Li Tim-Oi's Story

At her birth in Hong Kong on 5 May 1907 Li Tim-Oi's father called her "Much Beloved" because he valued her as a daughter even if others prefered sons.

When she was baptised as a student, Tim-Oi chose the name Florence after Florence Nightingale, the famous 19th century English nurse known as 'the Lady of the Lamp'. In 1931 at the ordination of a deaconess in Hong Kong Cathedral, she heard and responded to the call to ministry. She took a four-year course at theological college in Canton. She was made Deacon on Ascension Day 1941, and was given charge of the Anglican congregation in the Portuguese colony of Macao, thronged with refugees from war-torn China.

When a priest could no longer travel from Japanese-occupied territory to preside for her at the eucharist, for three years Tim-Oi was licensed to do so as a deacon. Bishop R O Hall of Hong Kong then asked her to meet him in Free China, where on 25 January 1944 he ordained her ''a priest in the Church of God''. He knew that this was as momentous a step as when the Apostle Peter baptised the Gentile Cornelius. As St Peter recognised that God had already given Cornelius the Baptismal gift of the Spirit, so Bishop Hall was merely confirming that God had already given Tim-Oi the gift of priestly minstry, but he resisted the temptation to rename her Cornelia.

To defuse controversy, in 1946 Tim-Oi surrendered her priest's licence, but not her Holy Orders, the knowledge of which carried her through Maoist persecution.

She resumed the practice of her priesthood in the Church in China, and in Toronto when she retired in 1981. She was awarded Doctorates of Divinity by General Theological Seminary, New York, and Trinity College, Toronto.

She died on 26 February 1992 in Toronto and is buried there.

The photograph shows Li Tim-Oi, her mother, Bishop Mok, her father, Archdeacon Lee Kow Yan after her ordination as Deacon by Bishop R 0 Hall at St John's Cathedral HK. Ascension Day 22 May 1941

'It Takes ONE Woman', an 8-page illustrated booklet about the Rev Florence Li Tim-Oi, is available by sending a Stamped Addressed C5 Envelope to The Knowle, Deddington, Banbury OX15 0TB or you can either read it or download a copy here

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