Charles Chapman Grafton

In keeping with monastic tradition, our community reads aloud each departed Brother’s obituary on the anniversary of his death, during Compline. In the words of our Rule, “In Christ we are still one with our departed brothers and we express this communion through regular prayer for them and by recalling their lives on the anniversaries of their deaths. We believe that they pray for us and that we will be reunited when Christ gathers all creation to himself, so that God may be all in all.” (Ch. 48). Below is Charles Chapman Grafton’s obituary.

Bishop Charles Chapman Grafton, the Bishop of Fond du Lac and formerly a member of our Society, died on 30 August, 1912 at Fond du Lac, in the eighty-second year of his life and the forty-sixth year of his religious profession.

Grafton was born in Boston in 1830 on a site near one of the corners of Boston Common. He was educated at both Boston Latin School and Phillips-Andover Academy. In addition he received some private tutoring. He was a parishioner of Church of the Advent (then located on Bowdoin Street). In 1851 he entered Harvard Law School, but later, through the influence of Oliver Prescott (also formerly of our Society), he became a candidate for ordination in the Diocese of Maryland. He was ordained a priest in 1858. He served in several parishes in the Diocese of Maryland before going to England in 1865. It was there that he came into contact with Richard Benson. Together with Simeon O’Neill, they began an experiment in community living in the summer of 1865, in a small house on the Iffley Road, Oxford. The following year, on 27 December 1866, the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, the three men made their profession in vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, as mission priests of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, thus giving birth to our community and restoring religious life for men to the Anglican Communion. In 1871, Benson was invited to become rector of the Church of the Advent, Boston, and Grafton was sent home to begin our work there. The break between Benson and Grafton came in 1882, when Grafton was released from our Society as a result of a controversy regarding the jurisdiction of an English superior over work by Americans in the United States. Autonomy for the American work was not to come for another forty one years. With the break, Grafton removed himself and much of the congregation to the newly built Church of the Advent, on the other side of Beacon Hill. The old church was renamed the Church of Saint John the Evangelist and our work in Boston continued. Grafton was elected the second bishop of Fond du Lac in 1888 and consecrated the following year. Even though he was released from our Society, he never sought dispensation from his religious vows.