The following is a snippet of the resolution, offered in the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, that added Emily Cooper the calendar of Saints (more info on that process can be found HERE):
[Emily] lived at the orphanage until her death. [. . .] In recent years it was discovered that over 220 children who died while in the care of the Home of the Innocents were buried in unmarked graves in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery; many surround the marked grave of Sister Emily.
(The full text of the resolution can be found HERE.)
Emily Cooper was a Deaconess of the Episcopal Church who was instrumental in the founding and flourishing of the Holy Innocent’s orphanage in Louisville, KY at the end of the 19th century. The details of her life certainly represent the highest quality of saintly example and her ministry is most deserving of our remembrance. But, what has captivated me most about her legacy is captured in the passage above. She very literally died as she lived – surrounded by the least and the lost, by those most believed of God, by those she served.
It is unclear whether Emily’s grave was placed among those unmarked graves of the orphans – something that would have likely reflected a conscious choice of hers – or whether the site of her burial later became the locus for these graves. In either case, it is clear that Emily’s patronage of orphans spans the end of her active ministry. She literally continued to gather a community even after she died.
In doing so, Emily Copper gives us an image of the true essence of sainthood and, to a certain extent, the whole reason that we are called to remember the saints in the first place. The community of faith, established in life, carries over in our death. The burial office reminds us that “even at the grave we make our song,” but I would add that even at the grave, even in the grave, we remain in community and in communion with those who have gone before and those that will come after.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.