“We want to create a cultural impact, to create some cohesiveness among all those in that Catholic health care community,” says Sandy Normand, Mission Education co-ordinator for the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan. (Photo by sandy Normand)
SASKATOON — Mission formation is helping those working in Catholic health care facilities to understand how their personal values connect to the mission and ministry of Catholic health care.
“Our facility leaders are already accessing national-calibre leadership development opportunities, but what we really needed were more facility-wide opportunities in mission formation,” says Sandy Normand, Mission Education co-ordinator for the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan (CHAS).
To answer that need, CHAS launched a multi-year venture of developing, piloting and presenting a new resource for staff and professionals at every level in Catholic health care facilities across the province.
Witness to Mission: A Mission Formation Experience is not just for those in leadership or administration — it is for front-line professionals, staff in all departments, and people across the hierarchies in any participating facility.
“We want to create a cultural impact, to create some cohesiveness among all those in that Catholic health care community,” says Normand. “We want to penetrate to the spirit of all those working in Catholic health care, whatever their faith background.”
It is the whole person who comes to work each day, Normand points out. “You cannot leave your feelings or a great part of who you are in the parking lot.” Finding where an individual staff member’s personal values resonate with the mission and legacy of Catholic health care brings renewed commitment, energy and engagement.
It took a year to create the Witness to Mission content, which provides a mission formation experience rather than just information, she says. Piloting the program in a number of facilities took another year. The program was then fine-tuned with the help of facilitators who work in different teams to present each of the five days of the program.
Witness to Mission has the feeling of a retreat, presented off site, with the one-day sessions held every two to three weeks.
Day 1 is entitled “Who am I?” and is designed to deepen each individual’s personal sense of vocational calling and connection to Catholic health care. Day 2 addresses “Who are we?” in an effort to foster workplace diversity by embracing differences and encouraging individuals to work together toward a common end. Day 3 examines the biblical foundation for Catholic health care, while Day 4 delves into the history and traditions of Catholic health care -particularly the mission, charism and values of the founding religious communities. Finally, Day 5 tackles “Love your neighbour as yourself,” exploring the social teachings of the church that offer direction to providing ministry in health care.
The program has three goals: facilitating personal growth, enhancing workplace culture, and strengthening quality care grounded in relationship.
“Our spiritual health and well-being affects life in the workplace,” says Normand, noting the importance of a holistic and healthy work/life balance, and the ongoing need to deepen spirituality, and integrate prayer, contemplation, reflection and dialogue as part of personal formation.
In offering Witness to Mission, the facilitating teams for each day of the program are sensitive to religious pluralism. The program respects different faith traditions and spiritual practices.
“Witness to Mission offers people from every background a deeper understanding of how their own personal story is part of Catholic health care,” stresses Normand.
“We are not asking you to do more, but we are inviting you to be more — that, in turn, changes the way you work. Each day asks, ‘Why do you do what you do?’ ” By diving deeper into that question and connecting personal values to the values of Catholic health care, many involved in Witness to Mission have found the process to be transformational.
Comments from participants confirm the program’s impact. Among the realizations recorded by participants are statements such as: “Giving real service to others results in us receiving more than the one being served” and “I saw my role/place in carrying on legacy of the founding sisters of our facility.”
Another participant wrote: “It has helped me to realize that all people here on earth are very important, even when it crosses your mind some days that they’re not or when you hurt somebody intentionally or unintentionally or someone hurts you. There is always forgiveness and another new day to do better if you messed one up.”
Others describe the profound impact of the journey of self-discovery: “The experience of mission formation has brought me to a renewal of my beliefs and why I originally chose my path of employment. It renewed the compassion and caring that I was still doing, but now doing it with the guidance of Jesus. It gave me back my sunshine.”
Reflecting on the transformational impact of Witness to Mission, Normand expresses appreciation for the support that the CHAS board and staff have given to the project over the years of development and implementation, and the dedication and input of the different teams of facilitators who lead the program.
A member-based non-profit organization, CHAS strives to offer leadership, education and resources in ethics, mission, spiritual care and social justice as “a faith community sharing the healing ministry of Christ.”
CHAS members include institutions and facilities, as well as personal, associate and affiliate members, and individuals working in health care at every level — from hospitals and care homes to parishes — as well as parishioners, Knights of Columbus and Catholic Women’s League members, and the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan.