The Deaconess Biographies Project exists to produce biographical archives on the life and work of all women who have served as deaconesses in the parishes, institutions, or mission endeavors of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod or the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America. Materials collected by the Project will be used to publish a Biographical Encyclopedia of LCMS Deaconesses. Then the completed collection of information, photographs, and artifacts will be placed at Concordia Historical Institute (St. Louis), where it will be accessible to the public for historical exhibits, research, writing, and genealogy.
The purpose of recording the lives and actions of deaconesses is not simply to honor the memory of those who have served Christ, but to affirm, inspire, teach, and encourage the women who currently serve as deaconesses and those who may take up the same vocation, as well as the members of the church who call them to that vocation. In this manner, the Project supports the promotion of diaconal work that is grounded in the Lutheran theology of faith, serving Jesus Christ in one's neighbor.
In the course of writing a complete history of the deaconess movement in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann acquired the names of all women officially trained to serve as deaconesses within the LCMS or the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America (Synodical Conference). These women were educated at a Motherhouse and Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, IN (1921-1943); Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Beaver Dam, WI (1922-1935); Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Hot Springs, SD (1924-1927), Bethesda Lutheran Homes in Watertown, WI (1925-1935); Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN (1943-1986); Concordia College, River Forest – now known as Concordia University Chicago, IL (1980 to present); Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO (2002 to present); and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (2003 to present).
A surprising amount of information is available regarding the first placements and service of many of these women in the parishes, institutions, and various mission fields of the Synodical Conference and the LCMS. Yet there is still so much more to know, that would be useful for research, writing, and genealogy, for both present and future generations. Believing it would benefit the church if this information could be collected together into an archive of primary resource materials intended for the advancement of church history and the support of diaconal ministry, Deaconess Naumann initiated the LCMS Deaconess Biographies Project.
In presenting the Project to LCMS World Relief and Human Care (chosen because of its close affinity with diaconal care), in March 2007 Naumann wrote, “I believe it is in the best interest of our synod to collect this information, to store it securely, to utilize it presently for instruction and encouragement in diaconal ministry, and to preserve it for future generations. There is a great amount of material to be collected from yesteryear periodicals, old files, basements and attics, and the memories of deaconesses, their relatives, and their friends.”
The success of the Project depends on the ability to acquire, or borrow and copy, any of the following types of items:
- General biographical information provided by deaconesses, or their family or friends (e.g., birth/death dates, consecration/commissioning details, places and dates of service, marriage, special achievements, awards, church membership)
- Videos, CDs, DVDs, or tape recordings of special events (e.g., commissioning, installation, special anniversary)
- Worship bulletins and sermons (e.g., consecration, commissioning, installation, anniversary, marriage, funeral)
- Deaconess Diplomas and Baptism or Confirmation certificates
- Newspaper or magazine articles about deaconesses or their work in the church or community
- Diaries, letters, wills, speeches, printed articles, music, poetry, or other materials written by deaconesses
- Uniforms and deaconess crosses
- Antiquarian books or other artifacts that were used by deaconesses in their work
- Family stories or “legends” about a particular deaconess
YOU CAN HELP by giving (or loaning) any of these items to the Project. Please visit the Submit Information page if you can help.
The Biographical Encyclopedia of LCMS Deaconesses will contain a standard set of information about each deaconess, as well as any extra information regarding her personal contribution to diaconal ministry. Examples of this type of volume are already available in other church bodies, for example, Pioneers of God’s Future: A Directory of Deaconesses of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who have served in the United States and Canada 1848-1991, compiled by Fred S. Weiser (Gladwyne: Lutheran Deaconess Community, 1991).
The Biographical Encyclopedia is primarily useful for historical reasons, but could also serve as a reference tool for churches or organizations interested in the possibility of calling a deaconess. Wherever possible, the Encyclopedia will include a photograph of each deaconess.
From the outset of the Project, the deaconess conference has acted to provide both financial and administrative sponsorship. In 2008, CDC President Pamela Nielsen appointed Joyce Ostermann to serve as Business Manager, to manage Project grants and funds. In 2009, the conference voted to reassign $1,208.97 to the Project from a fund already established for the preservation of deaconess history.
Since the Deaconess Biographies Project is a project of Concordia Deaconess Conference, a 501(c)3 organization, all gifts to the Project are tax deductible.
LCMS World Relief and Human Care (LCMS WR&HC)
LCMS WR&HC assisted in facilitating the launch of the Project by receiving and forwarding donations specifically earmarked by donors to be given to the Project. Through this arrangement, the Project received $2,600 from individual deaconesses and other interested members of the church.
Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis, serves as the Department of Archives and History of the (Missouri) Synod. Rev. Marvin Huggins, Interim Director of the Institute, writes: "Concordia Historical Institute is the natural place for the material collected in the course of this project to be deposited. CHI is responsible for gathering and preserving information on rostered workers of Synod. The entire history of the development of deaconess work within the Synod falls within the scope of our collecting responsibilty."
The Project has been blessed with financial donations from both individuals and organizations. Donations are given in honor of a particular person or special occasion, as a memorial in memory of a loved one, or simply as a way of supporting this important work.
The following link will take you to a complete list of Project Donors: List of Financial Donors
Three individuals have provided invaluable advice from the outset of this Project, and still continue to be on call as consultants when needed. They are:
- Rev. Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
- Rev. Dr. Martin Noland, pastor in Evansville, Indiana, and former Director of Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis
- Rev. Dr. Robert Roethemeyer, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne
During the first two phases of the Project, the objectives of this website are: 1) to provide information about the Project; 2) to solicit and facilitate the collection of information, photographs or other artifacs related to the lives and service of LCMS and Synodical Conference deaconesses. 3) to provide a secure mechanism for the donation of financial gifts to the Project; 4) to feature a frequently updated catalog of all documents, media, and artifacts collected by the Project.
In phases three and four, the website will provide information as to how cataloged items may be accessed through Concordia Historical Institute for use by the public.
The website banner is a collage of photographs depicting deaconesses throughout the decades of the 20th and 21st centuries. The gold cross pin in the center of the banner is part of the deaconess uniform worn by members of Concordia Deaconess Conference - Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The banner was designed by our website technician, Mr. Stan Lemon.