Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 21, 1999
Grey Nuns step further back from Caritas Health Group
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Grey Nuns of Alberta are slowly but surely getting out of the health care field.
At a ceremony June 14, the sisters, who have been in health care for 104 years, transferred their sponsorship of Caritas to the Alberta Catholic Health Corporation (ACHC), which is the Alberta bishops' arm in health care.
That means the sisters no longer have direct corporate responsibility for Caritas, the six-year-old Catholic corporation that runs the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre, the Grey Nuns Hospital and the Misericordia Hospital.
Before the transfer, which will take effect July 1, the sisters and the ACHC co-shared responsibility for Caritas 50/50.
Both groups were responsible for appointing the Caritas board of directors, approving the organization's bylaws and mission and assuring that the Catholic hospitals stay dynamic in the Catholic tradition.
They also had input into the auditor and the hiring of presidents.
Now that the Grey Nuns are gone, that responsibility is the ACHC's alone.
But the Grey Nuns' withdrawal is not total as the sisters will now fill two positions on the ACHC board and will continue having a presence on the Caritas board.
"The Grey Nuns maintain their role and their influence but in a slightly different way," said Gerry Archibald, CEO for the Grey Nuns of Alberta and a member of the Caritas board.
"They are giving up their responsibility but they are still going to be very involved in the mission of the hospitals and in maintaining their Catholic identity.
"All of those things that they were doing before they'll be doing in a different way."
The Grey Nuns, who founded the Edmonton General in 1895 and the Grey Nuns Hospital in 1988, began gradually withdrawing from health care about 10 years ago.
Today there are virtually no Grey Nuns working directly in hospitals, except in voluntary positions like pastoral care and mission.
As the sisters age and their numbers decline, they are moving away from corporate boardrooms and into direct, hands-on ministry, said Grey Nuns superior, Sister Marcia Wiley.
"The sisters who are in ministry would like to stay engaged in ministry at the grassroots rather than administration."
Today the sisters are getting involved in food banks, women's programs, counselling services and in other areas where they work directly with the poor.
The Grey Nuns of St. Albert Province, which encompasses Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, have seen their numbers decrease from 120 to 93 in the past 10 years.
After more than 100 years of direct involvement in health care, "it's hard to let go but it's time to let go," Wiley said.
"In a way it's the best time now because we have so many dedicated and very competent lay men and women who are carrying on the broader mission of the Church which is the care of the sick.
"So the health ministry goes on. The health ministry is much bigger than we are."