BY: SR. MARY KELLY, RSM, and SR. MARY MOLLISON, CSA
Sr. Mary Kelly is a member, Catholic Health Ministries, Novi, MI, and chair
and associate professor, health services administration/health services, College
of Health Professions, University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit; Sr. Mary Mollison
is chair, Catholic Health Ministries, and director of pastoral care, Agnesian
HealthCare, Fond du Lac, WI.
Trinity Health's Public Juridic Person Develops a Formation Program for
We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are travelers on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.1
The U.S. Catholic health ministry contains a growing number of lay-religious
partnerships. One of the newest is Catholic Health Ministries (CHM), the public
juridic person (PJP) sponsoring Trinity Health, Novi, MI. A news release of
January 7, 2004, announcing the appointment of two laypersons to CHM marked
the end of a kind of "journey." This article is the story of that
journey. Those of us who made it believe that our experience may benefit those
contemplating similar journeys of their own.
Assembling the "Travelers"
In After We're Gone: Creating Sustainable Sponsorship, Mary Kathryn Grant,
PhD, and Sr. Patricia P. Vandenberg, CSC, identify three steps that must be
taken in developing new models of Catholic health care sponsorship: permission,
preparation, and praxis.2 In our case, permission was given
nearly five years ago, in July 2000, when the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life established CHM in response
to a joint petition from the Sisters of the Holy Cross and the Sisters of Mercy
of the Americas-Detroit Regional Community. Both congregations had accepted
the fact that the religious sponsorship of their health ministries must become
religious-lay sponsorship in the form of a PJP. The two congregations had even
conducted a ritual marking this acceptance. Still, even with the ritual and
Vatican permission, the journey of sponsorship development was only beginning.
Preparation, the second stage of the transition, was in this case the
point at which some of the "travelers" began to come together. In
October 2000, CHM's initial seven members were entrusted by the two congregations
with the sponsorship of Trinity Health. All were women religious with experience
in health care governance or sponsorship. As Grant and Vandenberg define it,
the preparation stage involves the conscious, intentional identification and
systematic formation of the next generation of sponsors. The Canonical Statutes
of Catholic Health Ministries require an initial and continuing formation
process for CHM ministries.3 The first CHM members put a high priority
on identifying and preparing possible lay members.
The "Road Map"
CHM's founding documents included guiding principles, the outline of a developmental
plan for member formation, and a list of the competencies required for CHM members
as a group.4 The seven initial members, eager for companions on their
journey, quickly began identifying other people whose personal and professional
characteristics seemed to exemplify the identified sponsor competencies. They
had decided not to take too many steps along the path alone, convinced that
the insights to be gained from a larger group—including lay members—were
necessary. As it happened, just as CHM's first members began their work in sponsor
development, other ministry leaders were exploring the concept of sponsorship
in the context of emerging PJPs.5
The seven initial members began by drawing up a two-year pilot sponsor-development
program. They invited seven laypeople to join them in it. The program, which
was inaugurated with a July 2001 orientation session, lasted nearly two years,
involving six weekend sessions. Then, in June 2003, the 14 participants gathered
one last time to evaluate the pilot program's effectiveness and suggest possible
Praxis, the third stage in sponsorship transition, is the union of action
and reflection. Inspired by the knowledge that they were clearing a "path"
as they walked it, the 14 participants structured the pilot program to include
prayer reflection on elements of lived reality. Their goal, after all, was to
develop and strengthen the competencies required of a CHM member.
In preparing their petition for PJP status, the two sponsoring congregations
had put together a list of sponsor competencies.6 Some of these competencies
would be required only of particular CHM members (for example, expertise in
civil law, canon law, business, or ecclesiology), whereas others (a desire for
ministry, for example) would be required of all members. All participants were
expected to make attendance at the pilot program sessions a high priority.
Language was a challenge from the very first session. The participating women
religious, realizing that Catholic health care has its own lexicon, found the
terminology familiar. However, the lay participants consistently raised questions
not only about the meaning of terms but their nuances as well. As a result,
the early sessions were like the "immersion language" classes one
finds in college. The lay participants had to simultaneously learn both the
content of sponsorship—as well as discuss it and form an educated
opinion of it—and the language in which sponsorship is couched.
All 14 participants quickly established an understanding that no question would
be off limits.
Not least among the terms discussed was the word "formation" itself.
To the participating women religious, the word recalled aspects of their early
training in religious life. To some of the lay participants, it seemed to undervalue
their life experiences, suggesting that they were like young people in need
of direction. Once all 14 had become sensitive to the word's implications, they
agreed that it would be used only in CHM's annual stewardship-accountability
reports to the Vatican. They also acknowledged that formation is a lifelong
process—one that would be shared by all 14 participants.
The 14 did have guides for their journey. A faculty of experts used an adult-education
model to instruct the participants in prayer, theology, mission, ethics, canon
law, civil law, the concept of justice, corporate responsibility, human resources,
and spirituality. Although each of the six sessions had a specific focus, the
instructional methodology was cyclic, so that each theme was reexamined and
expanded upon in subsequent sessions. The participants came to see that the
pilot program experience was shaped like a spiral-they discussed the topics
more than once, with increasing breadth and vision each time.
Meanwhile, the seven women religious agreed to conduct their meetings as CHM
sponsors with the seven lay participants in attendance. This enabled the latter
to hear discussions of critical issues in Catholic health care. Although not
actually decision makers, the lay participants were encouraged to offer ideas
and raise questions. And, during a session near the pilot program's end, the
religious and lay participants exchanged seats and simulated a CHM meeting.
Planning the "Journey"
CHM's founding documents describe sponsorship competencies as falling into three
categories-theological, personal, and technical. The six theological and personal
competencies required for the pilot program were also the basis for the pilot
program's curriculum. During the program, the task of the seven lay participants
was to join the seven women religious in exploring these competency areas, with
a specific focus on sponsorship in the Catholic health ministry.
Evidence of Spirituality This curriculum element included reflection
on and articulation of the individual participant's spiritual journey and his
or her ability to identify areas of strength and of needed growth. Participants
then drew up plans for their progress toward a holistic spirituality. They also
gathered resources that would help them share with others the spiritual foundation
that inspires CHM.
Ability to Work with and Be Influenced by a Group This curriculum element
is a good example of the instructional process' cyclical nature. The participants
shared not only ideas but feelings and values as well. To the extent that it
was useful, they engaged in positive confrontation. Respect and support for
diversity, willingness to work toward healthy compromise, and an ability to
"hang in when the going gets tough" are other aspects of this element.
Commitment to Justice This element is based on the call to justice expressed
by the Old Testament prophets and Jesus. Participants studied major documents
and basic principles underlying the church's social teaching. Their discussions
evoked a clear sense of and commitment to the common good. As a result of presentations
and interactions concerning issues such as labor relations, the participants
evidenced a respect for the complexity of the issues themselves and for the
organizations involved in health ministry.
A Heart for Ministry This element begins with a deep awareness of Jesus'
mission and ministry as described in the Gospels. For the pilot program's participants,
it served as a very personal invitation to probe their capacity for engaging
in health ministry. It evoked in them an appreciation of their leadership role
in the ministry.
Catholicity This element is a basic understanding of the church's 2,000-year
tradition (creed, code, and cult) and includes comprehension of the significance
of the Trinity for CHM. Participants had an opportunity to articulate with conviction
the Catholic vision flowing from the Second Vatican Council. They developed
an appreciation of and respect for the legitimate diversity of opinion in the
church, as well as an awareness of and sensitivity to church language, polity,
and organizational structure, including relevant canonical sources and the Ethical
and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.
Experience in Governance and Fiduciary Responsibility This is the most
multifaceted of the curriculum elements. It includes a working knowledge of
a PJP's structure and responsibilities, Trinity Health's specific legal structure,
and the differences between a governance role and a sponsorship role.
These six elements were already well-known to some of the "travelers."
For the others, they were not completely familiar territory. For all 14, however,
they yielded new insights.
Evaluating the Program
As the pilot program came to an end, it became important to capture the lessons
learned from the "journey." Toward this end, the seven women religious
had developed an evaluation process that included both qualitative and quantitative
aspects. Before the final session, each participant completed a survey employing
a four-point agreement/disagreement scale to rate major curriculum elements;
the overall program; and the logistics and resources used, including the faculty.
Open-ended questions invited the participants to identify the program elements
they saw as highlights and those they saw as superfluous, and to record any
other comments they wished to make.
The participants rated the overall effectiveness of the pilot program highly,
most of them giving it either a 3 or a 4. They had difficulty rating the curriculum
element working with and being influenced by a group, simply because
they had found each other so compatible. They gave the justice element a 3 or
4, many of them adding that the documents on the church's social teachings had
been very helpful to them. The heart for ministry element received similar
positive ratings; many participants praised the readings and rituals used here,
as well the relevant experiences shared by the women religious. The Catholicity
element, on the other hand, received ratings ranging from 2 to 4 on three of
the questions pertaining to it; some participants said that, although the element
was helpful, too little time had been devoted to it. The women religious rated
the evidence of spirituality element less highly than the lay participants
did, partly, the former said, because they could not compare this formation
process to the decades they had already experienced in the religious life. The
14 gave their highest scores to the element on governance and fiduciary responsibility.
Lessons from the Journey
The participants identified the following as the pilot program's highlights:
- The mutual sharing of thoughts and feelings about faith and spirituality
- The simulated CHM sponsor meeting and other "real life" discussions
- The prayer and ritual with which each session began and ended
- The program content concerning theology, ecclesiology, and the changes that
occurred during the Second Vatican Council
- The program content concerning the distinction between governance and sponsorship
- The program content concerning the histories of the founding congregations
A final highlight, according to the lay participants, was the opportunity
the program had given them to spend time with the religious participants.
As a group, the participants recommended condensing the program into a period
of less than two years, but making the sessions longer. Doing so, they said,
would make unfamiliar content easier to absorb, especially content couched in
The 14 listed a number of key challenges facing future program participants:
- Distinguishing sponsorship from governance
- Eliminating language barriers
- Understanding and using both formal and informal communication networks
within the church
- Gaining access, as PJP members, to church leaders (bishops are accustomed
to relating to congregational leaders in sponsorship matters)
- Making the transition from working with women religious sponsors to actually
- Creating an identity as sponsors, and an accompanying passion for sponsorship,
that goes beyond the charisms of the founding congregations
- Examining the theology of "call"
Into the Future
On January 7, 2004, CHM announced that the first laypersons had been appointed
to its membership: Robert Ladenburger, president/CEO, St. Mary's Hospital, Grand
Junction, CO; and Norma Smith, a Detroit-based consultant and former chair,
Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Ann Arbor, MI. Ladenburger and Smith were
two of the pilot program's lay participants. As CHM members, they replaced Sr.
Aline Marie Steuer, CSC, and Sr. Linda Werthman, RSM, who had represented the
Sisters of the Holy Cross and the Sisters of Mercy-Regional Community of Detroit,
During the pilot program, the participants took care to share their experience
(with the assistance of Sr. Catherine Declercq, OP, Trinity Health's vice president
for governance and sponsorship) with the members of other PJPs. As result, that
experience will become part of the Collaborative Formation Program for Public
Juridic Persons that is being implemented jointly by CHM, Hope Ministries (the
sponsor of Catholic Health East, Newtown Square, PA), Catholic Health Care Federation
(Catholic Health Initiatives, Denver), and Covenant Health (Covenant Health
Systems, Lexington, MA).
As PJPs journey further, they will reframe assumptions concerning formation
and leadership development and identify the personal, theological, and professional
competencies needed for new generations of sponsors.
- R. Gillard, "The Servant Song," OCP Publications, 1984.
- Mary Kathryn Grant and Patricia P. Vandenberg, After We're Gone: Creating
Sustainable Sponsorship, Ministry Development Resources, Mishawaka, IN, 1998.
- Canonical Statutes of Catholic Health Ministries, Catholic Health Ministries,
Novi, MI, July 14, 2000.
- Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and Institute of the Sisters
of Mercy of the Americas-Detroit Regional Community, Dossier for consideration
by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic
Life, for the granting of the status of public juridic person of pontifical
- See, for example, Michael D. Place, "Elements
of Theological Foundations of Sponsorship," Health Progress, vol.
81, no. 6, November-December 2000.
- Sisters of the Holy Cross and Sisters of Mercy, Dossier for consideration.
CHM's Original Religious Members
Catholic Health Ministry's initial members, appointed in October 2000,
Sr. Mary Mollison, CSA (chair), president, Congregation of Sisters
of Saint Agnes, Fond du Lac, WI
Sr. Yvonne Gellise, RSM, senior adviser for governance, Saint
Joseph Mercy Health System, Ann Arbor
Sr. Christa Marie Hojlo, CSC, chief, Nursing Home and Subacute
Care, Department of Veterans Affairs, Silver Spring, MD
Sr. Mary Kelly, RSM, chair, Health Services Administration,
University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit
Sr. Kathleen Moroney, CSC, Immigration Legal Services, Holy
Cross Ministries, Salt Lake City, UT
Sr. Aline Marie Steuer, CSC, president, Sisters of the Holy
Cross, Notre Dame, IN
Sr. Linda Werthman, RSM, president, Sisters of Mercy-Regional
Community of Detroit, Farmington Hills, MI
Initial Developmental Plan for CHM Members (July 2000)
Identification and Selection Process
- Competencies of CHM members
> Identify core requisite competencies
> Design process to assess competencies
- Process for selection
> Design a process to surface, screen, and appoint CHM members
- Succession planning
> Develop succession plan to ensure continuity
> Conduct of meetings
> Mode of theological reflection
> Development and strengthening of agreed-on competencies
- Annual retreat experience for members
- Annual evaluation
> Framework for annual evaluation (based on growth and development
of competencies) for CHM, both collectively and individual members
- Accountability to Holy See
> Process for preparation and presentation of accountability to
Curriculum of the Sponsor-Development Pilot Program
- Evidence of spirituality
- Ability to work with and be influenced
- Commitment to justice
- A heart for ministry
- Experience in governance and fiduciary responsibilities
Copyright © 2005 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.