In times of rapid change, ministry trusts in God's providence

July 1, 2012

2011-2012 chairperson,
CHA Board of Trustees
Retired president and chief executive officer
Catholic Health East, Newtown Square, Pa.

When I assumed the role of CHA board chair this time last year, the theme of my comments in these pages and at the Catholic Health Assembly was "beginnings." I was referring to the many decisions that would be required in light of health care reform and our Catholic ministry. While we have embarked upon the beginning of a long journey through an ever-changing, unclear health care environment, it is certainly not the first time that our ministry needed to chart its course through uncertain times. Our founding congregations, so many years ago, found ways to build, strengthen and sustain the Catholic health care ministry in equally difficult, if not tougher, times. They did so with a deep trust in God's providence, an unwavering dedication to the mission and great courage in times of trial. I see that same spirit exemplified today as we continue that journey to secure the future of Catholic health care.

It has been said that: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your adversaries, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends." This year, our efforts were focused on fostering continued and fruitful dialogue with church and governmental leaders, and with our own membership to find ways to adapt to a changing environment, while remaining true to our mission. We worked to address differences and build relationships with courage, dedication and great sensitivity to the needs of others, always remembering the needs of those we serve.

We courageously challenged the Obama Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services when they first announced their interim final rule on women's preventive services and their proposed definition of a religious employer. The outcomes of this difficult process are still evolving as we continue to work and strive toward a solution on those items related to women's preventive services coverage requirements specific to our membership.

We also had to demonstrate courage in dealing with the challenges within our church at times. And even though we experienced differences, never was that courage necessary in areas related to our shared Catholic principles, as we understand our responsibility to act in communion with the church and its leaders. Together, we will strengthen our shared communion, for it is through relationships — it is through an ongoing dialogic approach — that we will continue our great sensitivity to the church's position, while focusing on issues that are unique and paramount to our members.

Our Membership Task Force also had to demonstrate courage as CHA faces an ever-evolving set of questions based on the rapidly changing evolution of Catholic health systems and organizational structures. Using the dialogic approach, so deeply steeped in our Catholic tradition, the task force addressed emerging issues with a sincere openness to the thoughts of our membership. As a result, the conclusions and recommendations of this group are based upon a need for a deeper level of understanding of the various implications from a multitude of perspectives regarding these structural and organizational modifications. They are intended to be inclusive of all the current members of CHA, and sensitive to maintaining the great reputation and respect for the CHA organization itself.

In June of 2011 and again immediately before the opening of the 2012 assembly, I had the privilege of participating with the Tomorrow's Leaders program, the CHA-sponsored recognition program honoring outstanding leaders who will guide our ministry in the future. This program is clearly a reflection of our deep and abiding commitment to leadership formation and to our future as a health care ministry. This emerging cadre of leaders met with senior ministry leaders in a daylong symposium before the assembly. They will be among the first generation of leaders who have had little or no opportunity to work routinely and hand-in-hand with members of our founding congregations. In the absence of the daily example of sponsors' fidelity to mission, it is crucially important that emerging leaders be given a strong foundation in the rich heritage of the Catholic health ministry. After all, they will be entrusted with the ministry's future.

Our commitment to the poor has never been stronger! Last year, we announced our plan to raise funds in cooperation with Catholic Relief Services, for the rebuilding of the Hospital St. Francis de Sales in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. While many of our individual organizations make significant contributions to needs throughout the world, never have we collectively embarked upon such a collaborative effort across the membership to help the poor of one nation. We received extraordinary support from CHA members who reached out to the people of Haiti. I want to again thank the ministry for your extraordinary outpouring of support in giving more than $10 million toward this cause. Design, architectural work, and pre-construction activities are proceeding, with a groundbreaking soon. Clearly, this is a phenomenal example of our commitment to the most underserved in the world.

As I reflect on this year, the one thing that stands out above all, was my ongoing and consistent witness to our collective and deep dedication to the mission. In light of all of the challenges from both outside and within, the ministry continues to be guided by the heritage, creativity and perseverance of our founding congregations as well as a shared belief and shared commitment to the healing presence of Jesus in our world. Despite the challenges, the difficult decisions and the turbulent times, the Catholic health ministry and our mission has never been more vibrant and strong, and with God's providence and grace, it will continue to be a healing presence long into the future.

I want to thank the entire membership for the opportunity to serve. I also extend my appreciation to the CHA Board of Trustees for their wisdom, guidance, advice and support. We are fortunate indeed to have their leadership and unwavering commitment to the mission. I am deeply grateful to Sr. Carol — her courage, stamina, energy and commitment to the ministry is simply extraordinary, as is her deep faith. And, sincere thanks to the staff who have been most helpful in so many ways.

Finally, my best wishes to Joe Swedish as he assumes the position of board chair. I know that he will have the support of the entire ministry as we continue our journey with courage.


Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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