July 12, 2009 - Betty (Schmidt) Mulholland

On its fifteenth anniversary in 1995, Concordia Deaconess Conference—Lutheran Church-Missouri (CDC) presented the Phoebe Award to Deaconess Betty Ruth (nee Schmidt) Mulholland in recognition of her diaconal work within the Synod.

Betty was born in St. Joseph, Michigan, on December 13, 1933.  She was baptized and confirmed at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Joseph, where she was also consecrated as a deaconess on May 22, 1955.   Betty’s first deaconess placement was to Bethesda Lutheran Home, Watertown, Wisconsin.  There she worked from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week with every other Sunday off, caring for the most profoundly developmentally disabled women. 

After taking a break to care for a young family of four children, Betty returned to deaconess service at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Munster, Indiana, in September 1968 and retired from that position almost 30 years later, on January 1, 1998.  In the parish Deaconess Betty made hospital, shut-in, and rest home visits; led the ladies’ Bible class, altar guild, and Ladies’ Aid groups; established an Alzheimer’s support group; worked in many areas of women’s ministry, and served pretty much wherever she was needed.  As an Emeritus Deaconess, she has continued to work extensively with the congregation’s senior citizens club. 

When the LCMS Deaconess Program started at Concordia University Chicago in 1980, Betty agreed to teach one of the core deaconess classes for the first academic year, and she has continued to be a guest lecturer on numerous occasions since then.  Betty has also served the church as an advisor (1970-75) and elected member (1976-1990) of the Indiana District Board of Social Ministry (1970-75); member of the Indiana District Board for Congregational Services (2000-06); the LCMS Nomenclature Study Committee; and the subcommittee on Pastoral rites for the new Lutheran Service Book.  In addition, she served for 25 years as Secretary of the Board for the Lutheran Home of Northwest Indiana Endowment Corp. and Incorp.

Several years ago Deaconess Betty was asked to write a short summary of what it meant to her to be a deaconess.  I found a copy of her response in a file at Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis.  Her page of thoughts read:

“What it means to me to be a deaconess cannot be put into words.  Meditating on being a deaconess is overwhelming and awesome to me.  For herein lies a great privilege, responsibility, opportunities unlimited, and above all, the blessings our Lord promises to those who follow Him and serve Him.

“The privilege of sharing my Savior’s love comes along every day.  Teaching, instructing, sharing, prayer, encouraging are daily occurrences.  But doing this accurately and to the point of total comprehension on the part of the sharer is nearly overwhelming, for I am accountable for these people to my Savior.  Accountable not just for what I say and do, but also for what I don’t say and don’t do, or even unintentionally mislead.  It is for this reason that I must be reliant on Scripture alone!

“My husband and children have been blessed through my being a deaconess.  Because of the ’24 hour on duty’ attitude my family has concerning my work – they have seen many opportunities also to serve our Lord – putting someone else’s needs first over our own.  This has made the work of the Church very much alive for them.  The faith of many of our old shut-ins has certainly shown our children how important our Lord is to our people – He is real and alive – He does care for us all – He does hear and answer prayer!

“Being a deaconess means to me that I am a professional church worker.  All the attributes and characteristics of a deaconess should be and are needed in each and every one of us as Christians.  We cannot take these off and put them on every day just as we change our clothes.  But when I put on my navy blue uniform – that means something else!  For now I represent my congregation and my Synod.  I have a position of leadership and responsibility that is official – not only among our own Synod members but to the world at large.  What my Lord commands comes first – this I must always profess and live.  Not my own selfish desires and needs – but His.  That’s quite a responsibility!  When I took my consecration vow I agreed to assume this responsibility.  My Lord has never forsaken me – for so He promised He would not – and as a professional church worker, I cannot forsake Him.

“To follow my Savior and to serve Him through the office of deaconess has brought me great peace, joy and contentment.”