Presence convenes inaugural class in new formation program

September 15, 2014

This month, Chicago-based Presence Health is launching its first formal formation program since the system began operations in November 2011. As Catholic Health World went to press, 24 executive leaders from throughout the 12-hospital system were scheduled to convene at a retreat center in Woodstock, Ill., Sept. 9 and 10 for the first of six in-person intensive meetings over a two-year period.

Dougal Hewitt, Presence chief officer for mission and external affairs, said a principal aim of the program is "building a community that has had shared learnings in shaping our culture. As we're a relatively new system, it is important to get a cadre of leaders who have that shared formation experience to move us through times of extraordinary change."


Initially at least, Presence will limit enrollment in the program to members of its system leader council, which is made up of select executives at the director level and above at the Presence corporate office and from within its six Illinois regions. The system likely will expand the offer to participate to leaders in additional position categories once the program is more mature.

According to information from Presence, the formation program aims to assist top leaders in exploring "their own authentic path to God," deepening their understanding of their work as a calling, grounding them in theological principles and helping them understand the connection between the Catholic Church and its healing ministry. Topics for the in-person intensives include the theology of health care, spirituality and prayer, Catholic social teaching and tradition, Catholic health care ethics and ministry leadership. Participants will complete online course work and participate in an online learning community. Presence is pairing each participant with a formation coach. That coach will be a ministry "wisdom figure" from outside of Presence, according to Hewitt.

Each participant is taking leadership assessments before and after the experience, so program designers will be able to determine the impact of the formation experience.

A new group will begin the program annually, and so beginning next year, two groups will run simultaneously.

Presence was formed through the merging of Provena Health of Mokena, Ill., and Resurrection Health Care of Chicago. Hewitt said while both legacy systems had various methods of forming executives prior to the consolidation, Presence President and Chief Executive Sandra Bruce and other top system leaders wanted a central, standard formation program for the merged system. Hewitt said lay leader formation is a priority in large part because of the declining number of women religious in ministry leadership roles. Presence has five sponsoring congregations: the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and of the West Midwest Community, the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the Sisters of the Resurrection's Chicago Province. Hewitt said there is a need to establish a structure for ensuring the laypeople now leading the system are grounded in these founding congregations' charism and the ministry's foundations.

Foundation program launch
Sandra Bruce, president and chief executive of Chicago’s Presence Health, and Fr. Michael Garanzini, president of Loyola University Chicago, converse during a formation program launch event.

Presence decided on establishing an in-house formation program because of "cost, quality and quantity" concerns, Hewitt said. By designing its own program, it can continue to tailor the program to its own needs. It was able to lower the per-person cost of formation, so it can offer formation experiences to more people. Presence worked with the Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business and Loyola's Institute of Pastoral Studies as well as with CHA's mission and ethics department to create the program and its curriculum. Loyola faculty, Presence leaders and experts in the Catholic health ministry will present the course work.

Participants who complete the program will receive a certificate in health care ministry leadership from Loyola. They can opt to do additional course work that will enable them to apply that certificate to Loyola's Master of Arts in health care mission leadership.

According to Martin Schreiber, Presence regional officer for mission and global ministry, the formation sessions "will be a sacred time of building community. Giving people the space to explore their path to God takes time. We're allowing people to take a step back and reflectively integrate what they're learning."


Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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