--Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky
Today is the feast day of this blog's inspiration (and patron saint, if you're into that kind of observance).
While I was in college, I roomed with a couple of fellow episcopalians (and a gaggle of assorted hangers-on) who once decided that we needed a patron saint. So we turned to the calendar of feast days in the Book of Common Prayer and went skimming through the odd and/or old names. Somebody saw October 14th, and made a comment like "sher-uh-shoe-ski?" (mispronouncing it) "who the hell is THIS guy?" As the longest and oddest name in the calendar of feast days, we adopted him as our unofficial patron.
Later on, we heard his story. And most of us were struck with a sense of awe at what God had done with this little man, and a small measure of shame for having made fun.
At the consecration of the new suffragan bishop for West Texas, the sermon (one of the finest I've heard in a while) featured St. Sam as its central character. Unfortunately, Bishop Hibbs either didn't use a text, didn't offer it for publication, and/or it wasn't recorded, or else I'd post it here.
a biography, taken from "st. sam's cyberparish" at www.stsams.org
Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky was born in Lithuania in 1831, went to Germany to study for the rabbinate, there became a Christian, emigrated to America, trained for the priesthood, and in 1859 was sent by the Episcopal Church to China, where he devoted himself from 1862 to 1875 to translating the Bible into Mandarin Chinese.
In 1877 he was elected Bishop of Shanghai, where he founded St John's University, and began his translation of the Bible into Wenli (another Chinese dialect). He developed Parkinson's disease, was largely paralyzed, resigned his position as Bishop of Shanghai, and spent the rest of his life completing his Wenli Bible, the last 2000 pages of which he typed with the one finger that he could still move.
Four years before his death in 1906, he said: "I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted."
From William Steven Perry's Bishops of the American Church (1897):
The third missionary bishop of the Church in the United States appointed to China was a native of Russian Lithuania, and was born in Tanroggen, May 6, 1831.
He was educated in the schools of his native town and in the adjacent town of Krazi, and at the Rabbinical College at Zhitomeer, in Russia. He was a student for two years at the University of Breslau, Germany, On coming to this country he was for a time in the Western Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, but afterward entered the General Theological Seminary. He received deacon's orders in St. George's Church, New York, July 7, 1859, from the first Bishop Boone, who ordained him to the priesthood in the mission chapel at Shanghai, October 28, 1860. In 1875 he was elected by the House of Bishops to the missionary episcopate of Shanghai, but declined. Two years later he was again chosen to this office, and was with difficulty induced to accept. He received the doctorate in divinity from Kenyon in 1876, and from Columbia the following year.
He was consecrated in Grace Church, New York, October 31, 1877, by Bishops Bosworth Smith. Henry Potter, Bedell, Stevens, Kerfoot, and Lyman. After most faithful labors in his field, failing health compelled his resignation of his episcopate, which was accepted by the House of Bishops in 1883.
The celebrated Professor Max Müller, of Oxford, stated to the writer in 1888 that Bishop Schereschewsky was 'one of the six most learned Orientalists in the world.' He has translated from the Hebrew the whole of the Old Testament into the Mandarin dialect. He was one of the committee having charge of the translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into the same tongue. Together with the bishop of Hong-Kong, Dr. Burden, he has translated the Book of Common Prayer into Mandarin. He has also translated the Gospels into Mongolian, and has prepared a dictionary of that language. He has (1895) just gone abroad to perfect and publish these translations, which have occupied his time since the resignation of the episcopate.