On Friday, January 24, we celebrate the ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi, the first woman priest in the Anglican Communion who was ordained in 1944! Her name is a combination of the name she was given by her father when she was born in Hong Kong (Li Tim-Oi, meaning “much beloved daughter”) and the name she chose when she was baptized as a student (Florence, in honor of Florence Nightingale).
Florence served first as a lay minister and then as a deaconess in Macao, but when the Japanese invasion during World War II prevented priests from traveling to Macao to celebrate the Eucharist, the bishop of Hong Kong ordained her as a priest. After the end of the war, her ordination became quite controversial, and she decided not to act as a priest until it was recognized in the wider Anglican communion. Nevertheless, her bishop called her to be rector of a church in Hepu in 1947. During the Cultural Revolution, however, Florence was forced to work on a farm and then in a factory.
She was able to visit family members in Canada in 1981, where the Dioceses of Toronto and Montreal licensed her as a priest. She died in 1992. Let us remember this trailblazing woman as we pray this week!
Gracious God, we thank you for calling Florence Li Tim-Oi, much-beloved daughter, to be the first woman to exercise the office of a priest in our Communion: By the grace of your Spirit inspire us to follow her example, serving your people with patience and happiness all our days, and witnessing in every circumstance to our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.