Words, Actions, Beliefs: The Mission at Work

November-December 2004


Mr. Statuto wrote this article in September 2004, a month before stepping down as the president and CEO of St. Joseph Health System, Orange, CA.

In order for an organization to be committed to change, or to a broader purpose, that organization must have more than programs and initiatives. The commitment to cultural change must be ingrained in the words, actions, and beliefs of the organization and its leaders.

Such is the case with St. Joseph Health System (SJHS). Although we have programs that reach beyond hospital walls and that encourage the development of our leaders, these are the realizations and manifestations of our mission and vision — they are the external examples of an internal commitment.
This commitment has its roots in the year 1650, when the Sisters of St. Joseph began reaching out to communities in France to see what help they could provide. The sisters brought this commitment across the Atlantic as they traveled from France to St. Louis, MO, in 1836; they began their health care ministry in Eureka, CA, in 1912.

It is that commitment to continue the healing ministry of Jesus that drives SJHS. It is our relationship with the congregation that has helped us develop the spirit that carries the culture into every aspect of the system's operations, be it leadership selection and development, financial decision making, human resources initiatives, community benefit programming, or mission integration.

Translating Values into Actions
A commitment to respond to the most pressing needs in a community is something that all Catholic health care providers must sustain, regardless of external pressures. The SJHS mission inspires us to work to create communities that are vital and alive. Truly healthy communities arise only when all people living within them are provided the opportunities and resources to increase their health and happiness. Examples of SJHS healthy communities initiatives include child care centers, support for local community centers, programs for at-risk children and adults, graffiti- and gang-prevention programs, subsidies for low-income housing projects, shelters for the homeless, and neighborhood-organizing programs. Among these initiatives are the following:

  • The St. Joseph Health System Foundation directs distribution of funds for the economically poor in the community and for community-building initiatives.
  • SJHS's Budget Philosophy is a mechanism intended to increase attention to areas in system entities that focus specifically on the mission and values and to monitor ongoing investments in mission-critical areas. Monies are set aside to fund projects that might otherwise not be included in the operating budget.
  • SJHS's Socially Responsible Investing Policy incorporates social, ethical, moral, and religious principles in the system's investment decision making.
  • SJHS's Community Investment Loan Fund provides capital in the form of low-interest loans to not-for-profit organizations, thereby promoting the development of healthy communities.

Leadership Development
SJHS's heritage of practical, loving service to people and communities requires deeply committed leaders. It requires an understanding of the theological underpinnings of Catholic health care and the particular traditions and charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. SJHS has been in the forefront of ministry leadership development and continues to commit resources to the development of men and women devoted to the Catholic health ministry.

To that end, SJHS has established its Center for Ministry Leadership, a resource center that provides programs and services intended to foster the development of strong communities of leaders. The center's programs — which include executive orientation, trustee orientation, physician leadership development, and coaching seminars for executive teams — are designed to strengthen the confidence and competence of our leadership in carrying the ministry into the future.

The center's first program, begun in 1998, is called "Mission and Mentoring." A yearlong program, it brings people from across the system together in order to:

  • Increase understanding and appreciation of the history and legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange
  • Increase understanding of the elements of spirituality
  • Increase understanding of the importance of integrating SJHS's mission and values in its daily operations, thereby equipping participants to lead and support such integration in the system's various entities

The Mission and Mentoring program has enabled more than 500 graduates to develop mission integration projects in their workplaces; they are often called upon to act as facilitators for other local initiatives. Educational sessions inspired by the Mission and Mentoring curriculum are offered to all system employees.

Counting on Our Vision
Catholic health care finds itself in a world of change — changes in technology, in regulation and law, and in the public's perception of the services it provides. Couple all that with the changes that SJHS itself faces — in leadership, for example — and you can see that it could be easy for us to lose our way. After all, with so much change, what can we count on?

We can count on our roots, on our foundation. The mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange remains the mission of SJHS — our determination to bring people together to provide compassionate care, promote health improvement, and create healthy communities. These are the elements that will last, the elements that we can rely on, the elements that will continue to help us remain committed to cultural change, healing, and hope.

Finally, let me close on a personal note. There is a power and strength in being a part of the community of Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and SJHS. This power, this spirituality, has allowed me to deepen my faith and become a better leader; a better corporate citizen; and a better spouse, parent, and friend.


Copyright © 2004 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Words, Actions, Beliefs - The Mission at Work

Copyright © 2004 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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