Ministry strives to make encounters sacred through the power of love

December 15, 2017

President and chief executive
Providence St. Joseph Health
Chairperson of the CHA Board of Trustees


It is a blessing to be part of the Catholic health ministry all year round. But it is especially wonderful at this time of year as we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of Christ and the love, hope and healing he brought to this world embody all that we stand for in Catholic health care. We strive to recognize his presence in each person we serve, and we seek to emulate his example by treating one another with compassion, respect and dignity.

Jesus came into the world in the humblest of ways, born in a manger to a family of meager means. He continued to dwell and work among the poor throughout his life, befriending and serving those who would otherwise be forgotten by society. In doing so, he taught us that we are one human family, responsible for taking care of one another.

One of the most moving examples of this teaching is the parable of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help a badly wounded stranger whom others ignored. Though we have heard this story many times, it continues to resonate powerfully, especially in our health ministry. It represents a beautiful act of neighborly love and healing as taught to us by Jesus.

Like the Good Samaritan, we cannot avert our eyes or walk past those who are suffering. We are called to care for our brothers and sisters. In this day and age, that includes advocating for a society that values health care as a fundamental human right for all, not just a privilege for those who can afford it. For example, we must continue to be a voice for those who depend on Medicaid, which serves as a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable and voiceless among us, including our seniors, our newborns and those with disabilities.


It is also time to face the national crisis around mental illness and substance abuse and finally do something about it. The situation has reached epidemic proportions with more than 65,000 U.S. deaths last year due to drug overdose and with the suicide rate up 24 percent between 1999 and 2016. We can no longer ignore the deep personal despair and anguish that so many Americans are experiencing. As a Catholic health ministry, it is up to us to work with our communities to find solutions and restore the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being of our nation.

Throughout Scripture, we are taught to open our hearts to one another, even if we come from different cultures and backgrounds. "(I was) a stranger, and you welcomed me," Jesus said in Matthew 25:35. This teaching is more important than ever as more than 65 million migrants and refugees around the world have fled their homes to escape war, persecution and grinding poverty. Rather than allow the fear of "foreigners" to reign in our hearts, we have a responsibility as a health ministry to do our part and be a beacon of hope.

In these uncertain and chaotic times, it could be easy to feel disheartened. But Advent and the Christmas season are a perfect opportunity to reflect on the birth and life of Jesus, who showed us how to live and who continues to guide our ministry today. Ultimately, his teachings come down to one thing: love. As Pope Francis said in a recent radio address, "At the end of our life, we will be judged on love, that is, on our concrete commitment to love and to serve Jesus in our smallest and most needy brothers."

I am humbled and inspired by everyone who works in Catholic health care. You strive to make every encounter sacred through the power of love. You bring compassion and kindness to the most vulnerable individuals in our communities, making you a living and breathing expression of the healing ministry of Jesus in today's world.

Thank you for all you do to bring our ministry to life. I wish you and your families a blessed Christmas season, and hope you find time to recharge and enjoy the company of family and friends. A special note of gratitude for those of you who will be working over the holidays. Thank you for being there for our patients in their time of need.



Copyright © 2017 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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