Mission and Leadership - New Resources to Recruit Mission Leaders

July-August 2016


CHA has developed new videos and other resources for members and Catholic universities and colleges to use in recruiting new mission leaders to the ministry. All the resources are now available in the mission focus area on the chausa.org website.

The idea for the initiative arose during the 2015 System Mission Leader Forum, where attendees asked the CHA mission department to revise recruitment resources in order to market this critical position to millennials and to people who do not come to the profession through the traditional tracks of theology and ministry.1 Among their suggestions: using social media, developing short videos, sharing call stories from a diverse group of mission leaders, explaining the competencies needed to be a mission leader and describing how a person grows into this role. CHA's mission and communication departments then developed a communication plan, budget and timeline to deliver the new mission leader resources by the 2016 Assembly.

The goals of the mission leader recruitment initiative are to:

  • Educate sponsors, trustees and executives about the mission leader role and how the mission leader's competencies make him or her an important member of the senior leadership team.
  • Promote the role as a viable career path for persons in graduate and doctoral theology, ethics and certain health-related programs, as well as promoting it as a second career path for current associates and clinicians.
  • Engage the ministry in a reflection on the role of mission leader, and in doing so, not only uphold the importance of the role, but also underscore the need to recruit and do succession planning to ensure that qualified candidates are in the pipeline.
  • Collaborate with mission leaders in the field to hear about their lived experience, as well as with CEOs and sponsors to gain their insights into the value of the mission leader role, now and into the future.

The first new resource is a 6 1/2-minute video entitled: "Mission Leadership in Catholic Health Care," intended for sponsors, trustees, CEOs, mission leaders, clinicians and new associates; faculty and students of schools of theology and ethics; and business and organizational development programs at Catholic universities and colleges. The video gives an overview of the mission leader's role, how people come into the position and how senior leaders view the role.

Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, CHA's president and chief executive officer, has sent "Mission Leadership in Catholic Health Care" electronically to all member sponsors and CEOs. The video also has been distributed to all mission leaders and designated academic deans, department chairs and professors at Catholic universities and colleges. Mission leaders who attended the mission leader luncheon during the 2016 Annual Assembly received a CD of the video and an accompanying brochure, as well.

While developing the "Mission Leadership in Catholic Health Care" video, we selected six mission leaders representing different systems, care settings, backgrounds and demographics and asked them to tell their personal call story. We edited their stories into short YouTube videos intended to inspire individuals who are discerning a possible career as a mission leader. The stories demonstrate there is no one path — everyone comes to the mission leader role with abilities in some competencies and the need to develop in others. All six call story videos are posted in the chausa.org website's mission focus area.


These documents are available for download as .pdfs from the chausa.org website, and copies also are available for order from the CHA online store at no cost to members.

The Mission Leader Competency Model: Now with updated descriptions and artwork, the model identifies six key competencies — personal qualifications, leadership, theology, spirituality, ethics and organizational management — and includes the background of the project and resources to be used to develop each of the competencies.

Self-Assessment Tool: Self-rating for each competency, with evidence that supports the rating and specific steps to address areas for growth. 

Bibliography: Lists the primary resources used to develop the competency model, as well as important new articles and books. It is organized by competency, and the electronic version of this resource on the chausa.org website links directly to the referenced articles.

CHA has developed a 10-minute video, "The Mission Leader Competency Model," as a recruitment resource specifically designed to help explain the ministry to millennials and people with nontraditional backgrounds. The video examines the six competencies that mission leaders need and incorporates interviews with 10 mission leaders who discuss the importance of each competency, along with the humility to acknowledge where individuals need to develop.

There also is a video for each of the six competencies that dives deeper, with practical examples of what that competency looks like in the day-to-day operations of Catholic health care. Each video, lasting between four and seven minutes, covers a competency as seen through the eyes of mission leaders.

CHA plans to use these new resources in its education and formation programs. The videos will be shared through social media to reach potentially thousands of viewers.

The resources will continue to be shared with Catholic universities and colleges, and CHA hopes to recruit and train some young mission leaders to visit university and college campuses, offering face-to-face dialogue with millennials about the possibilities of a career in Catholic health care, especially in mission, ethics and spiritual care.

During the mission leader luncheon at the 2016 Assembly, we asked attendees to brainstorm about how they will use these new resources. Many said the resources will be helpful for educating their senior leaders and board members, new to Catholic health care, about what a mission leader is and what his or her unique set of competencies and role within the organization are. Others stated they would share the materials with human resource recruiters, especially when they contract with an outside agency.

Still others recognized that these resources need to be shared with associates who might consider mission integration as a second career. Many systems report that recent recruitment of new mission leaders is coming from within their organizations. These new resources should be shared with those individuals who show a strong desire to uphold and integrate the mission and values of the organization.

"It is our job to share the joy of this vocation with others," said Sr. Colleen Settles, OP, DMin, vice president, mission, for Provident Saint John's Health Center, Santa Monica, California.

It is not unlike the priest or sister who encourages an enthusiastic student in their parish or school, asking if they ever have considered a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, or a high school religion teacher who helps students see the variety of ways they can live their faith as a layperson. Many people do not know this vocation exists, so they do not consider the possibility of using their gifts as a mission leader. Aren't we the new vocation directors called to recruit the next generation of mission leaders in Catholic health care?

BRIAN SMITH, MS, MA, MDiv, is senior director, mission integration and leadership formation, the Catholic Health Association, St. Louis.

  1. Brian P. Smith and Patricia Talone, "Mission Leader Succession Planning: What If We Acted as One Ministry?" Health Progress 96, no. 5 (September-October 2016): 70-71.

Special thanks to those who generously gave their time and talent to be videotaped and included in CHA's "Mission Leadership in Catholic Health Care" and "The Mission Leader Competency Model" videos:

Sr. Mary Ann Dillon, RSM, PhD, senior vice president, mission and sponsorship, Mercy Health System, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, a member of Trinity Health, Livonia, Michigan.

Melanie Dreher, PhD, RN, FAAN, board chair, Trinity Health, Livonia, Michigan.

Donald L. Eggleston, retired system vice president, mission integration, SSM Health, St. Louis.

Christina M. Fernandez, DDiv, JD, BBC, senior vice president, mission and spirituality, Dignity Health, San Francisco.

Timothy L. Glover, senior vice president, mission integration, Ascension Health, St. Louis.

Gerard F. Heely, STD, senior vice president/chief mission integration and leadership formation officer, CHRISTUS Health, Irving, Texas.

Darren M. Henson, PhD, regional officer for mission and ethics, Presence Health, Chicago.

Jenna Herron, regional vice president, mission integration, Saint Francis Health Center, Topeka, Kansas.

Michael R. Panicola, PhD, senior vice president, mission, legal and government affairs, SSM Health, St. Louis.

Laura Richter, MDiv, senior director, mission integration, Ascension Health, St. Louis.

James A. Sifuentes, vice president, mission/community development, Saint Anthony Hospital, Chicago.

William P. Thompson, president/CEO, SSM Health, St. Louis.

Mission and Leadership-New Resources to Recruit Mission Leaders

Copyright © 2016 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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