By Peter Oliver –Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan
The more things change the more things remain the same.
The founding story of Catholic health care in Saskatchewan and many other places in the world is rooted in “care.” Hospitals cared for people who were sick. As science and technology proved more and more beneficial a change occurred. The ministry of health shifted from “care” to “cure.” The work of doctors and nurses became the labour of lifesaving interventions. While that change is likely to remain with us, it is clear that Catholic health is again placing an emphasis on “care.”
As present-day lingo puts it, our vision of Catholic Health is moving upstream. It’s a shift that places the emphasis on wellness as opposed to sickness. Responses that consider the “social determinants of health” – things such as housing and social supports – are getting increased attention. For this reason, a March 2 meeting of Canadian Catholic bishops and the Governing Council for the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC) engaged in presentations and discussions focused on homelessness, exploring examples of faith-based property innovation and the full engagement of Indigenous people in applying for grants from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund.
What is exciting and critically important in these changes is the value of building a strong relationship between the Catholic faith community and Catholic Health. National Catholic Health Care Week (NCHCW) brings a focus to these efforts, and it also received attention at the March 2 meeting. NCHCW helps to tell the story of Catholic Health Care across the country which is entirely consistent with CHAS’ mission. The next NCHCW week will be Feb. 4 to Feb. 10, 2024.
While keeping a steady focus on realities that impact Catholic Health across the country, CHAS’ convention strengthens Catholic health in the province.
The 2023 CHAS gathering will be our 80th convention and it will also give attention to the “upstream” issues of wellness. The convention will take place on Thursday Oct. 26 and Friday Oct. 27, and is titled “Holistic Care: Healing Through Spirit, Story and Song.”
The anchoring words that are guiding our plans for the CHAS convention include relevant, hospitable and enriching. Presenters focusing on the theme of the convention will draw attention to the innovative work being done by Catholic Health throughout the country, highlight advocacy being done for long-term care and celebrate the journey of healing brought about by Truth and Reconciliation initiatives. Marking the importance of Catholic Health with the CHAS convention in October and NCHCW in February offers two excellent opportunities to support the relationship between the Catholic community and Catholic Health.
At a presentation I attended last year, Scott Irwin, CEO of Emmanuel Care, observed, “Whatever happens, we know that Catholic Health Care isn’t going away.”
Indeed, the more things change the more certain we can be that the leadership from our care facilities, the bishops of our Catholic dioceses and eparchies, and the faithful of our communities are committed to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. We don’t do it to be impressive, but it is impressive because it is rooted in the love of God whose ultimate concern is not “cure” but rather health, reconciliation, and the fullness of life in all that we do.