History of the Department of Clinical Pastoral Education

Seton Family of Hospitals has a long history of working in collaboration with Clinical Pastoral Education. In 1972, the Rev. Dr. William C. Spong joined the faculty of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest (ETSS).

Before long, ETSS began a CPE program conducting summer internships for seminarians. Seton Medical Center Austin (SMCA) served as the clinical placement site for many students throughout the years. Will Spong worked with SMCA Staff Chaplain Rev. Barbara Holloway providing rich pastoral education. Up until Barbara’s retirement in July 2007, she served as an advocate for the CPE program that exists today.

Brackenridge Hospital

Another connection exists through Brackenridge Hospital, now Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas. For years Brackenridge Hospital housed an accredited ACPE program supervised by Rev. Rex Lewis. Unfortunately that program did not survive the merger of Brackenridge with the Seton Family of Hospitals Department of Chaplaincy Services. One consultant strongly suggested the development of a large CPE program as a creative way to meet the spiritual needs of patients, families, and staff in Seton’s growing medical network.

Fr. Joseph Ekweariri became the Director of Chaplain Services in September 2000 and began soliciting support for an NACC and/or CPE program. As he discussed the matter with administrative leaders at Seton’s area hospitals, Fr. Joseph was able to secure enough financial resources to establish a CPE program within the budget of the department.

The Birth of a Center

In May 2002, Rev. Gina Bethune joined Seton’s staff as a CPE Supervisor. Gina came to Seton from Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas. A resident of Austin, Gina had knowledge of the Austin community and previous working relationships with ETSS and the Austin Presbyterian Seminary. Prior to working at Scott & White, Gina served as a CPE Supervisor and Associate Director of Pastoral Care at Austin State Hospital. Gina developed a satellite arrangement with ETSS. A satellite contract was signed on June 17, 2002 allowing Seton to offer accredited CPE through the umbrella of ETSS and ACPE Supervisor Will Spong.

The first CPE year-long Residency program at Seton began in June 2002 with seven Level I students. Throughout the year, CPE residents assisted with the formation of this new program. The residency concluded with a graduation of the first class on June 21, 2003.

The program expanded to offer a summer internship during 2003. Seven intern students, all seminarians, completed an eleven-week unit of CPE. In June 2003, an administrative change occurred that separated CPE out from under Chaplain Services. Gina Bethune became the administrator responsible for CPE, reporting directly to Sr. Nannette Gentile, Senior VP of Mission Integration.

In the Fall of 2003, Fr. Ekweariri left Seton and the Department of Chaplain Services reorganized under the co-leadership of Fr. Oliver Weerakkody and Gina Bethune. Dr. JoAnn Garma was hired as the second ACPE Supervisor joining the staff in September 2003. A seasoned supervisor, JoAnn came from New Orleans where she worked as an ACPE Supervisor with the McFarland Institute. Throughout the Fall, the CPE Staff and Residents assisted with preparation for accreditation.

In the Fall of 2004, Clinical Pastoral Education became an independent department directed by Rev. Gina Bethune. Fr. Oliver Weerakkody retired and Rev. Barbara Holloway became the manager of Chaplain Services. In October 2004, the first Extended CPE Program with a class of six externs began. Gina supervised the group along with ACPE Supervisor, Rev. Wayne Menking. With joy and celebration, ACPE, Inc. officially granted Seton accreditation in November 2004.

Growing up Quickly!

The summer of 2006 brought many changes. JoAnn Garma moved to Dallas to work with another CPE program. During this time, Rev. Cyd Thomas worked with us leading the summer internship and was hired as a permanent CPE Supervisor in November 2006. Cyd, originally from Fort Worth, came to us with an extensive background of CPE Supervision with St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and Memorial Hermann Healthcare in Houston, Texas. We also welcomed the arrival of Rev. Carlos Sanchez coming from Chicago to join our staff in August to supervise the 2006/2007 Resident Program. In addition to these transformations, we were able to add the Supervisory CPE Program with Leigh Jackson accepting the Supervisory Residency position.

In August 2007, Leigh left the program to become Director of a Retreat Center in the heart of the Texas hill country and Carlos returned to Chicago to begin a new CPE Residency Program at a local hospital. Rev. Jose Cedillo was contracted to supervise the fourth unit of the 2006/2007 Resident Program and things worked out so well, he was contracted again to supervise the 2007/2008 Extended Program.

In May 2008, the CPE Department welcomed two new faces. Rev. Ron Lovelace, CPE Supervisor and Rev. Cam Holzer, Supervisory Education Student (SES). Both are new to Austin. Ron is originally from Virginia, but has moved to Austin leaving his position at the VA Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. Cam, a Katrina survivor, packed up her things and moved to our great city to finish up the SES Program. In August 2009, CPE experienced another growth spurt with the addition of Rev. Ken Ramsey, CPE Supervisor. Ken relocated to Austin from Houston where he was employed as CPE Supervisor for Memorial Hermann Healthcare.

In 2010, Cam left the program to accept a permanent CPE Supervisor position in Indianapolis, IN. Rev. Dale Wratchford who had served since 2006 as a staff chaplain with the Seton Healthcare Family became a supervisory Education Student in July 2010. Rev. Lee Ann Rathbun joined our staff as a CPE Supervisor in March 2012. Lee Ann and her family moved from San Antonio where she had served as a CPE Supervisor with Vitas Hospice. Later that year, Rev. Dale Wratchford took a chaplain position at a hospital in Indianapolis, IN.

The Rev. David Peters joined the CPE Department as the Supervisory Education Student in January 2013. Before coming to Austin, David was a chaplain clinician at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. In January 2014, David decided to go back to parish ministry. Rev. Matthew Hanzelka joined the CPE Department as the Supervisory Education Student in September 2015,. Matthew completed an initial CPE unit at Seton through the Extended Program and then completed the 2014-2015 CPE Residency. In addition to his SES work, Matthew serves as an Air Force Reserve Chaplain.

After Rev. Barbara Holloway’s retirement in July 2007, Gina was promoted to Director of the Chaplain Services Department while continuing as Director of the CPE department. This new management direction has allowed the CPE and Chaplain Services departments to work closer together as one team while CPE continues to evolve. While the Seton Family of Hospitals thrives, CPE flourishes by procuring more space in several hospitals across the network allowing for future expansion of this incredibly valuable program.