SHE TOOK UP THE CROSS
In 2009, the Episcopal Church established May 13 as the feast of Frances Perkins. She was the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet, and was arguably the most influential cabinet secretary ever. As Franklin Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary throughout his presidency (1932-45), she became the driving force behind many New Deal programs that remain the foundation of the American social safety net. A devout Anglo-Catholic, she spent a day every month in retreat at an Episcopal convent during her Washington years. While considering the offer to serve as Labor Secretary, Perkins consulted Bishop Charles Gilbert of the Diocese of New York. He wrote to her in part, “Men will think only of the great distinction that comes with the high office to which you go. They will be quite unmindful of the fact that there would be no distinction in that office did it not carry with it a crushing burden or responsibility. But, if it is a job to which God has assigned you, what man thinks is of no consequence.” Frances Perkins took up the cross offered to her and followed Jesus.
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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington