'Let us be bold': Assembly encourages ministry to embrace and lead change

June 2024
Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, CHA's president and CEO, shares the stage with Ascension CEO Joe Impicciche, center, and Damond Boatwright, president and CEO of Hospital Sisters Health System, at the 2024 Catholic Health Assembly. Boatwright handed off the baton to Impicciche as chair of the CHA Board of Trustees. Jerry Naunheim Jr./CHA



SAN DIEGO — Several hundred people from within the Catholic health care ministry heard the call to "lean into our vision and embrace bold change with bold thinking" at the 2024 Catholic Health Assembly here.

CHA President and CEO Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, issued the appeal, which reflected the event's theme of "Embrace bold," at the start of the June 9-11 gathering. She challenged those in attendance to follow Jesus' example by shaking off current assumptions and norms and embracing "radical freedom" and "to go beyond what is comfortable" in envisioning a better health care system.

Following up on the CHA vision statement adopted last year, "We will empower bold change to elevate human flourishing," Sr. Mary announced that the association has approved a complementary strategic plan for the next three years. The pillars of the strategic plan are: care for all, health reimagined and united for change.

"This plan creates the foundation for actualizing our vision and will guide our work for the next three years and beyond," Sr. Mary said.

In another major announcement, Sr. Mary revealed that CHA has launched its Center for Theology & Ethics in Catholic Health. The center is under the direction of Dan Daly, an associate professor of moral theology at Boston College. The center will develop resources to guide Catholic health care on current and evolving ethical issues and build strong working relationships with academic centers of ethics and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Dan Daly speaks after being introduced at the assembly by Sr. Mary. Daly is the executive director of CHA's new Center for Theology & Ethics in Catholic Health. Jerry Naunheim Jr./CHA



"The center aims at excellence in theology and ethics in Catholic health," Daly told the assembly. "It's responsive to the needs, the theological and ethical needs of the ministry, the needs that you all have, and it will do its work in concert with church teaching, and the best expression of Catholic theological ethics in dialogue with other relevant disciplines."

New stewards
On the second day of the assembly, Damond Boatwright danced across the assembly's main stage to deliver his spirited address as outgoing chair of the CHA Board of Trustees. Boatwright asked the audience to reflect and act upon the association's vision; its mission to care for people and communities; and its core values of respect, integrity, stewardship and excellence in their work.

"It is our time and our moment as stewards of Catholic health care to be bold in our advocacy and to demand that we get a better payment model and system of care that allows us to take care of the Lord's brothers and sisters and all God's children so they can achieve human flourishing regardless of the circumstances in which they were born into," said Boatwright, president and CEO of Hospital Sisters Health System.

Referencing the biblical story of Jesus counseling the paralyzed man at Bethesda to pick up his mat and walk, Boatwright said the health care sector is likewise "constantly and persistently paralyzed by what we know — our current and past conditions, the ways we've always done things."

Boatwright exhorted Catholic health care leaders and providers to move past outdated staffing, payment and benefit models and adopt new innovative practices.

"We have no one to help because the people who put those old staffing models, old processes in place, quite frankly, old agreements in place are no longer in charge," Boatwright said.

He added: "The mission and the responsibility to sustain it is in our hands now."

New board chair
Boatwright's address was followed by the installation of his successor as CHA board chair, Ascension CEO Joe Impicciche, who further championed the push for bold change grounded in Catholic teaching.

"By his example, Jesus offers us a radical invitation — to be agents of love through each decision we make, each communication we offer, and each interaction we have," Impicciche said. "And I've become convinced that if we all did just that — focusing on bringing love to each interaction — so many of our problems would find solutions."

Impicciche asked his audience to reflect on their "distinct and indispensable role within the tapestry of Catholic health care."

He added: "Our presence in these roles is not arbitrary; rather, it is a calling from God. We are not here by accident. He has called us to his service to do his will at this particular time in history. How will we respond to His call? Our answer to that question is all that really matters."

Sr. Mary, center, poses with CHA's 2024 Tomorrow's Leaders during the awards banquet at the assembly. The Tomorrow's Leaders honorees and award winners from 2023 and 2024 were recognized during the banquet. Jerry Naunheim Jr./CHA



Call for sacrifice
At the assembly banquet, CHA celebrated its Tomorrow's Leaders and other honorees. President and CEO Michael Maron accepted the 2024 Achievement Citation on behalf of Holy Name Medical Center of Teaneck, New Jersey, for its sustaining partnership with Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti. In brief remarks, he urged the audience to measure success not only in terms of profit, system size and market share, but also "to see the true value of giving and sacrificing."

Michael Maron, president and CEO of Holy Name Medical Center, speaks after accepting the 2024 Achievement Citation on behalf of his hospital for its sustaining partnership with Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti. Holy Name is in Teaneck, New Jersey. Jerry Naunheim Jr./CHA



"Much like our philosophy in Haiti, we encourage you to see what we do, how we do it, and engage on your own, that would be our greatest award," Maron said. "May we all strive to be instruments of peace and agents of change in our world. Yes, embrace the bold but also listen to the constant soft whispers, for I have found in them live the deeds that make a very positive impact on others and the grace of God."

He got one of many standing ovations at the banquet.

'Radical freedom'
As the assembly wound down, Sr. Mary returned to its theme, noting that being bold "requires taking risks, staying focused on the goal, and steering away from distractions." She specifically mentioned CHA's efforts to counter the increased media coverage of Catholic health care's commitment "to uphold the dignity of every person from conception to natural death."

That strategy includes the launch of the HealthCareHere.org site, which amplifies stories and examples of how insurance companies have adopted and implemented practices and policies that impede timely decisions related to treatment coverage at the expense of patient care. The strategy also includes an ad and social media campaign called When Healthcare Really Cares focusing on positive stories about Catholic health care.

Sr. Mary pointed out recent policy changes and legislative action that align with CHA's advocacy work. Among those was legislation that targets disparities in maternal health for women of color and approval of $1 billion in additional funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

Attendees chat during a break at the assembly. The event June 9-11 in San Diego drew Catholic health care leaders and providers from across the United States, Ireland and Australia. Jerry Naunheim Jr./CHA



In closing, Sr. Mary reflected on the courage shown by Jesus in contradicting the societal norms of his time, such as sacred traditions about what was clean and what was unclean. She said his actions "were grounded in a deep abiding trust in his Father, which allowed him the freedom to do God's will regardless of what anyone thought or said."

"Jesus' radical freedom made him fearless," Sr. Mary said. "So, as we leave this time together and return to our collective work of elevating human flourishing, let us be bold. Let us hold fast to our mission and do what we must, trusting in the loving presence of our God and the guidance of God's Spirit."


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