1993: Father Carlton Jones, OP, then pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Columbus Ohio gathered individuals who were committed to and experienced with life issues to meet at his rectory in order to initiate a Catholic Christian Sacramental program of healing for men and women wounded by abortion. Judy Schlueter, one of the participants, agreed to write and direct a retreat day. The Respect Life Committee of St. Patrick agreed to offer financial and actual support along with attorney Mark Huddy, Director of Diocesan Social Concerns, and Rachel Benda, foundress of Bethesda House of Mercy in Cleveland, Ohio.
1994: The first annual retreat was held on the property of the Sisters of Good Shepherd in Columbus. Thirty-five individuals attended the full-day retreat, which was facilitated by:
Fr. Jones, Spiritual Director
Fr. Thomas Olmsted (now Bishop of Phoenix, AZ) from the Pontifical College Josephinum, as confessor
Judy Schlueter, Lay Director
Rachel Benda, Retreat Consult.
Bethesda Healing Ministry developed to meet a recognized need to respond to those suffering from post-abortion syndrome with a formal program of spiritual and emotional healing in a Sacramental context. As an R.N. and a Master’s Degree candidate in Pastoral Counseling and having served since 1973 in the life movement, Judy Schlueter continued offering ministry sessions to individuals seeking post abortion support and healing with the assistance of Fran Kempf. Over the next six years, healing sessions were held in various parish basements. The number of attendees fluctuated from 4-14 individuals.
1997: Father Martin Martiny, O.P. became the first priest chaplain for the Bethesda Post Abortion Healing program in Columbus.
Two seminarians from the Pontifical College School of Theology were assigned to Bethesda Healing Ministry on an annual basis for each pastoral year. Judy Schlueter served as supervisor for the seminarians.
The Pastoral Team was formed to provide spiritual stewardship to the Bethesda mission.
2000: Bethesda Healing Ministry formed a Board Apostolate and became a Registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Judy was named Executive Director and Fran Kempf Associate Director, as volunteers. All services were free of charge to participants.
2001: Mother Mary Agnes Donovon, Superior of the Sisters of Life, invited Bethesda Healing Ministry to become an affiliate of the order.
Bethesda Healing Ministry held its first annual Benefit Dinner with proceeds (minus a 10% tithe dedicated to a deserving pro-life spiritual cause) directed to the growing ministry. By this time, the number of regular participants in the ministry had doubled and at times tripled in size. Graduates of the healing program were formed and prepared to become Companions (mentors) to incoming members.
2004: Bethesda’s first official healing manual written by Judy Schlueter was published and used by not only ministry participants, but also interested groups or individuals seeking post abortion healing programs.
First paid position for part-time administrative support established.
2005: The Board Apostolate agreed to discern and search for a permanent home for the growing ministry. The ministry then resided briefly in Worthington , OH .
The Bethesda Prayer Cenacle is formed to pray for the protection of our Bishop, priests, and ministry, meeting monthly in the St. Rose of Lima chapel at the Pontifical College Josephinum.
The first edition of our periodical newsletter Bethesda News was published.
2006: A volunteer was enlisted to accept a part-time staff position as coordinator of our volunteer program called Raphael’s Hands.
2007: The Ministry agreed to accept the invitation of Father Michael Lumpe, then pastor of Christ the King, with the approval of Bishop Frederick Campbell, Ordinary of the Diocese of Columbus, to establish ministry residence in the vacated convent on the campus of Christ the King parish. Bethesda moved to Five Porticos on Dover Rd.
To handle the increased administrative workload due to growth and expanded outreach, we added another part-time staff position as Administrative Coordinator.
2008: Website revision and initiation of the Hispanic Outreach. Daytime sessions may be added to the evening program. All retreats, days of spiritual reflection, community education, hospitality to priests and religious continue.
2009: Continuing education and formation for Project Rachael leadership from Washington, D.C. as well as 25 seminarians from the Pontifical College Josephinum, Col. OH. Provided area-wide seminar offered by Bethesda Healing Ministry who hosted Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Ph.D of Bowling Green State University. Education on longitudinal data regarding abortion and mental illness, “Unveiling the Myth”.
2010: Provided weekend seminar formation and education for potential providers of a Bethesda Healing Ministry satellite in Southern Ohio. Billboard outreach; education/invitation throughout greater Columbus area for both English and Hispanic speaking people.
2011: In a dramatic departure from the Bethesda fundraisers of the past, a dinner and concert entitled “A Celebration of God’s Mercy” was held on August 14 in the Walter Student Commons at St. Charles Preparatory School. The keynote address by The Most Reverend Frederick F. Campbell, Bishop of Columbus, was followed by a concert with noted tenor Daniel Cabanillas. The distinctive entertainment component and the much larger venue drew a record setting crowd, many of whom were introduced to BHM for the first time.
2012: Bethesda broke new ground by developing a seminar – “Approaching Holy Ground” – for both the seminarians from the Josephinum, and the organizers of Bethesda-inspired ministries from several different dioceses. Held over two days in September, more than 100 participants learned of the history, mission, organizational structure and operational details of our ministry.
2013: Bethesda welcomed individuals from the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend, Phoenix, AZ and two PCJ seminarians to an information/formation program in Columbus directed by the Bethesda Ministry team. Sisters arrive to occupy and share Mission space in Five Porticos for outreach and ministry to Hispanic people of Christ the King and surrounding area.
2014: For twenty years, Bethesda has been blessed to accompany countless women, men, and families on their healing journey. An estimated 600+ men in priestly formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum have participated in Bethesda Healing Ministry seminars and pastoral works assignments. All culminating in An Experience of Hope – Celebrating 20 Years! with Keynote Speaker Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, Honorary Chair Bishop Frederick F. Campbell, Master of Ceremonies Father Michael Lumpe, and Helen D. as ministry witness. Music provided by The Kells Irish band.