Sr. Maureen McGuire, DC, shaped, strengthened Catholic health care through formation of laity

July 1, 2022



When Sr. Maureen McGuire, DC, was executive vice president and chief mission integration officer at Ascension, her colleagues fondly dubbed her "the ultimate gift spotter" because of her propensity for recognizing their talents and firing their spirits.

Sr. Maureen McGuire, DC

"She lifts people up by spotting the gifts you bring to the table. People just gravitated to her,'' said Liz Foshage, Ascension's chief financial officer. "Her gift is helping all of us to see and recognize our own gifts — and to understand how we can best contribute those to Ascension and to Catholic health care.''

Sr. McGuire was instrumental in helping Foshage realize that she is not only a finance leader but also a mission leader.

"Just by my working in Catholic health care and becoming a better finance leader — really viewing my work as a vocation and a sacrament — I am carrying on the healing ministry of Jesus,'' Foshage said. "That brought a whole new dimension to my work.''

Sr. McGuire, 76, retired from Ascension in June 2021 having helped guide the St. Louis-based system during its creation as Ascension Health in 1999. By giving its lay leaders the tools to cultivate ever deeper spiritual foundations for their work, Sr. McGuire has had an outsized influence in Ascension's growth and evolution as one of the nation's largest Catholic health care ministries.

During transformative decades when lay people assumed from the founding congregations more leadership roles in sponsorship, governance, mission and ministry, Sr. McGuire counseled the senior executives and rising leaders on how to keep mission at the core of every decision.

Ascension President and Chief Executive Joseph Impicciche said Sr. McGuire's groundbreaking work in developing mission integration and formation experiences has had national reach.

"Sr. Maureen transformed the role of mission integration not only for Ascension, but all of Catholic health care,'' Impicciche said in a statement. "She brought to life our commitment to expand the role of laity, in both leadership and sponsorship, to ensure a thriving Catholic health ministry well into the future. Under her guidance, Ascension led the way in developing formation experiences and programs to strengthen our ministry and prepare the next generation of leaders. In every way, Sr. Maureen's service reflects her deep dedication to caring for all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable."

In recognition of Sr. McGuire's lifetime of contributions to Catholic health care, the CHA is honoring her with the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.

'We have to know who we are'
Sr. McGuire developed Ascension's mission integration program for its senior leadership team shortly after joining the system's executive team in 2002. She also advocated to have mission leaders serve on executive and leadership teams at local, regional and national levels in order to keep mission, values and Catholic identity front of mind for decision makers.

Sr. Maureen McGuire, DC, center, prays with colleagues during an Ascension system-wide convocation. Sr. McGuire, former executive vice president and chief mission integration officer of Ascension, is the 2022 recipient of CHA's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Formation has always been an essential piece of ensuring the ministry will thrive because it grounds the staff and the organization in its mission, she said.

"It all starts with identity,'' Sr. McGuire said. "We have to know who we are, that we are entrusted with Jesus' healing ministry, that we are a ministry of the church.''

The senior leaders who participated in Sr. McGuire's inaugural executive formation program were so enthusiastic, they endorsed the creation of Ascension Leadership Academy. She helped former Ascension Chief Executive Anthony Tersigni design the curriculum, which is intended to shape creative, virtuous servant leaders.

Heart for mission
Today, formation is folded into programs and initiatives for staff at all levels throughout Ascension, and the mission integration department supports those efforts, Sr. McGuire said.

At the heart of Ascension's identity is its commitment to serving the poor and vulnerable, a commitment made by the Daughters of Charity and Sisters of St. Joseph when they worked together to form Ascension Health, Sr. McGuire said.

That commitment, her colleagues say, compelled Sr. McGuire to spearhead Ascension's systemwide initiative to stop human trafficking. She ensured a victim-centered response that includes teaching care providers to identify and assist trafficking victims and having resources within Ascension and its communities to provide a supportive path to healing and freedom.

Spirit-filled dynamo
Timothy Glover, who succeeded Sr. McGuire as chief mission integration officer for Ascension, still enjoys touching base with her every week.

He describes Sr. McGuire, who stands tall at 4 feet 9 inches, as a humble "Holy Spirit-filled dynamo" with an incredible way of connecting with people.

"I say, 'Maureen, you have left me with big shoes to fill,' and she goes, 'No, I have little feet,'" Glover said.

Sr. McGuire's vision has always been driven by her hope and confidence in the call of laity to the work of Catholic health care — and not because there weren't enough sisters to do the job, Glover said.

"In terms of the life journey of the ministry, I can remember when I was probably one of five lay people as a mission leader with Ascension. Within 10 years, that statistic flipped," Glover said. "The incredible mentoring and coaching and support for myself and other mission leaders throughout Ascension — all of that was formed and informed by Sr. Maureen in what she saw as a true movement of the Holy Spirit — of bringing the laity forward in the vision of Vatican II.''

The gift of unique individuals
After retiring from Ascension, Sr. McGuire became director of mission integration at Elizabeth Seton High School, a Daughters of Charity school in Bladensburg, Maryland.

"It was really a great opportunity to keep doing what I love doing but learning to do it in a different way,'' Sr. McGuire said.

And she knows it's where God wants her to be.

"God led me on a reflective journey of looking at how all the pieces of my life were step by step by step,'' she said. "Things that were part of my journey became essential to my next role. And it was really beautiful to see how things that you were focused on at one time were essential to things that happened later.''

Sr. McGuire, who grew up in Keansburg, New Jersey, took her vows as a Daughter of Charity in 1967. She taught for several years before turning her attention to social work, which she felt called to do.

In 1977, Sr. McGuire earned a master's degree in social work from Temple University in Philadelphia. The experience helped prepare her for future work in mission integration, she said.

"Because they were very innovative, they were changing their approach from only serving individuals to more systemic thinking,'' Sr. McGuire said. "And they taught me to think about all the things that converge around an issue — whether it's a family or a societal issue — and how you build the right services in response with a more system-oriented approach."

Even then, she was envisioning opportunities for lay leaders in the church's ministry. The title of her master's thesis, which she wrote in 1977, was, "The Role of the Sister Social Worker Informing Lay Leaders for the Church's Social Ministries."

"I can go back and absolutely say to God, 'I know that I never would have thought of this if you hadn't put it in my mind and heart,''' Sr. McGuire said.

Before joining the Daughters of Charity National Health System in 1996, Sr. McGuire did social work, and she kept learning and doing. In 1992, she started one of the nation's first transitional housing programs for homeless women and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

In 1986, as director of new members of the Daughters of Charity, Sr. McGuire studied formative spirituality at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. There, she adopted the framework that has guided her through the years: "Every person is a unique being who has never existed before, and never will again, in the history of the universe."

"Your whole life journey is becoming that person with all of the ups and downs that go into it,'' Sr. McGuire said.


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