Epiphany event at Saint Alphonsus draws clinics into mission

January 2024

The 73 clinics within St. Alphonsus Health System found various ways to mark their thresholds for a Feast of the Epiphany service.


At a meeting in August of Saint Alphonsus Health System mission and medical group leaders, the question arose of how to better integrate the 73 clinics under the Boise, Idaho-based system's umbrella into its Catholic mission.

Most patient visits take place at those clinics spread across Idaho and Oregon. However, just as many of the clinics are physically disconnected from Saint Alphonsus' four hospitals, the leaders at the meeting worried the clinics might feel removed from the mission and vision of the system and its parent, Trinity Health.


"The hospitals are very aware of mission, of what we do in mission, and of chaplaincy as well," explained Ted Marconi, director of mission integration at the system's flagship, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. "What we've discovered over the last few years is our clinics don't know that we have a mission leader and that we have chaplains. And so, our goal across Trinity Health is to integrate mission in the clinics."

With the help of technology, he and other leaders at Saint Alphonsus organized an event earlier this month to "make sure the clinics knew they were seen and heard," Marconi said. The event brought people from all the clinics together virtually for a shared mission-related experience on the Feast of the Epiphany.

It was Marconi who, at the meeting in August, proposed the idea of centering the event on Epiphany. The holy day, traditionally marked Jan. 6, commemorates the biblical story of the visit by the Magi to the baby Jesus. As part of the Christian celebration of Epiphany — which in Greek means manifestation — many observers mark their thresholds.

The marking for 2024 was 20+C+M+B+24. The current year is at the beginning and the end of the marking. The letters stand for the traditional names of the Magi, which are Casper, Melchior and Balthazar,, and the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which means "May Christ bless this dwelling." The four crosses between the letters and figures represent north, south, east and west, indicating that all people are included in the revelation of the Christ child to the entire world.

In Marconi's view, the marking reflected the Saint Alphonsus mission statement: "We, Trinity Health and Saint Alphonsus, serve together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming healing presence in our communities."

The others at the meeting backed his idea for the Epiphany observance, agreeing it was a way to celebrate the new year together. The event was set for Jan. 8, the Monday after the feast day.

The planners then presented the idea to the eight directors of the Saint Alphonsus Medical Group. They pitched it "as a way to show solidarity and to begin the new year remembering our mission and touching a sacramental moment as an entire health system," Marconi said.

Once the directors were onboard, the planning widened to include more spiritual care and mission leaders and Sisters of the Holy Cross, the system's founding congregation. Meanwhile, the local clinics partnered with leaders in deciding on participation; what ways they would display the marking; who would create the marking and with what material; and who would recite readings at the event.

A calendar appointment went out to all the clinics and other participants before the Christmas break. A week before the event, the readers of the eight passages that were chosen for the service did a practice run at a virtual gathering. That gathering prompted them to agree that it would be best if they were all in Boise to ensure the actual event went smoothly.

On the big day, the service started at 7:45 a.m. sharp. Fifteen people, including the readers, were together in Boise and a person or groups of people from each clinic attended virtually. The service lasted all of about 10 minutes, Marconi said, and went off without any glitches.

Afterward, as the clinics displayed photos of their marked thresholds, the Microsoft Teams screen lit up with heart, smile and applause emojis. The threshold markings showed various levels of creativity and investments of time by the clinics. Some had used chalk for the markings, others used laminated printouts and others created wooden engravings.

"Nobody was judging," Marconi said. "Everybody was just enthused by the creativity that people had for how they translated what we were going to do."

He said Saint Alphonsus is continuing to look for more ways to better connect its clinics to its mission. Given the success of the Epiphany blessing in its inaugural year, that event will be repeated annually.

Marconi said the event was a good example of subsidiarity, the Catholic principle of empowering those closest to the work. "When everybody's involved across the system in a great way, I think it's just a better representation of who we are," he said.


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