By BETSY TAYLOR
The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, the women religious who sponsor the Springfield, Ill.-based Hospital Sisters Health System, said on Oct. 7 they received Vatican approval in the summer for a new public juridic person called Hospital Sisters Ministries to assume sponsorship of the health care system.
A public juridic person is to canon law what a corporation is to civil law. Hospital Sisters Ministries will be governed by a board of directors known as the Ministry Board. The board will work to promote and sustain Jesus Christ's healing ministry. "Hospital Sisters Ministries' board will preserve the health care system's assets for the church and thereby protect and strengthen the system's Catholicity," said Sr. Jomary Trstensky, OSF, the chair of Hospital Sisters Ministries.
Hospital Sisters Ministries started sponsoring HSHS' 14 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin and the HSHS physician network in those two states in July, the health care system said.
The system has more than 14,800 employees with more than 2,200 physicians on medical staff, including nearly 500 employed physicians. In fiscal year 2014, the system had operating revenue of $2 billion and reported $174 million in community benefit.
Sr. Maureen O'Connor, OSF, is the provincial superior of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. She said the creation of the public juridic person was "the next step in a legacy of careful planning by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis." She said the sisters have taken steps over more than 30 years — from the founding of the Hospital Sisters Health System in 1978 to programs of mission integration and Franciscan formation for those who lead the system — to prepare laity to carry forward the health care ministry in the name of the Catholic Church and in the Franciscan tradition.
She said the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, like many orders of women religious, have seen their numbers decline nationally, with 83 sisters in the United States today; the congregation also has members in Germany, Poland, Japan and India. She said the creation of Hospital Sisters Ministries, while emotionally challenging at times for the order that had founded many of the hospitals in the system, made sense as a form of succession planning.
In addition to Sr. Trstensky, the members of the Ministry Board are Hospital Sisters of St. Francis Provincial Councilor Sr. Janice Schneider, OSF; Deacon Allison C. Laabs; Dr. James H. McDermott; and Thomas C. Vernier. During a period of transition, this board will work in collaboration with the current Provincial Council of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. In time, perhaps a year and a half, the Provincial Council will step away from its role related to the hospitals, Sr. O'Connor said.
Sr. O'Connor said the Provincial Council will continue to sponsor mission work in Tanzania and Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, which distributes medical supplies and equipment in areas of need around the globe. The province also runs Chiara Center, a retreat and conference center in Springfield.
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