By JULIE MINDA
ORLANDO, Fla. — In remarks on the closing day of the Catholic Health Assembly here, CHA's president and chief executive officer acknowledged the challenges facing the ministry and the country and affirmed that CHA will "continue to work to preserve our ability to deliver the quality health care that our ministry is known for."
During the address at last month's gathering, Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, described the significant challenges the ministry and the U.S. are facing: Science and technology are changing at a dizzying clip, violence is harming communities, civil discourse is deteriorating, society is becoming increasingly polarized, health care delivery is changing in many uncharted ways, and the election season can be unnerving.
"All of this can be daunting," said Sr. Carol.
It is essential that, amid the challenges, ministry leaders continue to advocate — and embody — Catholic health care’s vision. "We must affirm the right of each person to health care, to basic justice and dignity — and our right to continue to serve this nation as a Catholic health ministry," Sr. Carol said.
She said that in recent comments, Pope Francis "could not be clearer about the right to health care." He said in May "that health care is not a consumer good, but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege." Sr. Carol spoke of efforts gaining momentum in the U.S. to legitimize physician-assisted suicide by framing it as a health care service. Such efforts must be challenged forthrightly. She said the ministry is viewed as credible because of the "incredible work" of our hospice and palliative care providers. These are the most effective tools in preventing assisted suicide, she said.
She urged ministry advocates to model the ability to dialogue respectfully to achieve workable solutions on complex issues — solutions in line with Catholic values. "Can you imagine how the tenor in many forums today would change if we … focused more on the culture of the encounter than the culture of conflict?"
She called upon the ministry to tell the stories of lives changed by the work happening in Catholic health care. "We have a leadership responsibility to inspire staff, to lift them up and also to put what happens each day in our facilities front and center."
Sr. Carol said 2017 is sure to bring a different dynamic in the nation, particularly as a new president and other new leaders take office. Whatever the future holds, she said, CHA will continue to advocate for people in need. "We are able to speak up and be heard because of the integrity and compassion you demonstrate in your organizations every day," she told assembly attendees.