Alumni Voices | Sister Mary Haddad, RSM
All of us who embrace Catholic Social Teaching and apply its principles to our daily lives recognize that racism within any context is an affront to the core values of our faith. As a Sister of Mercy, and as president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), I firmly believe that the events of the past year now call us as Catholics to lean into the issue of racism and renew our commitment to eliminate the racial inequities in our society and to acknowledge and confront our own shortcomings so that we can become agents of healing and positive change.
Church leaders, especially women religious, have a long history of speaking out against racism. The founding congregations of Catholic health care in the United States led efforts to integrate care for patients of color in the last century. They lent their voices on behalf of justice during the civil rights movement more than 50 years ago. Today, as we reckon with COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color and the police killings of George Floyd and others, it is incumbent on this generation of Catholics to lend our voices in calling for urgent action to address the devastating impact that racism has on the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
Earlier this year, CHA and our largest health system members came together and made a formal commitment to take action to confront racism by achieving health equity and by promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in our own organizations and the communities we serve. Through our “We Are Called” initiative we are focusing on four areas: 1) how we respond to COVID-19 to ensure there is equitable delivery of tests and vaccines, with special attention on vulnerable communities; 2) how we enact change with our own health systems, which includes examining and changing hiring, promotion, and retention practices to ensure diversity and inclusion; 3) how we form stronger partnerships with communities of color to improve health outcomes; and 4) how we leverage our collective voice to advocate for policy changes that address the root causes of racism and social injustice.
This past year has clearly revealed that more must be done to confront racism in both the communities where we serve and within our own “house.” CHA and our members who have joined this initiative have begun to use health equity as the prism through which we look at all of our work, from clinical operations to administration, to social responsibility. We are committed to promoting and improving the delivery of culturally competent care and strongly speaking out against policies that exacerbate or perpetuate economic and social inequities, including such issues as education, housing and criminal justice reform.
The work before is daunting and we recognize that it will take a sustained effort over many years to truly have a positive impact and effect meaningful change. My hope is that by bringing Catholic health leaders together around a shared commitment and purpose, we can do our part to eliminate racial inequity in our marginalized communities.
Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM ( Saint Louis University '93), a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, is the 10th president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA). She assumed the position in July 2019. Sr. Mary leads CHA's mission to support and advance the health ministry of the Catholic Church in the United States with its network of hospitals, long-term care facilities and community health centers that represent the largest group of nonprofit health providers in the nation. She oversees CHA operations at the association's Washington, D.C. and St. Louis offices.