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QUINCY/SPRINGFIELD: Dioceses celebrate Bishop Philander Chase Heritage Day


Bishop Philander Chase  

[Episcopal News Service]  The Illinois-based Episcopal dioceses of Quincy and Springfield held a joint celebration of the life and ministry of Bishop Philander Chase on September 23.

Members of the dioceses gathered at the Jubilee College Historical Site in Brimfield, Illinois. Chase (1775-1852) founded the school in 1839. At one time, Jubilee College occupied a dozen or more structures on a 3,500-acre tract. The school included a theological seminary, a college, a classical preparatory school for boys, and a "seminary" for girls, as well as small farming operations.

Bishop Philander Chase Heritage Day marked the final approval of Chase's addition to the Episcopal Church Calendar of the Church Year. The General Convention, meeting this past June in Columbus, Ohio,added Chase to its calendar and set his feast day as September 22.

Chase was the first bishop of both Ohio and Illinois, and the sixth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (February 15, 1843–September 20, 1852). He founded Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Chase's great-great-great-granddaughter, the Rev. Helen Svoboda-Barber, is rector at Harcourt Parish on the Kenyon campus. Chase was also the rector of Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans. He conducted the first non-Roman Catholic Church service in the Louisiana Purchase on November 17, 1805.

Chase stood 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed more than 300 pounds, according to a Peoria Journal Star newspaper article about the celebration. He was elected the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Illinois in 1835.

Descendants of Chase traveled from New York and Connecticut to attend the event. Kate Chase, a distant relative of the bishop, told the newspaper she was in awe.

"It's a very meaningful day for me," she said. "I lost my entire family, but here I feel like I have a family -- it's an emotional thing."

The celebration opened with Morning Prayer, including a sermon that Chase preached in 1818. Bishop Peter Beckwith of Springfield read from Chase's sermon and told stories from Chase's journal about the trials and tribulations that Chase went through.

"When I start feeling sorry for myself, which I do every so often, I have to stop and think of Bishop Chase and the trials he went through," Beckwith was quoted as saying.

The day continued with a tour of the family cemetery where Chase is buried, prayers at his tombstone, a presentation about what life would have been like during his time, a ceremony where a certificate of appreciation was given to the Chase family, and Evening Prayer with a second Chase sermon from 1818.

More information about Chase is available here.