“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.”
— Sisterhood of the Good Shepherd Annual Report, 1876.
One can only imagine
Why an enslaved man would kill
Your father who “owned” him out-right,
Making you an orphan at the age of 8.
The notion that you became a nun
To atone for the sins of your father
Might be an unfair assumption.
Or did you wish to atone for the sins
Of the whole damn war your side lost?
Maybe it wasn’t your side at all.
I’d like to think you hated the war.
But still, you volunteered for the clean up crew,
Rolled up your sleeves, and answered the call.
Helping widows and orphans,
You could easily relate
having lost your father and husband.
Your mission was to help the poor
the sick, the homeless, the outcasts.
I can’t help but wonder
if that included black folks, too.
I want to believe it did,
As God would have it,
Because that’s how you were.
You didn’t think of yourself.
You planted seeds of hope
that over the years grew into a church,
A church that welcomes everyone,
So inclusive, even this rebel
Has found a home.
Thank you, sister.
Rest in Peace.
Sister Cecilia Lawrence was born in 1836 and died in 1894. She went to New York in the 1870s to become an Episcopal nun and returned to North Carolina in 1879 to start the Sisterhood of the Good Shepherd with two other sisters. They helped widows and orphans, the poor, and the homeless. They taught school at night since the children worked in the cotton mill during the day. In 1892, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd was erected and later became the Church of the Good Shepherd. In 1980 that church started a soup kitchen which eventually grew into a homeless shelter. It was the soup kitchen, along with the blessing of the animals, that drew me to this church in 1985. Last Sunday, we had our first annual service in memory of Sister Cecilia at her grave.