serving together

Norway: Diakonifellesskapet Diakonissehuset Lovisenberg

Foundation Deaconess Lovisenberg is a diaconal organization within the Norwegian Church, established in 1868. Deaconess house is the pioneer organization in female nursing and diakonia in Norway, and currently runs extensive operations in education, hospitals and geriatric care.

Services and facilities include:

  • Lovisenberg Deaconess Hospital (50% owned by Diakonova) Lovisenberg diaconal college,
  • Lovisenberg Deaconess College (Lovisenberg diakonale høgskole), a private college for nursing in the district of St. Hanshaugen in Oslo
  • Elderly (Cahinka Guldberg Center)
  • Lovisenberg Deaconess kindergarten
  • Church and diakonia
  • The guest house
  • Lovisenberg property
  • Lovisenberg hospital pharmacy
  • The foundation has about 2,000 full-time positions and about 3,000 employees.

The foundation goes back to Cathinka Guldberg (b.January 3, 1840) who was the first Norwegian deaconess and who founded Deaconess House in November 1868. She was manager of the Deaconess Institution in Christiania for 51 years. She introduced modern nursing in Norway and was a pioneer in the development of the female diaconate.
Guldberg came from a gifted family. Her
father was a theologian, publisher and bookseller and later became a priest. Her mother came from a trading house in Fredrikstad and was featured as a “pious and wise woman.” Cathinka spent her early years in Christiania. When she was 8 years old, his father was a minister in Nannestad and the family moved later on to Ullensaker. When she was barely 15 years old her mother died, and as the eldest girl sibling Cathinka Guldberg had to shoulder responsibilities in the family. She was also active in the church, and showed great care for the poor and sick. She also worked with private aid groups. She had a strong Christian commitment from her teenage years. Her father married again, but was left a widower a second time. Upon the conclusion of his third marriage, she felt free to leave the family. She was then 24 years old.
In 1866 she travelled to the Deaconess Institution in Kaiserswerth, Germany, to train as a deaconess.
Her volunteer care work at home had created a desire to gain more expertise, and she had learned about the Deaconess institution in Kaiserswerth. While she was in Germany, a request came to ask if she would step in as Principal in the creation of a diaconal institute in Christiania. She agreed, and was consecrated deaconess before she left Kaiserwerth. The work grew rapidly, and after two years a move was undertaken to a new house in Ullevålsveien 5. In time, this also proved to be too small, and just before July 1887 the sisters moved into their new “Mother House” on Lovisenberg. The 112 acres of the site had been the gift of merchant Oluf Kiær. Cathinka built a retirement home, a hospital, an old age home for the sisters, orphanages and church. During that time she served as a leader, the diaconal sisters grew to about 550.
When constructing the Deaconess Institution, Cathinka followed the pattern she had seen in Kaiserswerth, but she simplified the rules greatly.
The sisters who came to Diakonissanstalten were the daughters in the house. Cathinka Guldberg had a close relationship with them and went by the name “Mother Guldberg”. After some time at the institution, the students were first admitted as trial sisters before being consecrated a deaconess. They wore the Deaconess costume, were celibate, and received only pocket money and were placed in service. But they were also free to break out of the service and the community if they wanted it, for example. by marriage. Women who joined the Deaconess Institution could in this way obtain a vocational training and independent living outside the patriarchal family that prevailed at the time.
Mother Guldberg put her strong stamp on both the formation of the young students who came in and the culture and tradition that developed at the institution.
It was a culture sustained by strong community values ​​and a pronounced Christ-anchoring. The goals were evident in the work of the hospitals, churches,  care of the poor, nursing, and other Christian social care.
Diakonia, the Church’s care, had a renewal in the 1800s.

Nursing was chosen as a professional in the implementation of diakonia. For 22 years there was only the Deaconess Institution that professionally trained qualified nurses in Norway. Agreements were quickly established with Rikshospitalet that deaconesses should take responsibility for nursing there and eventually agreements were signed with hospitals across the country. Deaconesses were also sent into private care, as ward sisters and in a multitude of other nursing and care institutions. The professionally qualified nurses were spread across the country.
A statue of her  was given by all the country’s nursing schools and organizations in 1966, and was an indication that she was highly regarded by all Norwegian nurses as a role model.
Cathinka Guldberg had a
prominent leadership position in an otherwise male-dominated society. In the first 18 years she was the leader for the institution. The Executive Board Chairman participated actively, but it was not until 1886 that a matron was hired and the institution had twofold management.
Cathinka Guldberg had a growing responsibility:
as “Mother” with extensive personnel responsibility for the sisters and running the Mother House, responsibility for the school and education, nursing services at the hospital. She was also a strong spiritual leader and an important symbol of a fervent Christian commitment. When women received the right to vote in the country, Cathinka Guldberg had already been the leader of a rapidly expanding organization with work across the country over 45 years. By her 75th birthday, she as the first woman in the country awarded the Knight Cross of the 1st class Order of St. Olav.
When Cathinka Guldberg died 22nd October 1919, she was 79 years old, and was still in service.
She is buried at Diakonia Senes gravesite at the Northern Cemetery in Oslo.
Sources and literature

  • From Deaconess house / Diakoni New leaf published by Deaconess house, 1883-
  • N. Bloch Hoell: Deaconess house hundred years from 1868 to 1968. – That we should walk in them, 1968
  • K. Martinsen: Freida and uforsagte deaconesses. A caring profession emerges 1860-1905, 1984
  • L. Riiser: Colourful in black and white. Portrait of an environment, 1993
  • Plans for Diakonia (Church of Norway)

Elisabeth Fedde (December 25, 1850 – February 25, 1921) was a Norwegian Lutheran Deaconess who established the Norwegian Relief Society to better serve the Norwegian-American immigrant

Rev Marianne Uri Øverland previously worked as Forstanderinne at Diakonissehuset Lovisenberg in Oslo, Norway. She is ordained as a pastor in the Church of Norway (Lutheran). She has completed degrees in Theology, Literature and Education. She has done congregational work both as a pastor and as a chief administrator and has been teaching at a theological college both in Norway and in Botswana. Some of her theological training she did in USA and Germany. She is serving on different boards both political and church related.

Information to be collected includes (but is not limited to) the following questions.



Diaconal ministry agents: consecretrated/commissioned/ordained/other?

Title: Sister, Deaconess, Deacon, Rev, etc


Historical information and dates re formation/recognition of diaconal ministry agents in the denomination/church agency.


Does the diaconal ministry agent wear a distinctive uniform? Are diaconal ministry agents able to be married? Are they remunerated? Do they live in community (eg motherhouse) or independently? Etc.


What kind of training/formation do diaconal ministry agents receive before formal recognition in their church. Are there expectations of ongoing training, or professional development? If yes, what is expected and how often does it happen?


How many diaconal ministry agents are there currently in the denomination or church agency? Any comment on trends in numbers?


Are there key people (historical or current) in the organization who have provided significant leadership. Any weblinks to their story, or a short write up?


Who are the current leaders in the diaconal association? (photos, ‘blurb’).


Relationship of diaconal ministry agents to a denomination/church agency


An overview of main responsibilities for diaconal ministry agents (past and present). Are they located within a church, a particular facility or agency, or community based? Are diaconal ministry agents appointed to individual placements or work together on projects or in institutions?


Are diaconal ministry agents able to preside at sacraments (communion, baptism, weddings etc)?


Who makes the appointments for diaconal ministry agents eg they apply for positions, they are appointed (eg by a Bishop, by the conference office, or another body/committee).


Is there a length of time for appointments (eg usually less than 5 years, usually between 5 and 10 years, at the discretion of the diaconal ministry agent or at the discretion of the appointing body), appointed to and remain with a particular mother house, etc.


Do diaconal ministry agents organize conferences, seminars, gatherings for professional development, pastoral peer support etc? How often and what is the nature of these events?


Key issues and challenges in the contemporary ministry context


Do the diaconal ministry agents have ‘code of conduct’ or ‘code of ethics’ that inform ethical and behavioral expectations for ministry?


Key documents (historical, vision and mission etc) – links or PDF or Word files




Links to relevant articles, websites etc


Other areas of interest……


(information to Rev Sandy Boyce, President, DIAKONIA World Federation,, to upload to this website)