HoH_Listecki3-ColorChances are either you or a loved one has been in the hospital at sometime during the last 10 years. It truly is a humbling experience. About three years ago I was admitted to the hospital in need of a corrective procedure. Illness makes one feel helpless.

You place yourself in the hands of those who are trained in the art of healing. There is a unique mixture of science and faith that creates the healing environment.

Along with teaching, the ministry of healing is often associated with Jesus: “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed and he healed them” (Mt 4:23-24).

The power of God is involved in the art of healing. We look to the Lord to make us whole. It is little wonder that those in need of healing would seek out Jesus.

We are blessed in Wisconsin to have access to great health care. The hospitals, clinics, rehab and senior care facilities provide care and comfort to those in need. It is important to realize just how health care has grown – from little community hospitals to systems of health care which fill every area of Wisconsin. The technology and standard of care has increased to such an extent that what would have been fatal 100 or even 50 years ago is now manageable.

I have often publicly stated my gratitude for the religious communities of women and men who so generously educated our children, giving us the educated masses in our civil society. I also add my gratitude to the religious communities that built our hospitals and health care centers, providing affordable and accessible medical care to many of our immigrant populations and rural areas.

We live in an age where we must articulate our Catholic identity. What is it that makes us Catholic? This question must be answered for Catholic schools, Catholic organizations and even the individual Catholic.

In a recent meeting with our Catholic health care officials, Bishop Robert Banks, bishop-emeritus of the Diocese of Green Bay, thanked the health care leaders for fulfilling the need of our people for medical assistance and making the task of the local bishop easier through the ministry of care that the religious communities have and continue to provide. At this meeting, we bishops learned of the Wisconsin Catholic hospitals, the Wisconsin Catholic nursing homes and the Wisconsin Catholic senior housing facilities. Every one of the five Catholic dioceses in Wisconsin is represented through the religious communities and the systems that sponsor these health care facilities. It’s amazing to think that almost one out of three patients in Wisconsin is served through Catholic health care. This gives us some sense of the extensive contribution made by the religious organizations to the well-being of our society.

Catholic health care has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Franciscan Sr. Laura Wolf, president of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Health Care Ministry – Manitowoc, made a presentation of the organizational shifts that have occurred. Sr. Laura has a passion for the ministry of Catholic health care and an appreciation for those leaders who serve during these challenging times.

Health care organizations are confronted with a number of pressures: increasing costs, rapidly developing technologies and competitive markets which have forced our Catholic hospitals to examine and initiate changes to their structures in order to maximize their resources to give quality care in a religious, value-based environment. Concern for the poor and the disenfranchised continues to be a part of the mission of the Catholic hospital. It speaks to the very heart of the founding of the Catholic hospital and continues to be the motivation in the formation of its leadership, despite the organizational changes in the structures.

Even something as essential as the Catholic identity in Catholic health care must be consciously addressed. Years ago, we lived in communities that were identifiably Catholic. Religious sisters or brothers ran the hospitals. The formational life of the hospital was formed around the founder of their religious order. This was evident in everything that was embraced by the organization. It definitely had an objectively Catholic mark.

The leadership has changed. The religious sisters and brothers have been replaced by many lay men and women. What was taken for granted now must be articulated. Many of the Catholic health care systems and Catholic hospitals have addressed this shift in leadership through Catholic formation programs that introduce and direct the leadership in the spirit and mission of the founders.

However, this is the challenge for all of us. We live in an age where we must articulate our Catholic identity. What is it that makes us Catholic? This question must be answered for Catholic schools, Catholic organizations and even the individual Catholic.

There are some areas which help to define the health care organization as Catholic. They abide by the Ethical Religious Directives, the ethical norms that reflect the Catholic ethical teachings and the Catholic social principles of the Gospel. Pastoral care is emphasized as essential in healing the whole person. The mission statement of the hospital adheres to the Catholic spirit reflected in the thought of the religious founder, especially with its outreach to the needs of the community. The bishop himself plays an important role in recognizing the institution or the organization as Catholic.

As Catholics, we should get to know the history of our Catholic hospitals and health care facilities. We should be proud of the contributions of our Catholic hospitals and health care facilities. Let us pray that God continues to bless our Catholic hospitals and health care facilities in their healing ministry and for the good works they perform for those in need.