CHA to launch online platform for conducting ministry identity assessments

January 2023


In mid-February, CHA will launch an online Ministry Identity Assessment platform that will streamline some of the processes of conducting a comprehensive evaluation of how well ministry systems and facilities manifest the Catholic health mission.

Ministry leaders will be able to use the tool to organize teams to assess how effectively their organizations are living out each of seven areas of responsibility, as set out in the core commitments of Catholic health care. The online tool guides the teams through the assessments, the analysis of the results and the development of performance improvement action plans based on the findings.

Dennis Gonzales -150

Dennis Gonzales, CHA senior director of mission innovation and integration, says by participating in the thorough, step-by-step self-assessment process, Catholic health systems and facilities will identify strengths and reasons to celebrate as well as areas for growth and continuous quality improvement. The tool offers a blueprint for such improvements and a way of keeping track of progress toward those goals. Gonzales says the tool will help the ministry to build a repository of best practices from across Catholic health care to serve as inspiration for ministry organizations looking to expand their work.

The portal incorporates an updated version of the comprehensive Ministry Identity Assessment tool that CHA first made available to its representative members in 2019. Developed by a task force of mission and ethics experts convened by CHA, the assessment tool is in line with Gospel and theological values and foundational elements of Catholic social teaching.

Fr. Cardone

Completing a ministry identity assessment is formative for ministry executives and staff, says Fr. Joseph Cardone, chief mission officer for Bon Secours Mercy Health. That system has been piloting the online tool.

Gonzales says the updated web-based Ministry Identity Assessment retains the original emphasis on the seven core commitments of Catholic health care. Those commitments represent a consensus of the Catholic health ministry. The second edition of the assessment tool also retains components drawn from the Baldrige Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence.


The updated tool also incorporates scoring methods from the Catholic Identity Matrix developed by Ascension and the University of St. Thomas. Gonzales says Mark Repenshek, Ascension vice president of ethics and church relations, made extensive contributions to the revisions and updates of the CHA Ministry Identity Assessment. "The best of CHA's and Ascension's and the university's ministry identity assessments are incorporated in the new edition of the tool," Gonzales says.

Repenshek adds: "Ascension's involvement helped to further the rigor of the assessment through a more explicit and in-depth integration of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program framework and the development of a methodology to perform analyses of clinical procedures relative to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services."

Taking stock
The original Ministry Identity Assessment was published as a book with illustrations based on Gospel texts. The complete contents of that book have been available for download by CHA members since the book first went into print in 2019. The updated, online iteration of the assessment replaces the original version. Like the original assessment, it is a members-only resource.


Nick Osterholt, CHA editor of digital communications, says the association has been working with a vendor since last year to build "from scratch" the web-based tool that members have been asking for. A committee of CHA and ministry staff have been developing the ideas for the tool, incorporating input from association members. The result is a customizable and adaptable tool that provides ministry members with a site where they can convene staff contributing to the Ministry Identity Assessment work. The member can add their own collateral documents for their assessment teams.

On the portal, staff will be prompted to methodically assess their organization's policies, practices, community partnerships, culture and other aspects of their work. Other content and resources relate to the seven core commitments of Catholic health providers: serving as a ministry of the church, promoting and defending human dignity, promoting the common good, attending to the whole person, caring for poor and vulnerable people, acting on behalf of justice and stewarding resources.

The Ministry Identity Assessment online platform that CHA is launching in February has a section that explains the seven core commitments of Catholic health care. The platform includes resources to guide Catholic health care providers in assessing their fidelity to the Catholic health mission.

The assessment process involves a steering committee overseeing the effort at each participating system and subcommittees working on each core commitment assessment. The systems determine who is on their teams — participants can include sponsors, board members, staff, patients and community members.

As part of the assessment process, the subcommittee members enter scores into forms on the portal to indicate how effectively they think the organization is completing specific activities related to particular commitments. After individuals have entered their scores, the subcommittee discusses those scores and their meanings. They then enter into forms on the portal new scores arrived at through consensus. Committee chairs and the steering team then enter final scores for each area evaluated. The tool organizes and provides a report on these scores, as well as the strengths and opportunities for improvement for each core commitment. The tool also provides the platform for developing action plans based on the results.

The entire process takes about three to four months. CHA makes a seasoned ministry leader available as an external reviewer to provide input on the effort. CHA encourages organizations to repeat the assessment process every three years and gauge how well they are doing against their prior assessments.

It is expected that the use of the tool will lead to consistent points of comparison and increased sharing of best practices around the ministry, since numerous Catholic health systems will be assessing their work against the same criteria, says Gonzales.

Executive champions
Ascension's Texas market and three markets within Bon Secours Mercy Health — Lorain, Toledo and Youngstown in Ohio — have been piloting the platform since late summer. This year, both systems are planning to expand the tool's use to more of their markets.


Fr. Cardone and Amy Marcum, Bon Secours Mercy Health's chief mission operations officer, have been leading that system's work during the pilot.

Fr. Cardone says this is the first time the 48-hospital system has had a single tool and approach that all of its markets will use to evaluate how they are living out Catholic identity. When Bon Secours Health System and Mercy Health merged in 2018 to form the larger system, leadership began discussing the need to have a unified approach to assessing identity. The new platform meets that goal, Fr. Cardone says.

He notes that the Ministry Identity Assessment aligns with Bon Secours Mercy Health's emphasis on Catholic moral and social teaching, and the biblical tradition of Catholic health care. Fr. Cardone says that this alignment helped secure the executive buy-in that was critical to the individual markets making the commitment to conduct the ministry assessment using the online platform.

Marcum says the assessments completed during the pilot phase were extremely informative for Bon Secours Mercy Health. "We have been doing great things, but we have not been benchmarking all of those things. It became apparent as we used the platform where benchmarking was really needed." She says the measurement taking place through the assessments has led to action plans that will have a profound impact on the work Bon Secours Mercy Health does.

In addition to taking steps to improve how it is living out its identity and mission as a ministry of the church, Bon Secours Mercy Health will be celebrating all the good work that has been confirmed and documented through the evaluations, Marcum says.

More information on the Ministry Identity Assessment platform is available at At the time of the platform's launch, the fee for using the tool will be posted on the web page.

Brian Smith, CHA's vice president of sponsorship and mission services, led much of the work to create and implement the first version of the Ministry Identity Assessment and he led the process to create the online platform. Smith died Nov. 8. Gonzales says the resource is an important part of Smith's legacy of service to the Catholic health ministry.


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