Ministry leaders explore how best to equip people for sponsor roles

October 15, 2011

CHA recently convened 21 ministry leaders to discuss how Catholic health care sponsorship is changing and how the ministry is adjusting to the changes. The conversation focused on how best to prepare emerging leaders to assume roles in sponsorship.

Taking part in the early September discussion in Chicago were CHA's Sponsor/Canon Law Committee and leaders of two Catholic health care formation groups: the Collaborative Formation Program for Public Juridic Persons and the Collaborative Sponsor Formation Program. CHA assembled the groups to address questions that have arisen in recent years about the scope and type of formation programs available for new sponsors and the types of new programming that would be helpful to the ministry in the future.

Participants explored how sponsor formation has evolved in the last decade-plus as the composition of Catholic health care's sponsoring bodies has changed. As more laymen and women have stepped into sponsor roles, ministry organizations have been developing in-house preparation programs. Some have banded together to form the collaborative groups that coordinate formation programs. One such collaborative is for sponsors organized as non-congregational public juridic persons, and the other is for sponsors organized under all structures, including non-congregational public juridic persons.

During the meeting, CHA presented the findings of an online survey on the makeup of sponsoring bodies and on sponsor formation, completed by 127 ministry leaders. Among the results:

  • More than 60 percent are in organizations with lay sponsors.
  • Of those currently without lay sponsors, 85 percent say it's highly or somewhat likely they will have lay sponsors by 2016.
  • Fifty-one percent are in organizations with a public juridic person sponsor structure; 47 percent are under the sponsorship of a religious institute. The remainder are sponsored by dioceses or associations of the faithful.
  • More than 80 percent of survey respondents are in organizations offering a sponsor formation program. Of these, more than 50 percent form their sponsors in cohorts that meet periodically over a period of months.
  • Of those that offer formation programs, more than 60 percent combine their training with that of a collaborative group.

While the vast majority of sponsoring bodies already have a formation program, there are concerns about whether models may need to be adapted or supplemented to address current or emerging needs of the health care ministry. The September meeting participants discussed emerging concerns about the future efficacy of the formation programs in their current format. They also concurred that formation must be an ongoing process. Participants said that it is important for sponsors throughout the ministry to work together on the question of formation, so that sponsors can speak with one voice about Catholic health care.

The group emphasized that formation programs should focus on spirituality and Catholic tradition and should cover church relations, ethical decision making and similar topics. The content should equip sponsors to lead in a post-reform health care environment, meeting attendees said.

The September discussion launches an ongoing dialogue about how to rework or improve upon current formation programs. CHA will continue to facilitate discussions among sponsor groups to determine how best to move forward.

More information about this process is available from Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, CHA senior director of sponsor services.

Collaborative groups

The two collaborative groups ministry members have developed to coordinate sponsor formation are:

Collaborative Formation Program for Public Juridic Persons

  • Bon Secours Ministries, Marriottsville, Md.
  • Catholic Health Care Federation, Englewood, Colo.
  • Catholic Health Ministries, Novi, Mich.
  • Covenant Health Systems, Tewksbury, Mass.
  • Hope Ministries, Newtown Square, Pa.
  • Providence Ministries, Renton, Wash.
  • St. Joseph Health Ministry, Orange, Calif.

Collaborative Sponsor Formation Program

  • Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck, N.D.
  • Ascension Health Ministries, St. Louis
  • Catholic Health Partners, Cincinnati
  • Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes, Fond du Lac, Wis.
  • Mercy Health Ministry, Chesterfield, Mo.
  • Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • PeaceHealth, Bellevue, Wash.
  • Provena Health, Mokena, Ill.
  • Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kan.
  • Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio
  • Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston
  • Wheaton Franciscan Sisters, Wheaton, Ill.


Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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