Monday, November 23, 2015

CONVERT | HvS on the Oxford Group (Updated Mar 31, 2017)

Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006)
at the time of her marriage.
I have been working on pieces of a biography of Hilda van Stockum. Of particular interest to me and others is her conversion to Roman Catholicism after a being brought up by two atheistic parents from a staunch Dutch Protestant family.

Since the death of HvS I have been organizing and reading her papers. Toward the end of her life when her mind was failing, she would shuffle pages and turn them upside down. She seemed to believe she was putting them in order, when she was actually mixing them up. It's been a job putting them back in order based on clues like numbering, type of paper and typewriter.

Today I just across for the first time a parish bulletin dated May 1935 with a two-page essay by "Hilda Marlin", her married name. I am providing the essay from the St. John's Church Magazine.

The Vicar of the Church of St John the Evangelist in Sandyount, Dublin was Rev. S. R. S. Colquhoun. A portrait by HvS shows him in bishop-like-looking regalia and I always thought that he was a bishop of the Church of Ireland, but he never advanced that far in the church hierarchy because he was too High Church (too close to Rome) for his congregation, and he was suspended (from his job, not at least the gallows) in 1937 for his heretical views. His suspension may have precipitated the conversions to Roman Catholicism of both Evie Hone and HvS in 1938. Fr Colquhoun's portrait used to hang prominently in our parents' house in Montreal and then in England.

HvS was throughout her life seeking for solace in the church. When she met my father in Dublin, they would go to the Oxford Group. The members were not as intellectual as the Oxford Movement had been, but they operated with some of the same evangelical themes, namely the need to infuse church practices with more of the New Testament spirit. The Oxford Group is described in the article below.

My father, Spike Marlin, was the first to hear Fr. Colquhoun. They went to his church in Sandymount, just outside of Dublin City center in Ireland during the year before and after they were married in 1932, and before Spike went to New York City to look for work. At that time a vocal minority of Anglo-Catholics within the  Church of Ireland was caught up in the idea of reuniting with the Roman Catholic church. Their models were three Oxford dons – Ronald Knox and Cardinal Newman, who did become Roman Catholics, and C.S. Lewis, who thought similarly but did not.

My Mom became an Anglo-Catholic by 1935 and then a Roman Catholic in 1938. If the text below is too hard to read, maybe someone who can read it will transcribe it. [Postscript: Thank you, Michael Fitzgerald, for doing this. I have posted it.]

Here is what she wrote in 1935:

March 31, 2017: Two corrections were made.
(1) Fr Colquhoun never made it to the rank of Bishop. His regalia must have been that of Monsignor.
(2) The Anglo-Catholics within the Church of Ireland were a minority, even at the Sandymount Church. For the corrections, thank you James Robinson.

Related Posts
Evie Hone and What Precipitated HvS's Conversion


  1. What a delight to learn that you are writing a biography of Hilda van Stockum. I love her work (especially The Winged Watchman) and am a recent convert to Catholicism myself, so I look forward to reading the story of her life.

  2. Thank you for your encouragement. I have also had a note from Michael Fitzgerald who is also enthusiastic and has transcribed the text of the notes above. You can find it by a Google search of his name and her name. I will also circle back here and post a link.

  3. Here is the link to the transcript: