Events for December 2022

In Memoriam: Sister Priscilla, Last Episcopal Deaconess, Dies at 87

In Memoriam: Sister Priscilla, Last Episcopal Deaconess, Dies at 87 300 256 Episcopalians in Connection

Sister Priscilla Jean Wright of the Community of the Transfiguration in Cincinnati, died on September 11. She was 87 and the last living woman to have served as a deaconess in the Episcopal Church.

Sr. Priscilla was ‘set apart’ as a deaconess on June 18, 1964, after studying at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (now Bexley Seabury). Her work took her to Ponce, Puerto Rico; the Dominican Republic; Navajoland; Virginia; Texas; and Ohio over her nearly 60 years as deaconess and deacon. Shortly after being set apart as a deaconess, she became director of religious education at the Episcopal mission in Navajoland. She loved serving among the Navajo people and often spoke with joy of her time there. At the same time, she felt a need to live and serve within the context of a religious community and entered the Community of the Transfiguration. She made her life vows as a sister on January 25, 1971.

Sr. Jean Gabriel and her goddaughter distributing communion to children in Barrio las Flores.

Sr. Priscilla spent twenty-five years in the Dominican Republic, where she and Sr. Jean Gabriel, the current mother superior of the Community of the Transfiguration, worked in Barrio las Flores. Through prayer, hard work, and determination, they started a feeding program and a pre-school, a medical clinic with room for worship, and eventually built a church building and expanded the grades served by the school. They raised funds for scholarships and provided food and other resources to meet as many needs as possible for the people of the community.

Fluent in Spanish after her years in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Sr. Pricilla was an early contributor to the Latino Ministry Center and served as deacon at Church of Our Savior in Cincinnati for many years.

Sr. Priscilla was “a bit of an imp,” Deacon Anne Reed recalled, with a vibrant sense of humor and a love of learning. With ordination anniversaries twenty-five years and one day apart, the two women became good friends. “She was such a faithful person–faithful to what she believed God had called her to do and to be,” said Reed, noting that Sr. Priscilla liked a challenge. Deacon Keith McCoy, president of the Fund for the Diaconate, said Sr. Priscilla was quick to laugh and to tell stories of her ministry.

Sr Priscilla was “grandmothered” as a deacon following the General Convention vote in 1970 that eliminated the Order of Deaconesses and permitted women to be ordained as deacons. With that vote, she became the first woman in the Community of the Transfiguration to be ordained.