CHA DAY TWO
The Catholic Health Assembly which I am attending in New Orleans is wrapping up its second day. I celebrated and preached at today’s Eucharist and am now looking forward to an early morning flight home to Tampa tomorrow morning. Bob Schieffer of CBS News was the keynote speaker at lunch this afternoon and he was delightful, avuncular, and quite an voice impersonator (he does a great Walter Cronkite, but then he should be able to do Walter). He has an arsenal of delightful stories from his forty years with CBS and his work with his hometown newspaper in Fort Worth prior to becoming an on-camera personality. Easy to take after a morning of health care presentations using jargon and language incomprehensible to someone like myself.
One of my favorite people from the diocese is here, Sister Gladys Sharkey, OFM, and we sat together at the banquet last night. Sister Gladys is the last Sister CEO-Administrator of St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg and continues to have a very active interest in the health care initiatives of her community. Last night the Association gave four prestigious awards to three religious women and one lay man for their years of service to the Catholic Health Care Ministry. The day is coming when we will have to work hard as a Church to recall that this ministry began largely with religious women who took risks, financial, disease-related (Cholera in the case of sisters in Tampa over 100 years ago) and arduous to serve a population of generally poor people. Now with the advent of modern health care systems managed largely by lay people, and with the aging and death of women and some male religious, the laity have stepped up to the plate. My experience here leads me to believe that the Church has little to fear from this modern reality but there are some voices throughout the country who remain skeptical. All I know is that the women and men who I am privileged to serve with on the board of CHA are deeply committed to the ministry of truly Catholic Health care and most could have accepted jobs in the secular health care industry paying far more but remain because of the roots and realities of the present day situation.