Catholic health care's positive influence can right wrongs

July 1, 2019

CHA president and chief executive officer

I write to you in late May from 35,000 feet on my return flight to St. Louis. I've spent the week under Sr. Carol's tutelage in CHA's Washington, D.C., office, getting oriented for my new role at CHA which officially begins July 1.

Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM

But at this moment, as the plane ascends, the landscape is awash in cloud dappled sunlight, I pause to let go of the stress of travel and take in God's grandeur below. I can't help but ponder my role in this vast universe.

I am reminded that each of us in Catholic health care are called to be God's hands reaching out to care for the poor and the vulnerable. It is a sacred and daunting task, but it is one that every individual in health care, from patient transporters to physician specialists, makes lighter through their contributions.

There are many challenges and so many uncertainties that will impact Catholic health care in the United States in the near future: The 2020 presidential election, the growing political and economic divide in society, the leadership crisis in our church, the unmet needs of desperate and poor immigrants who seek safety and opportunity here, the mounting health toll of environmental degradation and global warming. Many of you alluded to these challenges as you offered your congratulations and thanked me for accepting the leadership of CHA, which made me think, "And why did I say yes to this?"

But my initial angst over that daunting to-do list fades as I take stock of the people who've shaped Catholic health care over the decades to be a source of hope and healing and a force for social good. Like the disciples, I'm grateful for Pentecost and trust God's spirit continues to be with us.

Every generation is called to respond to the defining challenges of its time. In health care in the U.S., a central challenge continues to be ensuring that all people have access to the care and resources they require to lead healthy and productive lives. This is a matter of social justice on par with the struggle for civil rights. The people of Catholic health care will remain steadfast and passionate about our commitment to create a just health care system for all.

And, when we raise our voices in unity, we will be a force for good in the nation's health care policy debates. In our local communities, we will continue to advance wellness by improving health care access and outreach. We will team up with social service providers to reduce social isolation, and promote affordable housing, economic opportunity and other factors that impact health, quality of life and longevity. And we will continue to strive to treat every patient with dignity and respect. The positive impact of those encounters will ripple out to strengthen the well-being of families and contribute to social cohesion in a fragmented age.

So, as I settle into seat 8A and cast my gaze out the window, I see a world of possibility. I look forward to hearing from you and for opportunities to further our collective mission. Thank you for the trust you've placed in me; we are in this together. And my special thanks to Sr. Carol for all that she has done to prepare me for this role and to ensure a smooth transition.


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

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