Ministry experts available to offer guidance on Catholic identity audits

November 1, 2019


Early this year, CHA introduced a tool for the association's representative members called the Ministry Identity Assessment. It is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for evaluating how well Catholic health systems are living out their mission as a ministry of the Catholic Church.

Catholic Identity
Michael McCarthy and Sr. Laura Wolf, OSF, take part in a summer training session at CHA, to prepare to be external assessment observers.

Over the summer, 19 mission and ministry experts underwent CHA training to prepare for assignments as "external assessment observers." Those individuals can function as impartial observers and advisers during an organization's self-audit of mission effectiveness and Catholic identity.

Many of the external observers are recently retired or semiretired ministry leaders with expertise in Catholic identity and mission (see below). CHA is recruiting additional seasoned ministry professionals to train as observers in the identity assessment process.

Seven core commitments of Catholic health ministry

As the church's ministry of health care, we commit to:

  • Promote and defend human dignity
  • Attend to the whole person
  • Care for poor and vulnerable persons
  • Promote the common good
  • Act on behalf of justice
  • Steward resources
  • Serve as a ministry of the church

Source: CHA's "A Shared Statement of Identity for the Catholic Health Ministry"

"The goal of the assessment is to have continuous quality improvement around the core commitments of Catholic health care," said Brian Smith, CHA vice president of sponsorship and mission services. And, in addition to providing fresh perspectives and wisdom, the outside observers can help ensure the identity assessment process is proceeding on track and that it will deliver useful, actionable information, Smith said.

Core commitments
The Ministry Identity Assessment is built around seven core commitments of Catholic health care, with senior leadership commissioning the audit for their facility or system and deciding which core commitments to focus on and whether external assessors will be used. (CHA recommends that members who elect to use external review include at least two trained observers in the process. Organizations are encouraged to select individuals whose expertise is most aligned with a system or facility's needs and goals.)

Catholic Identity
Catholic health care experts take part in a summer training session at CHA’s St. Louis office, led by CHA staff. The session prepared the experts to serve as external observers for the Ministry Identity Assessment process.

Early in the Ministry Identity Assessment process, senior leaders of the organization undergoing the mission audit will identify 12 to 15 people to be a part of a steering team. Normally headed by a mission executive, that steering team will drive much of the information gathering and assessment process.

CHA's manual proposes a seven-meeting format to lay the foundation for the work, to form the people carrying out the assessment, to oversee a rigorous examination of the entire organization through the lens of the selected core commitments, to assess findings and ultimately derive a "consensus score" in each area, and to make plans for improvements, as necessary.

The tool calls for scoring to follow criteria established by the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

Many uses
Smith says ministry organizations will find the assessment tool useful not only for continual quality improvement and formation purposes but also for keeping interested parties attuned to the workings of the organizations.

Catholic IdentityThe assessment results can be used as part of usual reporting to local bishops to confirm the Catholic identity of organizations. The results can be woven into periodic updates and reports that systems sponsored by a public juridic person make to the Vatican. The results also can be reported out to local community members, to help them understand how providers are living out their Catholic identity.

Host organizations that employ external observers contract with those individuals directly, agreeing to pay a daily fee of $1,000 for each observer plus all travel-related expenses. In general, observers will hold two conference calls and make one on-site visit with their client organizations. The time commitment for the observers likely would be three to four days per audit, said Smith.

In addition to providing input during their visit, the external observers will submit a report to their client within two weeks after their visit, which the host facility will use when finalizing its analysis.

More information about the assessments and observers is available at


Ministry Identity Assessment external observers

Sr. Carey
Fr. Nairn
Sr. Talone
Sr. Wolf

Sr. Judith Carey, RSM
Member of the board of the Connecticut Hospital Association; in private practice as a facilitator and organizational consultant; past president of the Sisters of Mercy of Connecticut; doctor of philosophy in educational psychology

Michael Connelly
Past president and chief executive, Mercy Health; life fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives; past CHA board chair; doctor of law; master's degree in health services administration

Michael Doyle
Retired vice president of mission for Mercy Health, St. Louis; master of divinity

Cathy Eldridge
Principal of Eldridge Consulting and chief operating officer of Trio Labs; current CHA board member; master of business administration

Robert Fale
President and chief executive of Robert Fale Healthcare Consulting; former president and chief executive of Agnesian Healthcare; experienced judge for the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, the state version of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program; master of healthcare administration

Ron Hamel

Member of SSM Health Ministries, the public juridic person of SSM Health; member of the SSM Health Board of Directors; former senior ethicist, CHA; doctor of philosophy in moral theology; master of arts in systematic theology

Mark Kuczewski
Professor of medical ethics and director of the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Healthcare Leadership, part of Loyola University Chicago; doctor of philosophy

Dr. Robert Kuramoto
Managing partner of Quick Leonard Kieffer; past CHA board member

M. Therese Lysaught
Professor at Loyola University Chicago's Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Healthcare Leadership and director of that institute's health care mission leadership graduate program; doctor of philosophy in religion and theological ethics; master of arts in theology

Michael McCarthy
Assistant professor, Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine; doctor of philosophy in thoeology; certified health care ethics consultant

Carl Middleton
Retired interim senior vice president for mission and ethics, Catholic Health Initiatives, Texas division; and former vice president of theology and ethics for CHI; doctor of ministry; doctor of naturopathy; master of divinity; master of religious education; master of arts in ethics

Jack Mudd
Consultant, president's office, Providence
St. Joseph Health; doctor of the science of law; doctor of law

Fr. Tom Nairn, OFM
Provincial minister, Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart; former senior director, theology and ethics, CHA; doctor of philosophy

Dan O'Brien
Retired senior vice president, ethics, discernment and church relations, Ascension; doctor of philosophy in health care ethics; master of arts in systematic theology

Rosanne Ponzetti
Economic and community development program manager, Clark College; former system vice president of mission integration, PeaceHealth; master of arts in health care administration – Catholic health care leadership; master of science in family studies

Terri Rocole
Retired chief mission integration officer, Ascension Wisconsin; master of business administration; master of education in ministry

Sr. Pat Talone, RSM
Retired CHA vice president for mission services; consultant in ethics, mission, leadership formation; doctor of philosophy in theological ethics

Tom Thompson
Past president, Allina Health Regina Hospital; master of public health in community health planning and administration

Sr. Laura Wolf, OSF
Member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System Board of Directors, Baton Rouge, La.; retired president of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries of Manitowoc, Wis.; and sponsor liaison and consultant to the president for sponsorship, for FSCC Sponsored Ministries; doctor of law; master's in health administration; past CHA board member



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