Keeping Christmas by distilling its simple and pure message

December 15, 2014

President and chief mission officer
PeaceHealth, Vancouver, Wash.
Chairman of the CHA Board of Trustees


One bright star. One stable. One baby. The first Christmas was blessed in its pure simplicity. At a time of year when the message God sent to all of the world with the birth of Jesus can be lost in the cacophony of our daily lives, we search for ways to be reminded of the simplicity of the miracle of Christ's birth.

At this most holy time of year, I challenge myself to pay less attention to the distractions and more to the simple ways that we can celebrate the season. Years ago the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, sponsors of the hospital in Oregon where I launched my career, would visit the hospital on holidays. This was a special time for patients and the staff, as the sisters brought their good wishes, their gratitude and occasional treats to share. This simple act of being present harkened back to the origins of Catholic health care. No one who was visited by the sisters would forget that kindness.

Catholic health care is a touchstone for many of us who share this common tradition of being present with the sick, keeping us grounded in the faith that inspires our ministry. While many in our workforce today are not Catholic, our mission, values and principles are universal. They are inspired by the teachings of Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate.

This is an especially significant Christmas because it ushers in 100 years of the Catholic Health Association. While we can trace our roots in Catholic health care back much further, it is a milestone worth noting because it brought various orders and ministries together, united in service to all in need and bound by a common faith and mission. Since 1915 CHA has been a leading voice for the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable in our society.

How remarkable to think that 100 years later CHA helped achieve an unprecedented expansion of access to health care. Perfect? No. But miraculous nonetheless. For the first time in memory the prospect of near-universal coverage is within reach. CHA was instrumental in passing legislation that led to expanded coverage, and our members continue to play a vital role in seeing that all the newly insured receive compassionate care.

During this Christmas season it's fitting that we take stock of how far we have come. Our anniversary year is a welcome opportunity to honor those who have gone before, who created the legacy we inherit and who rejoice with us at the great advances we have made in caring for all our brothers and sisters.

My Christmas memories are of church, family and the simple message of Jesus' birth. Growing up in the Midwest where faith was at the center of our home, we were encouraged to eschew the trimmings of the season in favor of a deeper observance. To this day I find the meaning of Christmas that warms my heart and touches my soul in the simplest of things: One star. One manger. One baby boy who changed the world.

May you all have a blessed Christmas season.


Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.