Defining Leadership Formation

Ministry formation creates experiences that invite those who serve in Catholic health care to discover connections between personal meaning and organizational purpose. These connections inspire and enable participants to articulate, integrate, and implement the distinctive elements of Catholic health ministry so that it flourishes now and into the future.

"Formation" is a word long associated with preparation for religious life, a process of orienting one's lifestyle for ministry. Certainly, formation of lay leaders for the health ministry is similar to formation for religious life in its goal of orientation for ministry; but the lifestyles, commitments, and busy schedules of today's executives and managers in ministry organizations call for a different process than that experienced by young sisters, brothers, and priests.

So what does formation mean in this context? CHA's Ministry Leadership Development Committee articulated the following description:

Formation and development of leaders for the Catholic health ministry occur in an ongoing, multifaceted process that enables them to know and confidently act on behalf of the mission of the church's health ministry. Through this process, leaders grow in their abilities to guide organizations in a manner that gives witness to Gospel values.

Leadership formation is a lifelong commitment that enhances four dimensions of leadership:

  1. Personal exploration of one's own giftedness, call to service, and commitment to the mission and values of Catholic health care
  2. Creation of communities in loving service of the common good
  3. Understanding and application of the tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church with regard to health care
  4. Development and demonstration of the distinctive competencies required to successfully lead a Catholic health care organization with passion

In leadership formation activities, women and men in management and governance roles (or soon to enter them) grow in their ability to create and translate meaning for and with others in the organization and its community. Through their lives of dignity and integrity, they foster respect and a shared sense of higher purpose among the people who join them in the ministry. By raising uncomfortable questions, they encourage active reflection. By engaging differences, they create environments of hospitality and welcome. And through their passionate vision and imagination, they inspire in others creativity and the courage to take risks.

The individuals and organizations of Catholic health care are themselves sacramental — signs of God's love and presence among us. Leadership in this ministry is the practice of courageous acts — large and small — that build up the reign of God in our world. Leadership formation for ministry strengthens persons for this critical role. Intellectual study, spiritual discipline, integration of values in operations . . . leadership formation is all these, and, ultimately, it is an opening to God's grace.