Bethesda Deaconess Home and Training School, St. Paul, Minnesota
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In 1902 a second deaconess training site for the Augustana Lutheran Synod opened in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Bethesda Deaconess Home and Training School was administered by the synod’s Minnesota Conference in conjunction with the Bethesda Hospital, which began to accept patients in 1882. Oversight for the hospital came from the Tabitha Society of the State of Minnesota, which was separately incorporated from the conference. Originally the hospital suffered from leadership changes and a lack of funds. Then in 1892, the Rev. C. A. Hultkrans agreed to be superintendent and he soon arranged for the hospital to move to downtown St. Paul, beginning a period of prosperity and expansion.
From the beginning, care of patients at the hospital was supplied by deaconesses who had been trained at the Augustana’s Immanuel Deaconess Institute (IDI) in Omaha. As the Bethesda Hospital increased in size and capacity, the supply of deaconesses from IDI was not enough to meet their needs. A nurses’ training school was begun at Bethesda Hospital, and a few years later the conference established the Bethesda Deaconess Home and assumed control of the deaconess work at Bethesda. Rev. Hultkrans served as director of the home while still serving as superintendent of the hospital. Another pastor, the Rev. A.F. Almer, became assistant director and part-time teacher, as well as hospital chaplain. The first deaconess consecrated at Bethesda was Sister Ingeborg Nystul, who went as a missionary to China.
The main field of service for the Bethesda Deaconess Home was the hospital, although deaconesses also served in the conference’s related social welfare institutions, in parishes, and in foreign missions. The number of deaconesses at the home was never more than 25. The nurses’ training program started in the 1890s was discontinued when deaconess training began, but was reestablished in 1909. Eventually enrollment in the deaconess training program was so small that the school closed in 1928 and in 1930 the seven remaining deaconesses from the Bethesda transferred to Immanuel in Omaha. Nurses’ training continued at Bethesda, independent of any deaconess training.
Compiled by Elisabeth Wittman, May 2008.