of his life, during the episcopate of the more evangelical Bishop Edward Little, Sheridan saw the Anglo-Catholic identity of the diocese morph into something new as the national Church changed all around him. Nashotah House would no longer wield its ideological influence on the diocese as it once did, and even it began to admit women into its ranks by this time. In June 2005, Sheridan participated in the ordination of the Rev. Susan Bunton Haynes at St. Thomas Plymouth and told Bishop Little, "Indiana has the best women priests." His views about women in the priesthood had softened. He had also told the historian Jason Lantzer in 1999 that the five women priests serving in the diocese at that time were "of superior quality." All had asked him to serve as supply priest, and several asked him to mentor them. He told the Rev. Megan Traquair that because of her long and faithful service at Gethsemane, Marion, she could now consider herself among the "Marian fathers." Within three months of his assisting with Susan Haynes's ordination, on 24 September 2005, Sheridan died at his home near Culver, a former country church he had converted into a residence. Near the end of his life he wrote, "God forgive me for all my failings and failures. God, also, be thanked for all His Grace and Mercy for those things which prospered!"
Even if some aspects of the style of churchmanship that Sheridan practiced had grown out of fashion, he remained a very spiritual priest, enjoyed being called "Father Sheridan," and was inspirational to many for his personal sense of piety and devotional life. As the last old-style Anglo-Catholic bishop, however, he found that his brand of conservatism, the one his predecessors had practiced, was fast disappearing from most quarters of the national Episcopal Church by the twenty-first century.
Jason Lantzer, "Hoosier Episcopalians, the Coming of Women's Ordination, and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer," Anglican and Episcopal History, volume 52 (June 2003): 229-254.
Jason Lantzer, "Tradition, Transition, Turmoil, and Triumph: Indianapolis Episcopalians Confront the 1960s and 1970s." Indiana University thesis, October 1999.
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, Audio File, by the Rev. Robert Center, 1989
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, 28 February 1998, by Ryan Taylor and John Beatty, Audio File, Part 1
Interview with Bishop William C. R. Sheridan, 28 February 1998, by Ryan Taylor and John Beatty, Audio File, Part 2
Ordination and Consecration of the Rev, William C. R. Sheridan ... 24 June 1972
Ordination and Consecration of the Rt. Rev. William C. R. Sheridan, Commemorative Booklet, 1972