Letter to the Editor
From Br Steven CR
Thank you for publishing the article about Father Benson for which I am most grateful. I would like to draw readers’ attention to some additional facts which were previously omitted.
Father Benson had built the Church of St John the Evangelist (known as "the Iron Church") in Stockmore Street in 1859 to serve the needs of his parishioners living at that end of the parish of Cowley. Nine years later it became the new parish of Cowley St John with Father Benson appointed as its first vicar in 1870. The Iron Church, even with two subsequent extensions, proved too small for the growing congregation. Realizing this urgent need, Father Benson procured land on Cowley Road for a new church. The foundation stone was laid in 1875 and in 1883 the church was formally dedicated to St Mary and St John. When the congregation moved from Stockmore Street, Father Benson and his brethren continued to use the Iron Church as their own in addition to the small chapel at the top of the Mission House in Marston Street. Father Benson resigned as vicar of the parish in 1886 and as Superior of the Society of St John the Evangelist in 1890. He went abroad for the next nine years and while he was living in America, the Iron Church was demolished and replaced by a new Church of St John the Evangelist built on Iffley Road in 1896 by G.F. Bodley. Nothing remained of the Cowley Fathers church in Stockmore Street except that some of the material was used for a covered passage-way between the new church and the Mission House. The Font had been removed and given to St Luke’s Mission Church, Saltley, Birmingham in 1905.
Four Women’s Religious Communities (two in America and two in England) owe their existence to the Society of St John the Evangelist. Three of these communities continue as Active and Contemplative orders witnessing to the Religious Life. Father Grafton who ceased to be a member of the Society established the Sisterhood of the Holy Nativity in 1882 in Wisconsin and Father Powell SSJE founded the Order of St Anne in Massachusetts in 1910. Father Hollings SSJE founded the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford in 1906, and also in Oxford the Sisterhood of the Holy Childhood was founded in 1894 by Father Elwin SSJE whose members taught in the Cowley St John Elementary School. The Sisters occupied two houses at 9 & 10 Marston Street. In 1898 they added a chapel at the rear of the property which joined onto the garden of the Cowley Fathers Mission House. The Sisterhood ended around 1952.
Br Steven CR
House of the Resurrection
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