By MICHAEL SLUBOWSKI
President and chief operating officer
Chairperson of the CHA Board of Trustees
Christians all over the world are experiencing the season of Advent. The sentiment is one of reflection on the past and anticipation of a bright future as we prepare for the birth of Jesus. At the same time, people of virtually every faith tradition are conducting similar reflections on what is past — and on the possibilities for the future. The sentiment of hope pervades and makes our experience universal and healing, especially in times of challenge.
One of my colleagues often says "hope is not a strategy." While that may be true, the reality is that all humans require faith, hope and love to sustain ourselves and to inspire our path to a better future.
Given the challenges faced by Catholic health care today, reflecting on the past while planning for the future is immensely important. Looking to the future, we know that the challenges facing health care delivery and financing — the regulatory environment, economic challenges, rising numbers of uninsured and underinsured people, a lack of resources focused on social determinants of health, affordability and access to care, industry disrupters — will continue to accelerate. They will also drive us to transform in beneficial ways for the people and communities we serve. These challenges — and the ones we will face in the future — make our ministries stronger by encouraging innovation; continuous improvement; better care coordination; and advancements in quality, safety, efficiency and access for all. They provide the impetus for change and hope for a better future.
And so, as we reflect on the season of Advent, we ready ourselves for tomorrow, when we will continue our efforts to transform our ministries — and influence the transformation of our nation's health care system. Without doubt, we will toil to ensure Catholic health care thrives for the benefit of those we serve, and we will work hard to encourage innovative thinking and creativity around that very real need.
We will look back, as well, and see that — just as in the days when women religious personified hope by caring for people who were poor, outcast or otherwise disenfranchised — to many people and populations, we are hope. It is imperative that we remember this fact even when our industry and our ministry face difficulties. These brave women continuously modified and adapted their services to the needs of both the times and the people they served. I believe that reflecting on this past — with the intent of creating the future we wish for — will deliver the greatest outcomes and benefits to our ministries and the individuals and communities we serve.
It is our obligation. After all, hope is the gift Catholic health care gives, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hope is delivered by our shared mission of providing care for those who are poor and vulnerable. And the potential exists for us to further extend this mission far beyond our walls to help people maintain and improve their health at home and in their communities.
We can give the gift of hope by taking on common causes beyond our health care ministry. Together, as "Catholic health care," we can address not only acute and chronic health issues for individuals, but also the social determinants of health that often unfairly define and impair entire communities. We can be bold and courageous, advocating for people and populations whose voices are rarely, if ever, heard. We can take social and political action that encourages our colleagues, communities, government leaders and others to do the same.
In my own life, the season of Advent gives pause to assess who I am in relation to my faith and all that I believe. It is a time to assess whether I am truly living up to the things that I consider the most important — faith in God, love of family and friends, good health, happiness and service to others. I believe these things must serve as a witness mark as to whether I am truly "walking the talk." In reality, I don't always live up to my best intentions and must be honest and confront myself with that fact. But these higher goals inspire me to improve and to demonstrate my convictions by living and leading in service to others. And I have faith and hope that I can improve in living out these goals.
As we approach the winter solstice and anticipate the birth of Christ that is the culmination of the season of Advent, may we embrace hope and the possibility that will be born of our intentional work together in the spirit of the Gospel. May we reflect on our shared pasts and undertake the new work ahead of us as our founding congregations did — in humility and with reverence for God, present in every person we encounter. In so doing, may we create a better world, one loving, human and hopeful moment at a time. Finally, during this spiritual season, may people of all faiths experience the feelings — and healing — of faith, hope and love.
Peace to you and your families with hope for a blessed and joyous Christmas and New Year.
Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
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