June 8, 2015

Catholic Health Association installs Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA as board chair

Sister Judith Ann Karam, CSA, who is chair of the public juridic person of the Sisters of Charity Health System, was installed June 8, 2015, as chair of the board of trustees of the Catholic Health Association of the United States at the organization's centennial assembly in Washington D.C. 

The Catholic Health Association's mission is to advance the Catholic health ministry of the United States in caring for people and communities. Catholic health care is a ministry of the Catholic Church continuing Jesus' mission of love and healing in the world today. Comprised of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in all 50 states, the Catholic health ministry is the largest group of nonprofit health care providers in the nation. 

Following the installation, Sister Judith Ann, who is also congregational leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, offered comments, which are reflected in this article in Catholic Health World:



As published in Catholic Health World
2015-2016 chairperson, CHA Board of Trustees
Congregational leader, Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, Richfield, Ohio


Happy 100th anniversary to CHA! We are all set to have quite a party in D.C. As we celebrate our centennial, we give thanks for what has been. We are grateful for what is and look forward to the future for the ministry. We are stewards of this wonderful mission.

Telling our stories is a good way to celebrate. The stories of the sisters coming to America to care for the settlers, the sick in their homes, the poor in hospitals are all remarkable. So many religious founders have stories of courage in walking a journey of care and compassion and adapting to the needs of the times. CHA's founding in 1915 was an answer to changes in health care delivery and the compelling story that we could do much more assembled together around the healing ministry than we could do alone. The same is true today.

The meeting that led to the founding of CHA convened on the porch of a cottage overlooking the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Fr. Charles B. Moulinier, SJ, who was to become CHA's first president, met with 14 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to discuss the need for a unified Catholic hospital response to the public's growing demand for higher standards of hospital care.

Catholic health care over the years in service to God's people has grown its mission of healing. We have been pioneers in the founding of hospitals, providing home health care, opening ambulatory centers, and providing alternatives to maintain health. We are responsible for innovations in heart surgery, in orthopedic care, and in mental health. 

In July, a member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, Sr. Ignatia Gavin, CSA, will be honored by Alcoholics Anonymous at their international convention in Atlanta. Our Sr. Gavin was director of admitting at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio. She worked with Dr. Bob and Bill W., the co-founders of AA, in getting alcoholics admitted to the hospital for detoxification. Wherever she could find room, including space that had been used to store flowers for the patients, she placed alcoholic patients for care.  Alcoholism at the time was considered a social malady, but Sr. Gavin and the founders of AA saw the human suffering and took action. In the decades since, society has grown in understanding addiction as a disease. We have come a long way.  There are many such stories of Catholic health care on the forefront of compassionate care.

As we look today at the dramatic changes happening in health care delivery, we are grateful that more people have access to health care. In Catholic health care we have always had a broad holistic definition of health. Our belief in the dignity of the whole person, made in the image and likeness of God, leads everything we do and believe. Our goal is to care for physical healing, as well as the social, emotional, and spiritual. So, when we plan for population health management, our view is of the whole person.

A change in reimbursement from units of services to value is underway not only from Medicare and Medicaid but also from commercial insurers. Value is measured as quality outcomes and service excellence. Catholic health care is focused on providing the highest quality care with compassion. This is not new. Focusing on core measures and clinical benchmarks enables us to assure the value of our care and reap the financial advantages, but most importantly, by following this path we are respecting the dignity of the person with the best person-centered service.

Our family in Catholic health care has gotten larger. The growth of ministerial juridic persons is a reality. We have new partnership and reconfigurations of health systems. These movements are necessitated by regional strategies, integrated delivery networks and accountable care organizations, operational efficiencies and technology.

On Dec. 8, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council where the proper role of the laity in the Catholic Church was proclaimed. We know there is a great blessing in the growth of lay leadership in Catholic health care. The awareness of our co-ministers being called from God, dedicated to serve in the ministry makes us all proud. Our focus on sponsorship and leadership formation is a priority.

Although we are very rarely sitting on a porch for meetings today, CHA's Board of Trustees continues to evolve the vision of the ministry to keep our mission vibrant in these changing times. This year, we shall  look forward to implementation of the action of the Membership Assembly regarding bylaw changes for membership, and we shall advocate for further expansion of the Affordable Care Act for coverage for more persons in need.

As we look to the future of this precious ministry, the words of Jeremiah 29:11 come forth. "I know the plans I have for you, declares our God, plans to prosper you and not harm.  I have plans to give you hope and a future."  This anniversary brings to mind many stories of this legacy, but the greatest story we have proclaimed in 100 years is that of the healing ministry of Jesus.


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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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