Finding clarity in Jesus' call to serve society's marginalized

July 1, 2015

2014-2015 chairperson
CHA Board of Trustees
President and chief mission officer
PeaceHealth, Vancouver, Wash.


This past year — 2014 — has been a watershed year for the nation and for Catholic health care. It was the first full year of the Affordable Care Act implementation, and the start of CHA's centennial year. In fact, these milestones tell the story of health care in America, and remind me of the ongoing, critical role Catholic health care plays today.

A century ago, health care leaders weren't worried about the sustainable growth rate formula for physician payment (SGR), or Medicare, or 340B drug discounts, or a myriad of other things that keep us up nights now. (Thankfully, we can cross SGR off the list, but there is always a new concern to take its place. Still, let us pause in gratitude to acknowledge this success.)

In 1915 tuberculosis was a leading killer, and a cancer diagnosis spelled certain death. Today we work to hold the gains we've made through vaccinations and screenings, and we prepare for Ebola. Through it all, our doors have been open to serve everyone in need.

Jesus reminded us that the poor will always be with us. While we strive for social justice in our own workplaces and in society at large, we acknowledge inequities in an imperfect world and accept as our responsibility a duty to render care with a preference for those who live at the margins of society. In a rapidly changing world, one can lose sight of the basic call to serve that is inherent in Jesus' words, and is timeless in its relevance.

All of us who came up through the ranks of Catholic health care have sisters in our lives who mentored and taught us, served as role models, passed the torch to us when the time was right, and inspire us still. Sr. Monica Heeran, CSJP, winner of the 2008 CHA Lifetime Achievement Award, was such a figure to me. She showed me how passion for mission can be strong as steel; how courage is forged, not borrowed; and how prayer can change the world.

More recently, I've had the privilege of working closely with Sr. Carol Keehan, DC. She showed similar courage, faith and passion as she guided our membership into an era of reform, achieving what many thought was an elusive goal — near-universal access to health insurance.

Srs. Monica and Carol and the thousands more who have toiled before and beside them don't need us to honor them, but rather they teach us that the best way to honor their legacy is to continue it so that Jesus' message to serve those on the periphery of society is realized.

It was a blessing and an honor to serve as CHA board chair during this time. The gains we've made in coverage are awe-inspiring, yet the challenges before us are no less daunting. As I prepare to transition out of my CHA role and to retire from PeaceHealth, I close this last column with the prayer that I offered to the PeaceHealth leadership team — a prayer that was rendered beautifully by the choir at the opening of last year's CHA assembly:

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.


Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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