FALL RIVER – In honor of Reverend Susan H. Lee’s retirement, a service of the Holy Eucharist will be held at 9:30 am on Sunday, September 26 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 315 Warren Street. , Autumn river.
The public is invited to attend the service and reception that will follow. There will be overflow seats in the gymnasium to allow for social distancing, and masks are required.
Lee received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and earned a master’s degree in divinity from Harvard Divinity School. She was ordained a deacon in Providence, Rhode Island, in June 1988 and began her ministry in St. Luke’s on July 1, 1988. The Rt. Reverend George Hunt ordained her to the priesthood on March 4, 1989, at the time of a church liturgy. Lee was the first ordained woman in the town of Fall River, and the service received extensive press coverage. She was Associate Rector and Co-Rector with Reverend James Hornsby for 14 years before becoming Rector in 2002.
During her ministry at St. Luke’s Church, Reverend Lee played a major role in welcoming Cambodian refugees into the parish and helping them integrate into American society. In her early years, she organized Khmer language courses for social service providers and others interested in the growing Cambodian population in Fall River. She herself studied Khmer at the University of Hawaii, the University of Wisconsin, and the Fall River Cambodian Buddhist temple, Wat Udomsaharatanaram. Lee incorporated Khmer scripture readings and prayers into the Saint Luke liturgy and delivered Khmer sermons. She has helped Cambodian parishioners ask relatives and friends to migrate to the United States, many of whom arrived under the diversity visa program. Lee has organized activities for Cambodian-American youth, including an annual camping trip to Myles Standish State Forest, and has led a Cambodian junior choir for several years. The Cambodian temple thanked Lee for his work with a recognition award in 2010.
An important part of Lee’s early ministry was advocacy for victims of domestic violence. She led the community task force that organized a battered women’s shelter in Fall River, Our Sisters’ Place. Under his leadership, the task force studied the local incidence of domestic violence, applied for federal and state grants, gave public talks to raise awareness about the problem, and engaged in community fundraising. Our Sisters’ Place opened in 1989 and still provides a place of refuge and safety for victims of domestic violence. Lee received a citation from Mayor Carlton Viveiros for his community work as well as accolades from the Our Sisters’ Place Board of Directors, Fall River City Council, New Bedford City Council, Corrigan Mental Health Center and the Young Women’s Christian Association.
In 1990, Lee became the Diocesan Refugee Coordinator of Massachusetts for Episcopal Migration Ministries, recruiting families and religious organizations to resettle refugees from Bosnia, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, and Southeast Asia. Her work with refugee families led her to pursue graduate studies in sociology and she began a doctoral program at Boston University in 1994. She specialized in the study of gender and gender. development and undertook a research trip to rural Cambodia in 2001, focusing on the war. widows and female headed households. St. Luke’s parishioners, Keang Ly and Samy Sok, accompanied Lee to their ancestral villages in Cambodia and served as his interpreters and guides. Lee got the doctorate. in 2003 by Boston University, and his research was published as a 2006 book, “Rice Plus: Widows and Economic Survival in Rural Cambodia”.
Lee joined Boston University faculty in 2004, teaching at the College of General Studies and Metropolitan College. She participated in the Boston University Prison Education Program, teaching domestic violence prevention classes at MCI Norfolk and Framingham State Prisons. A preferred assignment was to teach classes in London, England as part of BU’s study abroad program. She launched a university network, BU Votes, to encourage civic participation by students.
As part of his sociology work, Lee has a keen interest in the United Nations and international affairs. She headed the International Committee of Sociologists for Women in Society, a national professional association, and was its principal representative on the United Nations Economic and Social Council. In 2017, she co-founded the US Women’s Caucus at the UN, a network of women’s non-governmental organizations, and is currently its chair. More information is available at uswomenscaucus.org.
In his parish accomplishments, Lee facilitated the opening of the thrift store in St. Luke’s Undercroft. Staffed with parish volunteers, it provides used clothing and household items at low prices. She participated in the Peace Pole movement in Fall River, overseeing the establishment of a peace pole in the cemetery. The parish offers prayers around the Pole of Peace on the occasion of the United Nations International Day of Peace every September. Before the pandemic, Lee led an ecumenical choir at annual Christmas carols in nursing homes and is known for her concern for the sick. She has hosted annual Backpack Blessing and Animal Blessing Services as well as an annual Family Fun Day at Myles Standish State Forest. Under his leadership, the parish recruited a group of neighborhood volunteers to reopen the library at William S. Greene Elementary School near the church.
In recent ministry efforts, Lee has been a leader of South Coast Episcopalians, a network of South Coast Episcopal parishes and individuals. During the pandemic, she ran an online course on racial equity called Sacred Ground, using a curriculum developed by the Episcopal Church.
Lee looks forward to retirement and will remain in the area, residing in New Bedford. She leaves St. Luke with a grateful heart, knowing that the parish has capable and strong lay leadership. The Reverend James Hornsby, Rector Emeritus, will also remain in the parish. Lee is especially grateful for the dedicated work of St. Luke’s volunteers whose faithful service has contributed so much to the ministry of the ward.