By. Sister Nancy Surma
“Sponsorship” is a word that connotes a large company funding some sporting or charity event. But in Catholic circles, it has another meaning. Sponsorship is the relationship the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, have with the ministries connected to the Sisters. These include Lourdes University and Sylvania Franciscan Health. The Sisters don’t “own” these two organizations in the common use of that word. Each organization is separately incorporated with its own board of trustees. The Sisters’ connection is more along the lines of history and culture, or “charism” in more religious terms.
The Sisters established what was then Lourdes Junior College in 1958 to educate young women entering the convent. As I explained in an earlier blog, the Sisters got into health care in a formal way in the early 1920s by
running hospitals. Over the years, both higher education and health care became more complicated and regulated. Instead of having direct oversight for their growing health care system, the Sisters established an oversight organization to provide the professional expertise needed to run hospitals, nursing homes and the other ministries that are now part of Sylvania Franciscan Health. But in handing this management responsibility over, the Sisters did not wash their hands of what went on. Instead, they strengthened their role of sponsorship.
One definition of “sponsorship” coming from the Catholic Health Association says “Sponsorship of a health care ministry is a formal relationship between an authorized Catholic organization and a legally formed hospital, clinic, nursing home (or other institution) entered into for the sake of sustaining and promoting Christ’s healing ministry to people in need.” The “authorized Catholic organization” in our case is the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, who are recognized by the Vatican as a congregation of vowed religious women. Sponsorship sustains, promotes and symbolizes the relationship between our health and human service ministries and the Church. The relationship itself is dynamic and mutually beneficial.
Sponsorship is lived out in various ways across Sylvania Franciscan Health. One important way is that the Sylvania Franciscan Health board of trustees is ultimately responsible to the Sisters’ Leadership Team for living out the mission while being good stewards of all resources. The CEO of SFH is appointed by the Leadership Team. Each of the subsidiary boards must have at least one Sister of St. Francis as a member. Perhaps the most visible witness to sponsorship is the presence of a Sister in each of the ministry locations in the position of mission integration leader. These Sisters help in the orientation and formation of new employees and managers into the history, values and mission of the organization. In addition, they ensure that the spiritual and religious needs of patients and residents are provided for.
Other Sisters work in various positions ranging from chaplains to a supervisor of a laboratory. The over twenty Sisters employed in SFH have their presence amplified by the prayers and concern of each and every Sylvania Franciscan Sister. In this way, each Sister is a part of extending the healing ministry of Jesus.