Dean Letter: Society of St. Paul

This is a transcript of a conversation between the Dean and the Rev. Canon Andrew Rank.

Penny:             Hello, St. Paul’s. Did you know that the cathedral has a resident religious order? The Society of St. Paul has been associated with St. Paul’s Cathedral for a number of years, and our Chapel of the Holy Family houses a columbarium, where the ashes of a number of brothers of the order rest. The Society of St. Paul has been very generous to the cathedral over the years, including underwriting the renovation of the chapel a few years ago. Today, I want to share with you a conversation with one of the two surviving members of the order. Father Barnabas Hunt and Father Andrew Rank are the two members who we still have with us. And so I will ask Andrew, if you will introduce yourself and tell us a little about your time in the Society of St. Paul.

Andrew:           Thank you. Okay. Well, I started out in the Society of St. Paul, when I was 20 years old. That was 63 years ago. I was a resident in Gresham, Oregon, my family lived there. And I was a student at the University of Portland, a Holy Cross place it still is, and I was in my sophomore year. At the time, I had no intention of being a monk or anything religious of any sort. But I loved the Episcopal Church. I joined it in 1955. However, I was headed toward, in my opinion, a career in broadcasting and television and entertainment and who knows what, then one night, on a cold and windy Oregon night. cold is it could be, I was tired of studying. And I pulled a book off my shelf that the rector of the parish had given me. He said, Why don’t you think about being a monk? I said no, not me.

I read the book that night from cover to cover. It was the life and letters of Father Andrew. Andrew was the first Anglican to be ordained in a religious habit since the Reformation. And his life, sowed spirit in me. So effectively, it was as if God had grabbed me by the collar and said, You are going to go through a great change, a great redirection of your life. And I went to church the next day, and I talked to the rector, the founder of our community, and said, Well, you did the right thing. I think I’ll join the order that’s being talked about here. Now, the founder and director of our community, Rene Bozarth, had no intention of founding a monastery.

There were two brothers coming from England, no, not England, from Boston, which almost is England anyway. But it was coming. They were coming from the work they were doing to re-establish their order and attract new members and they were going to direct and form a new community of novices. The reason they were coming was to do nursing home work, and to direct our nursing home. It was next door to the parish church. It was a badly run nursing home: bedside stands were made out of orange crates. We could hear the noises of the residents of the nursing home in the summertime when the windows were open. It was poorly done. And Father Rene simply wanted to get the diocese to buy it. They couldn’t or wouldn’t. He wanted other religious communities to come and acquire it and take over the running of it. They couldn’t, except for this brotherhood.

Well, we got everything organized and a nonprofit group founded. It started going, and Father was the Rector of that group. Four of us volunteered to be novices and it was exciting. And then at the last minute we received notice that they weren’t coming. So there we were a week ahead of opening as St. Jude’s home. And we had no brothers in place to help guide us and direct us and run it. So Father Rene, being a strong minded fellow and a great social justice person, said we’ll have a meeting and we’ll pray about it. We spent a day in retreat. And we started on July 1 1958. There were Rene, as rector of the society, myself, a 25 year old from California, a chaplain who was from Oxford, and we got underway.

Penny:             And so the order grew, as I understand it, you had more than one nursing home?

Andrew:           Yes, in our care. We were the largest operator of nursing homes in the state of Oregon. We had three with 215 beds. And we also had a printing press, because it was too expensive to have our quarterly magazine commercially published. So Rene being a man of great energy and vision, he said, we’ll have our own print shop, and we had it on our grounds. And we printed a quarterly magazine for 50 years, and all kinds of things that you don’t have time to learn about, but that’s how we got to me.

Penny:             And how did you come to be associated with St. Paul’s Cathedral?

Andrew:           Well, we have to jump ahead many, many years, including the 25 year tour as a monastery in Palm Desert, California, and retreat center where we had about 500 visitors in retreat once a year during our season. But as our brothers got older and died off, we got down to where there were only two of us, Canon Barnabas Hunt and myself. And one of your predecessors, John Chane,  came over to visit one day and said, Why don’t you come to the cathedral and volunteer to help us. We had sold the property and were no longer running monastery and retreat center. And so we said, okay, we will. And that brought us to San Diego and St. Paul’s Cathedral. But earlier in 1977, we moved to San Diego: kit and caboodle of five brothers came over. And we rented a house down at the end of Thorn Street, overlooking the airport. And at that time, we had to worship and we worshiped at St. Paul’s church. It wasn’t the cathedral then. And on Sunday mornings, the brothers would walk over to St. Paul’s church, and including the footbridge over Maple Canyon to worship. George Ross, I think was Rector then, and a young priest named, Oh, gosh, I forget. He and his wife live at the manor now. Charles Rines: he was an assistant. We got to know many people.

Penny:             And since you’ve moved to San Diego, tell us about some of the ministries that you and Barnabas have been involved in. I know you’ve been very active around the diocese.

Andrew:           Well, we were active around the diocese and when we came to be it because we were elected to be diocesan representatives on the Chapter among other things. We were elected from Chapter to be on the governing Board of St. Paul’s Senior Homes and Services because of our nursing home and health care experience. Barnabas at one time in Oregon was president of the foundation board of the American College of Nursing Home Administrators, which was a national organization in that particular department to raise funds for aspiring young nursing home administrators in College and help them with scholarships and so on. I was also president of the Conference on the Religious Life in the United States, in Canada and all that. I did the last paper edition of the Clarion, the cathedral newspaper; Barnabas was on the committee that did the columbarium development for the cathedral.

We were very active in the early days of Integrity, helping getting the idea going about the necessity for acceptance of gay and lesbian people in the world and in the diocese. We would have lots of fun going to the gay pride parades, and being involved in that, and helping share the information that there’s no difference in the gay-straight-lesbian community than anyone else. And I think it helps people understand better, the need and the necessity for total acceptance. And we did some retreats.

First thing I did when I came over, was to do a Friday retreat for some groups at the cathedral, at the place over there in the park; it was a building, I forget the name of it now. But it was just behind the park. I think ECS may have had it or someone; I think it was ECS. As the dean and priest, you know that you can just have encounters on the street corner, or in the church, with people who have just a few minutes. “Father, I’d like to ask you something.” And it’s very important.

Penny:             You’ve really been living out your vocation as a monastery without walls.

Andrew:           That’s it, we have a rule that we were a monastery, community without the wall. And the world became our monastery. And we tried to bring that spirit into the cathedral itself. a sense that the monastic life is really a spirituality lived out every day in the world. So that’s what the early religious life is all about.

Penny:             So as you think about the cathedral and your long association, what are your observations of St Paul’s Cathedral, as a Christian community and as a center for mission?

Andrew:           When we were casting about and thinking about where would we go, with what church would we identify, we saw the cathedral as being one of the most authentic expressions of Christianity. Because it was so diverse. It was inclusive. We love the idea of whoever you are and wherever you find yourself in the journey of faith, you are welcome here. And people are welcome here. And you hear all of the testimonials of chapter candidates, and we’ve heard them for 17 years. “I felt such a warm welcome. When I first visited in worship at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I really felt welcome.” And that’s the thing that really makes a difference at St. Paul’s. That’s why we’ve been a growing church. Others struggle around this. You walk in; I like to do handshakes at the end of a service, for example, when we’re in church, because people feel different after worship, after receiving communion. They feel truly a part of a family; it makes a difference.

Penny: It really does. God willing we’ll be back in that in that building before too much longer.

Andrew:           And it’s a place of music; it’s a place of service; it’s a place for making friends; it’s a place of getting help. It’s a place of having a shower if you need one in the Showers of Blessings. And we were very active early on with Uptown, on the board of Uptown, along with Brad Lovelace and others. And we moved it around several times. Now it’s kind of got a permanent home, down at St. Luke’s. And that’s really important because you go by Sixth Avenue, and then you go by University and down to 30th. And it’s a chunk of San Diego that needs a lot of support and health, for the people who come and go. And I was excited at the 150th anniversary of the cathedral and St. Paul’s church, because of the possibility of development of the undercroft. And what it might be called for this.

Penny:             We’re still hoping that that the outreach center will come to fruition as part of our upcoming capital campaign. What hopes and dreams do you have for the cathedral and for the legacy of your order, the Society of St. Paul?

Andrew:           It’s a light shining on a hill. I don’t know where the hill is, but it’s a light. Right? Back in the days of the cathedral in the medieval community. It’s a shining place where people can come and worship God, discover their vocation, discover who they are, discover where they are meant to be, and go and hear the music of the ages as well as modern stuff. I love the coming Lenten celebration. I know we won’t be there this year. But I love the jazz Zydeco.

Yeah, a radical mass, dancing and all the fun that’s going on. And then it’s swept away. Next day, we have the austerity of Ash Wednesday. We live down at Merrill Gardens because they couldn’t fit us in at the Manor because of the rules there. But with Ashes to Go, you always get a good crowd in our activity area. People coming in to get their ashes will be different this year, of course, because of the pandemic.

Penny:             What do you see as the as the legacy that the Society of St. Paul will leave behind?

Andrew:           We were here. And we loved the people. And they loved us. And I think in the final analysis, all we can do is to love each other. That’s what the Presiding Bishop says. I believe that’s the light that lightens the Gentiles and brings about healing and recovery. Let me show you something. I keep it on my desk. One Sunday, I was doing the healing prayers. And it just so happened this gentleman came up and knelt at the prayer desk and he was nn days sober. And I told him I was a recovering alcoholic myself with about 30 years. And he started crying and I pulled him up. You can do it just one day at a time and all you have to do is not take that drink today and go to a meeting and all  that we say to people in that situation. So anyway, I was out at the North Porch. People came out and he was in the line of the folks coming out and I reached out and shook his hand and he put this rosary in my hand. And I said” No, no, it’s yours.”  “No, no father, you gave something to me. And I’ll be sober now, I’m going to go to the Navy.” And I keep it as a reminder. What a beautiful thing to experience because what I gave to him was a prayer. And what he gave to me was gratitude. And who knows where he is today? I haven’t seen him back. Those things happen.

Penny:             Do you have any advice for those who are trying to find their vocation?

Andrew:           Yes, I do. When I’m back on my life, and I’m 83 now, I realize that everything that happened to me was a preparation for what I’m doing now. And I think everybody has a vocation no matter what it is. And I think everybody has a calling. And they’re baptized: that baptismal event plants a seed of what God wants them to do in life. And the joy that comes with it. And that calling is something that everybody’s called to be, such as a priest, it’s certainly not called to be a monk, believe me, it’s not an easy call. But everybody’s called to be something. And our test is to discover in our life, what I’m called to be, whatever it is, wife, mother, driver of a truck, soldier in the army, whatever it is, and that’s graced by the love of God and the strength to see it through. And that brings with it happiness. That’s what we’re all looking for.

Penny:             You and Barnabas have given us so many gifts at the cathedral: gifts of joy, and of holiness of life. You’ve shown us that it can be fun to be a monk. The Society of St. Paul has been just a tremendous blessing to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I want to thank you for your many years and hope that you have many more years with us, you and Barnabas both. We look forward to continued ministry together. I’m just going to close out by saying to our cathedral friends and viewers, thank you for watching and I will see you on Sunday.

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1 thought on “Dean Letter: Society of St. Paul”

  1. What an enriching experience and testimony for the spiritual journey of our community of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.
    May the health and peace accompany and bless the Cannons Andrew and Barnabas, and the other religious of St. Paul’s Society.
    Thank you very much dear Dean Penny!

    Reply

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