BY: MARY KATHRYN GRANT, PhD, and MARGARET MARY KOPISH, ASC, DMin
Dr. Grant is executive director, ministry leadership development, and Sr. Kopish is director, sponsorship services, at the Catholic Health Association.
Qualifications for the Next Generation of
things are as critical to the future of Catholic institutional ministry as the
identification and formation of the next generation of persons to serve in the
role of sponsor. Until recently, most individuals assuming the responsibilities
of sponsorship were leaders within religious congregations. Elected to govern
their religious institutes, these women and men found themselves also serving
in a sponsorship role in their institutional ministries by virtue of their leadership
position. Today, however, health care leaders have identified succession planning
for sponsorship as an imperative if a strong and viable Catholic presence in
health care is to continue.
The impetus to invite and engage laity in
increasingly more significant roles in church ministries, particularly after
the Second Vatican Council, stemmed from two sources. First, the universal call
to holiness and to greater service within and for the church opened up opportunities
for laity to study theology and to take greater roles in parish settings, schools,
colleges, hospitals, and many other areas of church life. Additionally, the
decades after the council, concurrent with changes in health care in the United
States (Medicare and Medicaid, the establishment of governing boards, etc.)
saw large numbers of religious women and men select non-institutionally based
ministries (such as world and rural ministries, homeless shelters), thereby
creating opportunities for laypersons to move into administration and management.
Today, the inclusion of laity and the evolution of their roles have created
the opportunity for qualified laypersons to minister in a sponsorship role.
This, in turn, requires preparation, selection, development, and evaluation
of these potential sponsor representatives.
A recent study by the Association of Governing
Boards for Colleges and Universities, "Relationship Revisited," addressed this
same sponsorship question for Catholic higher education. The authors of a recent
article in Commonweal observed that colleges and universities have three alternatives:
becoming secular institutions, becoming more broadly Catholic, and (a rare few)
remaining within the tradition and culture of the founding congregation.1 Although
the number of mergers in Catholic higher education has not kept up with mergers
and consolidations in health care, the same need for consolidation and collaboration
is present in both ministries.
The first alternative, becoming secular,
is the least desirable because it abandons the roots of the organization as
well as the Catholic tradition. Becoming secular is often identified as the
last resort.2 The second alternative, moving to a more broad-based Catholic
identity, places less emphasis on the unique identity of the founders — especially
at the system level. However, the local facilities often preserve the founding
The same Commonweal article concludes with
the advice that these institutions "must construct serious and sustained formative
experiences for the lay people who will be in charge of them [Catholic colleges
and universities]. More important, they must create conditions under which lay
people are both willing and able to embrace this process."3 Higher education
and health care institutions share the same concern: how to identify and prepare
for future generations of sponsors — those holding in trust the very integrity
and future of the ministries.
Another force affecting health care sponsorship — the
shift away from the tradition of a single sponsoring congregation — deserves both
careful and prayerful reflection. What does it mean to move away from the original
single congregation sponsorship identity? How is this move experienced? As a
loss? Or is it seen as a natural evolution from the particular identity enjoyed
when larger numbers of the sponsoring congregation were available to serve as
staff, administration, and faculty? Or is the change stretching staff and administration
to think more broadly about the wider context of the church's ministry? The
authors of the Commonweal article conclude with a plea for formation efforts,
a refrain common in Catholic health care circles as well.
As lay sponsorship models emerge in both health care and
education, emphasis on the qualifications needed in the next generation of sponsors
becomes significant. As part of its Ministry Leadership Development initiative,
the Catholic Health Association (CHA) explored replicating the efforts previously
undertaken to define the competencies for executive leadership to identify those
competencies required for sponsors. In consultation, as well as with both external
experts in competency identification as well as those individuals charged with
the formation of this next generation in the four newer sponsorship models of
Catholic Health Initiatives, Catholic Health East, Covenant Health Systems,
and Trinity Health (see box below), CHA's proposed leadership development
initiative did not seem feasible for a number of reasons.
Sponsorship is exercised when the individual
sponsor representatives, or trustees, are actually acting in that designated
role. In other words, one is a sponsor representative or a trustee when officially — and
collectively — acting in that capacity. The process of identifying and testing
competencies is an exacting science with technical requirements, discipline
and rigor, and as such is extremely complex, time consuming, and often costly.
In the spirit of stewardship, the best application of this effort is with full-time
positions such as administration, mission leadership, and the like — not for a
role that is only periodically exercised.
Therefore, CHA staff has adopted an alternative
approach: to observe the national and international trends in the evolution
of sponsorship, to partner with the newer models to discern the elements that
constitute faithful sponsorship, and to begin to describe the qualifications
of new sponsors.
What are the qualifications needed in the
future generations of sponsor representatives? In addition to a fundamental
understanding of governance and health care, among the most commonly sought
- Appreciation for mission integration
- Commitment to justice and service to the poor
- Understanding of Catholic teaching and identity and
how the church operates (including the history of the health care ministry)
- Basic understanding of canon law and theology
- Comfort with being a spiritual leader
Other qualifications sought in candidates for this newer
model revolve around critical success factors in the communal exercise of sponsorship:
- Skills in dialogue and negotiation
- Ability to work for win-win situations
- Communal practice of "mission-based discernment" — a
defined process for decision-making rooted in mission and values
The above list is a composite of the qualifications
identified by the four newer public juridic persons (the sponsors of CHI, CHE,
Covenant, and Trinity)* in their initial consideration of laypersons as future
* CHA staff have been wrestling for several months to
find the correct way to describe these new models. Most sponsored health care
ministries are the responsibility of a public juridic person, a religious
institute, a diocese, etc. In the absence of a way to better identify these
recently created models, we refer to them as "newer public juridic persons."
After potential candidates are screened for the necessary
qualifications, the process of formation, or development, begins.Various approaches
to formation exist. Covenant integrates a formation component into each meeting
of the board; formation occurs at CHI as the group coalesces around issues and
engages in theological reflection. Outside services and resources are used at
Trinity Health to complete the design and process and implement components on
a phased-in basis. At CHE, theological reflection on the meaning of sponsorship
is integrated into each meeting of the sponsors, and expert theologians and
canonists give presentations on critical issues. In each instance, formation
is shaped by the unique characteristics of the individual model.
Leaders of the newer sponsorship models and
CHA staff gather periodically to continue to explore avenues of collaboration.
The continuing need for elements of initial formation and the identification
of necessary qualifications as outgoing representatives are replaced offer opportunities
to develop processes together. Additionally, as the need for qualified sponsors
grows and as the number of experienced sponsors whose terms of office prohibit
reappointment increases, the feasibility of developing and maintaining a database
of this pool offers yet another opportunity to shape the future of the ministry
Catholic ministries — education, social services,
and health care — have an opportunity to collaborate in this vital work for the
future of the church's institutional ministries. The preparation of the next
generation of sponsors is one of the most critical tasks facing institutional
ministries today. Collaboration that enables the creation of communities of
persons committed to understanding, securing, and preserving faithful sponsorship
will ensure a future for institutional ministries while continuing the service
and transformation mission of Jesus.
- Melanie M. Morey and Dennis H. Holtschneider. "Keeping
the Faith on Campus," Commonweal, April 2, 2001, pp. 20-23.
- In some instances, even when the organization is no
longer Catholic, a symbolic effort is undertaken to keep the memory of the
original, founding sponsor in such forms as a heritage wall or a garden.
- Morey and Holtschneider, p. 23.
- Mary Kathryn Grant & Patricia Vandenberg, After
We're Gone: Creating Sustainable Sponsorship, Ministry Development Resources,
Mishiwaka, IN, 1998.
The authors thank Sr. Juliana Casey, IHM;
Sr. Catherine DeClercq, OP; Sr. Ruth Goodwin, OSF; and Sr. Peggy Martin, OP,
for their assistance with this article.
Copyright © 2001 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.