Domestic Poverty

St. Benedict Health and Healing Ministry

February 23, 2016
Domestic Poverty

St. Benedict Health and Healing Ministry has very specific goals, the chief of which is, naturally, to heal those who are ill in body, mind and spirit. An institution and Jubilee Ministry of the Diocese of Colorado, St. Benedict’s is a point of access to healthcare for underserved and unserved populations in Boulder County.

The story of the founding of St. Benedict Health and Healing is important to its continued success—and it centers on a single person: the Reverend Sally Bowersox, a priest, registered nurse, and the founder/executive director of the ministry. Having practiced skillfully as a nurse for years, she received a call to the priesthood in 1998. As her discernment process evolved, Bowersox felt that parochial ministry was not part of her calling—rather, in consultation with a pastoral theology professor, she found that her calling involved both health and faith. Having opened herself up to God’s use, she began thinking of ways to integrate the two. Because she had always been on the front lines of nursing, she was ready to get her hands dirty. As she progressed through seminary, her guiding image took shape: Carrying a black bag of health care items and working on the streets.

After graduating, Mtr. Bowersox accepted a call at Our Merciful Savior Episcopal Church in Denver. There, among a predominantly Hispanic population, she found her congregation had a shortage of access to health care. The seeds of ministry were planted as the parish formed a blood pressure clinic in the church basement.

By 2003, the ministry had taken on a life of its own outside Our Merciful Savior. What started as a ministry to homeless men had expanded to serve homeless women. And then youth. And then the elderly. And then anyone who came, across the board. While one patient was be homeless by choice, or mentally ill, another had lost their home and assets in a divorce, and only recently come to find themselves disadvantaged.

Since 2003, St. Benedict Health and Healing Ministry has increased in volunteers, mission area and treatments. Offering services at no cost to the patient, the ministry is committed to being a faith-based voice that is non-denominational in outreach. They have 25 active volunteer healthcare professionals, including physicians, RNs and paramedics, as well as a cadre of non-healthcare professionals. In 2013, they provided 6000 medical services—a lofty amount, already surpassed; between January and October 2014, the ministry had served 7200 needs in their community. The need and desire to branch out and offer guidance to new ministries is strong, showing the depth of their commitment to the cause.

The values Mtr. Bowersox espouses are simultaneously modest and inspirational. Her mission, as she explains it, is to see the face of Christ in all of the patients. She finds listening to patients more important, in some regards, than giving a blood pressure check or a diabetic finger-stick–since many clients long for an understanding ear and calm face. Also integral are relationships based on dignity and compassion, between volunteers, patients, and the director.

Last year, St. Benedict Health and Healing Ministry saw a man whose vision had become impaired to the point of blindness. While their particular ministry did not have the resources on hand to treat the man, they partnered with five other Colorado non-profit agencies, as well as an exceptionally generous ophthalmologist. As in Christ’s fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the ministry had come to restore sight to the blind.

The Rev. Melanie Mullen

Director of Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care

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