By BETSY TAYLOR ORLANDO, Fla.
— One of the images that Pope Francis uses when speaking of the modern Church is that of a field hospital: a high stakes, responsive setting where agile caregivers tend to the immediate needs of the wounded.
CHA's 2015-16 Board of Trustees Chair Sr. Judith Ann Karam, CSA, drew on this church-as-field-hospital image during her remarks Sunday afternoon to open the 2016 Catholic Health Assembly, focused on "The Culture of Encounter." About 800 leaders of the Catholic health care ministry gathered at the JW Marriott Orlando – Grande Lakes for the three day meeting. .
Sr. Karam said the ministry's mission is to "bring health and wellness to those we serve" and like those working in a field hospital this work can be done by ministry members by responding to the needs around them. She said, "So many people need their wounds healed," whether they need physical healing or help healing "the wounds of the heart."
Karam, the congregational leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine — which is the founding religious community of the Sisters of Charity Health System – called this time a transformative one for Catholic health care. She said CHA continues to focus on bringing together sponsors, executives and mission leaders for dialogue about Catholic identity in a time of changing business structures and health care affiliations. She pointed to on-going education to make sure ministry members have contemporary information related to ethics, societal and cultural issues, end-of-life care and social justice. She said work continues on a non-partisan strategy to maximize CHA's advocacy and legislative effectiveness. .
She said, like those staffing a field hospital, ministry members have the spirit and dedication to make a difference in the lives of those in their care. "Nothing," she said, "is more important."