A life's mission: Sladich-Lantz seeks to reveal the light in others

July 1, 2022



By her own admission, Mary Anne Sladich-Lantz goes all out, whether she is cross-country skiing, hiking, golfing, gardening or ensuring that other executives and managers in the Providence St. Joseph Health system have exactly what they need to advance the health system's identity, which she calls "crucial to the essence of who Providence is."

Mary Anne Sladich-Lantz

"I do everything with great intensity, which is a great curse and a great gift," admits Sladich-Lantz, Providence St. Joseph's senior vice president for mission and formation. Her co-workers predict that Sladich-Lantz's legacy will be legions of "spiritually whole individuals who conduct good works across the nation."

Her formation programs have inspired and nurtured executives, managers and hourly staff in the health system, but may have never been as welcome as during the darkest days of the pandemic when workers were exhausted and depleted. She created 30-minute virtual Sustaining Spirit courses to renew hope and restore emotional well-being.

In recognition of her work in the development and implementation of highly regarded ministry leadership formation programs credited with preserving Providence St. Joseph's Catholic identity, Sladich-Lantz is the recipient of the 2022 Sister Concilia Moran Award. She accepted the award June 6 at the Catholic Health Assembly in Indianapolis.

CHA presents the annual award named for Sr. Mary Concilia Moran, RSM, to a "trailblazing thinker," in Catholic health care, a person who demonstrates "an understanding of ministry identity rooted in the church that extends the healing ministry."

While religious formation always has been central to the life of people who take religious vows, the formation of laity to lead health care ministries began in earnest some 20 or 30 years ago in Catholic health care systems, around the time Sladich-Lantz joined Providence Health & Services, which later merged with St. Joseph Health.


Dougal Hewitt, Providence St. Joseph's chief mission and sponsorship officer, says Sladich-Lantz creates a big tent for spirituality in the system, which includes Catholic and secular facilities.

"As we serve and work alongside people of all faith traditions, we needed to create educational experiences that deepen a sense of meaning and purpose in their own development," says Hewitt. "Now, when Mary Anne is leading a formation session, you feel as though she is speaking directly to you. She is a deeply kind person, a deep listener and an amazing storyteller.

"Mary Anne brings a unique fusion of a deep understanding of the ministry of the church and a compelling way of engaging with people, even on complex topics such as sponsorship."


Sr. Susanne Hartung, SP, chief mission officer for Providence's Puget Sound region, agrees that Sladich-Lantz is able to strip away complexity to reveal essential truths. "Mary Anne tells stories that always reach a point of significance, almost like parables," she says.

Her stories can be reverent and moving, or warm and humorous.

Sr. Hartung recalls a story Sladich-Lantz told about a canoe that she and her husband, Reggie, wanted to buy. "She told us the whole story, every detail of making the decision, the purchase — right up to the point where they took out their canoe, tipped it and fell in the water. There was a lesson to be learned there, too."

Colleagues and close friends for 25 years, Sr. Hartung and Sladich-Lantz are aligned on what leaders need to develop their inner sense of purpose and channel that purpose to improve the health and quality of life in communities where the health system provides care. Sr. Hartung describes her friend as "a charismatic leader who understands what is needed and goes about developing it."

A life's mission
Born and raised in Anaconda, Montana, Sladich-Lantz graduated from the University of Providence (formerly the College of Great Falls) with a bachelor of arts in sociology and psychology. Recently, the university recognized her with an honorary doctorate in acknowledgement of a lifetime of dedication to mission and formation.

As a freshly minted college graduate, she worked for several years with developmentally disabled adults before earning a master's degree in theology and personal spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union, Franciscan School of Theology, in Berkeley, California. She worked with the Ministry Leadership Center in Roseville, California, and prior to coming to her current leadership position in the Providence St. Joseph system, Sladich-Lantz was vice president of mission leadership at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana.

Today, when she isn't on the road for Providence St. Joseph, she works from her home in Missoula. She oversees an associate vice president two directors and three support staff in the system's mission and formation area. They all work closely with "mission leaders, presenters, resource people, dialogue partners and reflection leaders" throughout the seven-state ministry, she says.

"We began this (formation) work targeted to our executive leadership, as they must be steeped in our sense of mission and who we are," Sladich-Lantz explains. "They said we needed to spread this throughout the organization, so we cascaded to a program for middle management, and we also offer ongoing formation experiences."

A coordinated effort now underway eventually will offer every caregiver in the Providence system the opportunity to engage in a formation conversation or experience. "That's moving forward in pockets across the system right now," Sladich-Lantz says, "and that will continue forever and ever, amen. We have an insatiable appetite for formation, for more and more and more — and even that's never enough."

What was God thinking?
Sladich-Lantz says formation rests on three legs. The first is self-understanding and awareness, "a deep sense of what God was thinking when he created you," she says. The second is a sense of spiritual grounding. "Spirituality allows us to flourish inwardly, brings us to a place where we sense deep love and learn to express that so our gifts and talents can make an impact across the nation."

The third is realizing that community is essential. "The community of Providence leaders is called to ensure faithfulness to the mission no matter what is going on around us, whether that is climate change, war or a pandemic. We need to see who we are, where we are going and how we must act to stay aligned, because that disposition makes us solid, strong and graceful — and inspires others."

Put me in, coach
What drew her to this work? "Years ago, when I worked as a pastoral associate in a Catholic parish, I discovered that hardwired inside of me is a desire to work alongside people on a personal, professional and spiritual journey," Sladich-Lantz says. "This natural inclination — maybe a call — to teach was there, to help people make connections between who they are, what's important in their lives, how to find meaning and purpose and how that translates to the work they do. I gained this, and I've honed it."

Sladich-Lantz cites an unexpected source for inspiration through the years: sports coaches. "I have always loved sports, played sports and coached sports, and I've gained a lot of insight into how really good coaches get the best out of their teams," she says.

Watching women's basketball teams competing in March Madness games this spring she focused on how coaches interacted with their players, "these beautifully strong and graceful young women," she says, "and I see their strength and tenacity and power and spirit just come alive!"

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