Friday, September 16, 2016

Ethan Allen's Daughter, the Catholic Convert

I thought one of the most interesting things about this conversion story was that Fanny Allen's family thought that if she had to be a religiously observant Christian--her late father Ethan Allen was a Deist and her mother and stepfather were not in favor of organized religion either--it would be better if she was an Episcopalian than a Catholic! She was baptized in the Episcopal Church as an adult, to protect her from Catholic influences in French Quebec, and when Fanny had become a Catholic, the family tried to persuade her to join the Episcopal Church instead:

Sister Frances Margaret (Fanny) Allen of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph died on September 10, 1819 in Montreal at the Hotel-Dieu, the hospital and convent founded by Venerable Jerome Le Royer, Venerable Marie de la Ferre, and Jeanne Mance.

She was a Vermonter in Canada, the first woman from New England to become a Catholic religious, and the daughter of deist, rationalist, and American Revolutionary hero, Ethan Allen.

Fanny Allen was born on November 13, 1784. Her father died when she was four years old and her mother, also named Fanny, remarried (to Dr. Jabez Penniman). Neither the Allen nor the Penniman household was particularly religious. In the midst of the great religious revivals in the British colonies and the post-revolutionary period, Ethan Allen had written and self-published
Reason: The Only Oracle of Man (1785). So few copies sold that the printer demanded more money to cover his losses. Fanny laughed through her baptism ceremony when she was an adult. Her mother insisted she be baptized by an Episcopalian minister in 1805 before she went to Catholic Montreal to study French. The minister, Daniel Barber, did not appreciate her mirth. . .

When she came home to Vermont they tried to distract her with parties and asked an Episcopalian friend to persuade her to join his High Church parish. Fanny resisted all these blandishments and wanted to back to Montreal to join a convent.

Read the rest on my blog at the National Catholic Register.

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