Reflections — A Hidden Treasure: The National Coalition

May-June 2000


Since coming to CHA I have considered my regular contributions to Health Progress an important opportunity to share my reflections on issues facing the ministry. Ordinarily the column, like other Health Progress articles, has been a substantive reflection on a single topic. But Health Progress also serves as a communication vehicle for important ministry information. It is in that context that I write this column.

As I move around the country I often find myself answering a variety of questions about the ministry. Not surprisingly, over a period of time some questions are heard more often than others. One recurring question is the almost plaintive request to explain the role, function, and purpose of the various overarching entities that exist in the ministry and how they relate to each other.

Some examples. In addition to the Catholic Health Association (CHA) there are Consolidated Catholic Health Care (CCHC), Loyola University's Sponsorship School, and Consorta. All of these have a particularly Catholic character. Then there is the American Hospital Association (AHA), Premier, VHA, American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA), and other organizations that represent or service various components of the continuum of care. In our faith family there is the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference (NCCB/USCC), Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR), the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), and the Association of Catholic Health Science Centers (ACHSC). Perhaps someday we will be able to prepare a user-friendly guide to these various entities that would provide assistance to someone who is a "novice" to healthcare delivery or to the ministry.

I would like to use this column to share information about one other important Catholic entity: the National Coalition on Catholic Health Care Ministry.

In 1984 major superiors whose congregations sponsor healthcare ministries initiated a national dialogue to address concerns about changes in the church and in society which were causing a profound impact on the ministry. Elements of the dialogue included: collaboration, preferential choice to care for the poor, justice, corporate identity/institutional ministry, laity assuming their rightful role in the church, new models of sponsorship, and divestiture of sponsorship.

In August 1986 these religious sponsors, the NCCB, and CHA began a collaborative project to articulate a future vision for the ministry. They established a Steering Committee on Catholic Health Care Ministry, which in turn appointed the Commission on Catholic Health Care Ministry and ensured resources for its work. The commission, its members chosen for technical expertise, multidisciplinary representation, and national visibility and prominence, provided a forum for sponsors, bishops, lay leaders in healthcare, parishes, and social services to collaborate in shaping the future of the ministry.

Using a process of broad consultation, the commission developed a national vision for the future of the Catholic healthcare ministry and strategies for advancing that vision. In August 1988 it published its work in a 40-page booklet, Catholic Health Ministry: A New Vision for a New Century. The report identified five strategic areas: collaborative stewardship, sponsorship, leadership formation, episcopal leadership, and advocacy.

The commission also called for the formation of a national coalition of organizations to implement the strategies. This became the National Coalition on Catholic Health Care Ministry and was comprised of representatives of the ACHSC, CCUSA, CHA, CMSM, LCWR, and the USCC. The coalition began its work in December 1989.

In February 1992 the coalition adopted a two-year action plan to address each of the five strategic areas. The coalition named CCHC, a national organization of Catholic healthcare systems formed in 1985, the lead agent to collect and evaluate existing and emerging models of sponsorship of systems and facilities. CCHC published its report, Critical Choices: Catholic Health Care in the Midst of Transformation, in October 1993.

In an evaluation in 1994, the coalition recommended changes in its structure to recognize the different modes of involvement in the ministry by the constituent organizations and address more effectively the urgent issues related to identity, sponsorship, and leadership.

That same year the NCCB president established the Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Issues and the Church to serve as a resource to the bishops in areas such as bioethics and technology, the consolidation of Catholic hospitals, the networking of Catholic hospitals with others, integrated delivery networks, and moral and theological questions. (Until this time healthcare issues had been addressed by the Domestic Policy Committee.)

Current Membership and Activities
In 1994 the coalition was reconfigured. Current members include the bishops on the Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Issues and the Church, members of the LCWR, CHA representatives, and represenatives from the CMSM, CMSWR, CCUSA, and the ACHSC (see Box).

The purpose of the coalition is threefold:

  • Strengthen and support the Catholic health ministry in light of changing circumstances
  • Articulate directions for the ministry and develop strategies for accomplishing them
  • Provide practical resources to address current needs in a rapidly changing healthcare environment

In 1995 the coalition produced a binder of practical resources: Catholic Health Ministry in Transition: A Handbook for Responsible Leadership. Written for bishops, sponsors, and facility and system leaders, the handbook includes reasons why the Catholic Church is in health ministry, the current shape of U.S. healthcare, contemporary challenges, and emerging opportunities.

The coalition, CHA, and CCHC have cosponsored New Covenant, an initiative to strengthen Catholic health ministry through formal commitments to specific strategies at the regional and national levels. The New Covenant process began in 1995 with a national convocation and continues with regional efforts to advance collaboration.

In a strategic planning session in August 1996, coalition members affirmed the role, vision, and priority initiatives of the coalition. Issues recently discussed by the coalition include Catholic identity, the sale of a Catholic hospital to a for-profit provider, partnerships with other-than-Catholic hospitals, legal rulings affecting Catholic facilities, and activities of the New Covenant collaborative process. In 1997 coalition members were consulted in the bishops' development of their statement, "The Pastoral Role of the Diocesan Bishop in Catholic Health Care Ministry."

Since 1998 the coalition has continued to advance collaboration among church ministries. Last year, the coalition was a key vehicle for the Catholic Solidarity BBA campaign, mobilizing several church organizations to convince Congress that recent Medicare and Medicaid cutbacks were morally indefensible. The coalition currently is planning and promoting action steps as a follow-up to Ministering Together: A Shared Vision for the Caring and Healing Ministries. Recently completed by a broad cross-section of leaders, this New Covenant vision statement calls for new delivery models, joint advocacy, effective leadership development, and other forms of collaboration on behalf of the individuals, families, and communities we serve.

Fr. Place is president and chief executive officer, Catholic Health Association, St. Louis.


Association of Catholic Health Science Centers

Patricia Monteleone, MD
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
St. Louis

Catholic Charities USA

Rev. Fred Kammer, SJ
Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria, VA

Catholic Health Association

Sr. Bernice Coreil, DC
Ascension Health
St. Louis

Rev. Michael D. Place, STD
Catholic Health Association
St. Louis

Sr. Maryanna Coyle, SC
Catholic Health Initiatives

Patricia A. Cahill, JD
Catholic Health Initiatives

Edward Connors
Catholic Health East
Morrisville, VT

Ron Hamel, PhD
Catholic Health Association
St. Louis

Conference of Major Superiors Of Men

Br. Edward Walsh, CFA
Signal Mountain, TN

Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

Sr. Laura Wolf, OSF, JD
Manitowoc, WI

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Sr. Christine McCann, RSM
Merion, PA

Sr. Diane Grassilli, RSM
Burlingame, CA

Sr. Judy Cannon, RSM
Silver Spring, MD

Sr. Aline Marie Steuer, CSC
Notre Dame, IN

Sr. Joan Winkler, OSF
Springfield, IL

Sr. Teresa Stanley, CCVI, PhD
San Antonio, TX

United States Catholic Conference

Most Rev. William F. Murphy, STD
Brighton, MA

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell, STD
Buffalo, NY

Most Rev. Joseph Charron, CPPS, STD
Des Moines

Rev. J. Augustine Di Noia, OP
Washington, DC

Most. Rev. Justin F. Rigali, JCD
St. Louis

Most Rev. Joseph M. Sullivan, DD
Brooklyn, NY


Copyright © 2000 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Reflections - A Hidden Treasure - The National Coalition

Copyright © 2000 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.