Today the Episcopal Church commemorates Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (1831-1906). Born in Lithuania of Jewish parents, he intended to become a rabbi. While a student in Germany, he was converted to Christianity through the influence of missionaries and his own study of a Hebrew translation of the New Testament. He traveled to the United States where he considered the Presbyterian ministry, but ended up an Episcopalian.
Schereschewsky answered an appeal for missionaries to serve in China. A gifted linguist, he studied Chinese on his voyage and upon arrival, started to translate the Bible and Book of Common Prayer. Despite his objections, he became the Bishop of Shanghai in 1877. He soon established the school that became St. John’s University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
After six years as bishop, a stroke forced him to resign. Almost completely paralyzed, he spent the rest of his life translating the Bible into two versions of Chinese, literary and spoken. He did this even though he could use only one finger to press typewriter keys. Shortly before his death he remarked to a visitor, “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I was best fitted.”
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington