Calls for deeper connections resound at CHA Assembly

July 2023


CHA brought together care providers, executives, administrators and others within the Catholic health ministry for its 2023 Catholic Health Assembly and encouraged them to make authentic connections, practice self-care, and align their work with a newly stated vision.

Damond Boatwright, president and chief executive officer of Hospital Sisters Health System, joins Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, president and chief executive officer of CHA, in a studio at Once Films in St. Louis for the broadcast of the 2023 Catholic Health Assembly. CHA installed Boatwright as chair of the association's board of trustees during the two-day virtual event. Just over 400 people registered to attend.
Credit: Jenn Lyke/@CHA

The event's theme was "A Time to Connect." Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, president and chief executive officer of CHA, told those gathered: "As stewards of this ministry, it is both our treasure and responsibility to invite others into the connectedness to which we are called and to be more fully aware of the sacred in our lives."

Attendees got encouragement to tend to their own wellness; opportunities to share their thoughts, comments and questions; and a chance to join an interactive session to connect with peers from across the Catholic health ministry. The three keynote speakers each delved into an aspect of wellness.

Sr. Mary also revealed CHA's new vision statement — "We will empower bold change to elevate human flourishing" — on June 12, the first of the virtual event's two days. She and other leaders of the association urged CHA's membership to use the statement as a compass to navigate through challenges and opportunities.

"I am certain that guided by our vision, the Catholic health ministry will elevate its prophetic voice and we will help lead the transformation of health care in this country," Sr. Mary said.

'Join me again in rising'
The Assembly was the stage for the transition of chair of CHA's board. In a rousing address that followed his installation into the post for 2023-2024, Damond Boatwright acknowledged that the health care sector faces financial, workforce and other headwinds.

He reminded Assembly attendees that the foundresses of Catholic health care systems were mostly immigrants who tended to the sick and poor in homes and on the streets. Their efforts led to what has become a $4.2 trillion industry that comprises networks of hospitals, clinics and other facilities across a continuum of care.

Boatwright, president and chief executive officer of Hospital Sisters Health System, told the Assembly attendees that they are now the pioneers of Catholic health care. He called on them to focus on payment reform, on innovative ways to expand access to quality care and on their shared mission to serve the vulnerable.

"Join me again in rising with faith and courage to advance a better future — a future where we see improved access to health care for all people; a future where we find new ways of overcoming the challenges in front of us; a future where we continue to advance the tradition of Jesus' healing ministry," Boatwright urged.

Challenges, responses
In her remarks, Sr. Mary too discussed challenges confronting health care providers. She noted that while the COVID-19 crisis has waned, inflation, workforce shortages and the Supreme Court's ruling in the Dobbs case that returned decisions on abortion to the states are among the factors disrupting health care.

"On every front, CHA has been working on your behalf to advance efforts that protect human dignity and ensure the common good," Sr. Mary said.

For example, she mentioned the association's efforts to raise awareness and provide education about the Medicaid eligibility redeterminations that began this spring. Some analysts expect millions of Americans to lose coverage in the process, many in spite of still being eligible. In response, CHA expanded its Medicaid Makes It Possible campaign with a Protect What's Precious initiative that includes a tool kit of resources for health systems to make patients aware of the redetermination process.

Sr. Mary lauded the efforts of CHA members to confront ongoing crises. She mentioned that several have become leaders in sustainability. Some have committed to achieving zero net carbon emissions and zero waste over the next 10 to 15 years.

Earlier this year, Sr. Mary noted, CHA launched the Essential Community Impact initiative. "Through this effort we will develop statistical measures that will provide a clear understanding of the value of Catholic health care and how the health of communities is improved because of Catholic health's presence," she said.

Connecting with the vision
Sr. Mary commended Boatwright and Laura Kaiser, SSM Health president and chief executive officer, for leading the process that resulted in the new vision statement. Kaiser was CHA chair as the statement was being developed.

Kaiser noted that her time as head of the CHA board had given her the chance to more deeply connect with others in the Catholic health ministry and its shared mission. She said she hopes the vision statement will foster similar connections across the ministry.

"My prayer today is that our new vision statement inspires each one of you and deepens your call to serve," she added.

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