Contemplating what it means to harness one's gifts in service of the Gospel

December 15, 2019

Chairperson of the CHA Board of Trustees


It is an honor to communicate with all of you at Christmastime on behalf of the Catholic Health Association.

Christmas is an ideal time for all of us to reflect on what is most important — what we most aspire to as individuals and what we want Catholic health care to be. The Christmas story provides great guidance. It is a story of hope and optimism in the face of extraordinary challenges, a story focused on others rather than self and a story that demonstrates the tremendous power of humility.

As we face challenges and uncertainty in our personal lives and as we struggle with our vocations in Catholic health care, we are fortunate to have powerful role models to guide us.

The "spirit of the Gospel" that we often talk about is, of course, a reflection of the life and teachings of Jesus on Earth. His beginnings in a land controlled from afar, in a family on the move, not by choice but by fiat, were about as humble as possible. He didn't start with a clear path to success and influence, but he surely had a mission. His life and death in furtherance of that mission has inspired billions of people over centuries. Some of those people were our sponsors who created Catholic health care in the United States and ultimately inspired us to join up.

Our sponsors, often immigrants or children of immigrants, joined religious communities to serve others. They went where needed without much of a say and without a clear road map or even clarity of the task before them. They had very few possessions. Frequently they knew little (sometimes nothing) about how health care worked, but they set about to serve those in dire need of care and caring.

Today, we have so much more, which is not to underestimate the magnitude of our challenges and the anxiety that can be created by all of the complexity in our environment. In today's world, the management of Catholic health care requires great skill and strong capabilities, but it still relies on renewed mission focus for true success. As we contemplate that renewal, the Christmas story and our sponsors' stories are great places to start.


CHA is currently focused on its mission as it embarks on the process of setting its course for the next three-plus years as an association that exists to help those in need through its service to Catholic health care. Our management and board members are hard at work on this task, and I know everyone aspires to create a plan for the association that reflects our highest aspirations for Catholic health care and one that can guide our decision-making in the most productive manner.

Those aspirations reflect a belief that Catholic health care can and must thrive, serving our communities as:

  • A respected embodiment of service in the spirit of the Gospel.
  • A caring, high-quality provider of health care to all who need us.
  • A force for the better overall health of the population wherever we serve.

Our challenge is to create a consensus around a plan for how CHA can best serve Catholic health care — how we can help it realize these aspirations where it matters most — on the ground where the people of Catholic health care deliver services to those in need.

As we go through the process of charting that course, Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, and her staff at CHA are working hard to gather input from the people of Catholic health care and are doing so in a variety of settings. I want to encourage you individually to participate in one of those organized efforts or simply to send your thoughts to CHA directly.

At Christmastime, I know you are contemplating what commitment to service in the spirit of the Gospel looks like for yourselves and how it should be manifest in the institutions you serve and love. Please think about what our association can do to help your vision come to pass, whether by advocating for Catholic health care institutions publicly, ensuring close connection with the church, or creatively serving Catholic health care institutions and systems in areas where CHA brings unique capabilities.

The Christmas story can inspire us all. In that spirit, let us know what you think. We need everyone's ideas to help Catholic health care thrive.

Please have a happy, peaceful and blessed Christmas.

Copyright © 2019 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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