Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, named CHA president and chief executive

May 15, 2019

New leader has 10-year tenure with CHA, decades of ministry experience


CHA's board of trustees has named Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, president and chief executive officer of the association, effective July 1. She succeeds Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, who has led CHA since 2005 and who is retiring June 30.

Sr Mary Haddad
Sr. Mary

Sr. Mary will be CHA's 10th president and chief executive officer. She will be based in CHA's Washington, D.C., office. Currently, Sr. Mary is the association's vice president of sponsorship and mission services — a role she's held since 2016 — which has her consulting with ministry sponsors, executives, board members and Catholic Church leadership to advance the ministry's mission. She also collaborates on strategic planning and advocacy for CHA. Sr. Mary joined CHA in 2009 as senior director of sponsor services.

The board's decision caps off a six-month recruitment process that was supported by executive search firm Witt/Kieffer and by a search committee headed by CHA board chair Michael Slubowski and made up of members of the association. Slubowski is president and chief operating officer of Trinity Health of Livonia, Mich.

In April, the CHA search committee met with five semifinalists, recommending two finalists to the board. At its in-person meeting last month, the board interviewed both candidates before voting April 26 to promote Sr. Mary.

At the Catholic Health Assembly in Dallas in June, CHA will commission Sr. Mary as president and chief executive officer and celebrate Sr. Carol's accomplished tenure of nearly 14 years at CHA.

Thinking ahead
Sr. Carol and Sr. Mary spoke with CHA members and took questions in an April 29 conference call. That call is available as a podcast at

Sr Carol
Sr. Carol

Sr. Carol told members: "CHA has its best days ahead under Sr. Mary's leadership. We are really blessed that she will be leading CHA into the future."

Sr. Mary said her priorities are that the association continue to focus on protecting and strengthening the Affordable Care Act to safeguard and expand health care access, and heed the challenges connected with health care disparity, including by supporting members in addressing the social determinants of health.

In an interview with Catholic Health World she added that CHA will continue to advance public policy initiatives in mental health and addiction treatment.

CHA, she said, must support the ministry in staying ahead of rapid advancements in health care technology, including those connected with artificial intelligence, virtual medicine and genetic manipulation, to ensure they are applied in an ethical way. "We have to look at these strategically and not be reactive. We have to address and manage how we use these technologies, so we have more impact" on how these technologies evolve.

Catholic identity
Sr. Mary said that strengthening Catholic identity will remain key as the ministry continues its transition to new models of sponsorship in which public juridic persons are made up increasingly of lay members. She said lay leaders will need to be able to articulate their own forward-looking vision for how they will preserve Catholic identity in the health ministry.

She noted that the elements that undergird this identity — including sponsorship, mission, ethics, leadership formation and learning integration — are "what make us distinctly Catholic in the health care marketplace," and must be a top priority in all of the work the ministry does.

Sr. Mary has had a pivotal role in association programs central to Catholic identity. At the invitation of sponsor groups in the ministry, and with their assistance, she folded two separate sponsor formation programs into one: the CHA Sponsor Formation Program for Catholic Health Care. The program prepares members of juridic persons to carry out the ministry's work.

She has overseen and contributed to the development of association resources on Catholic identity topics, including the recently released "Ministry Identity Assessment," as well as the "Core Competencies of Sponsor," "Introduction to the Catholic Social Tradition," "A Guide to Understanding Public Juridic Persons in the Catholic Health Ministry" and numerous materials on mission leader and ethicist preparation and competency.

Sr. Mary said that the mission and sponsorship elements of ministry work are "critical pieces," and CHA must remain clear that what motivates the work are Gospel values and the Catholic tradition of care of people who are poor and marginalized.

Educator, social worker
Sr. Mary has worked in frontline positions aiding the vulnerable, including — early in her ministry — as a teacher in an inner-city school, as a social worker and as a coordinator of social service providers. She said, "We didn't call it social determinants of health work then, but that's what it was. We were working with health care, social services, the church, food pantries and others to provide integrated services" to the vulnerable to get upstream of chronic illness by improving education, housing and economic opportunities.

She has a Master of Social Work from Saint Louis University and a Master of Business Administration in health care from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

Slubowski called Sr. Mary a "great listener and bridge builder who has spent a lot of time with our members." He said Sr. Mary has an in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities the ministry faces. He added that she will be "very effective at furthering the association's three strategic priorities of advocacy, church relationships and Catholic identity, and member support and engagement."

Sr. Patricia Talone, RSM, hired Sr. Mary at CHA, and Sr. Mary succeeded her as CHA vice president of mission services upon Sr. Talone's retirement in 2016. Years before joining CHA Sr. Mary had reported to Sr. Talone, who was then an executive and ethicist in the Mercy system in St. Louis. Both women are Sisters of Mercy, an order founded by Venerable Catherine McAuley.

Sr. Talone said Sr. Mary has the ability to genuinely connect with people of all stripes and economic status to further the cause of the poor and vulnerable. "When I first met her, she was in her 30s," Sr. Talone recalls of Sr. Mary. "I said, 'Mary, you have the same gift Catherine McAuley had, it was the ability to connect the rich to the poor.'"

Sr. Talone said Sr. Mary works to deepen "the understanding and effectiveness of the healing ministry." She's built strong relationships with sponsors throughout the ministry and with church leaders, including in Rome and Washington, D.C.

Sr. Carol said when it comes to the importance of treating all people with dignity and respect, "I know that Sr. Mary believes this so deeply."

Sr. Haddad has been an educator, clinician, administrator

The background of Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, spans education, frontline social work, health care and administration.

She began her career as a principal and teacher at Saints Simon and Jude School in Gillespie, Ill., in the early 1980s before entering the Sisters of Mercy congregation, which provided her coursework in theology as well as teaching opportunities in New Orleans and volunteer opportunities in Belize.

In the mid-1990s, as a social worker she assisted traumatic brain injury patients and their families at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis.

In the late 1990s, Sr. Haddad developed and directed the Unity Neighborhood Ministry of St. Louis, then a subsidiary of the Sisters of Mercy Health System. (That system now is Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy.) The Neighborhood Ministry's aim was to increase health care access for underserved communities.

In the early 2000s, Sr. Haddad was a member of the regional leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy congregation in St. Louis; her responsibilities included helping to plan and implement a four-region merger of Sisters of Mercy. She is a member of the Sisters of Mercy's South Central Community.

Just prior to joining CHA, Sr. Haddad was an administrative fellow in 2008 for Saint Anthony's Health System in Alton, Ill.


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

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