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c11 01Stained glass from St. Francis Hospital, Jersey City - now at the Blessed Frances Shrine, Cincinnati [photo by Veronica Buchanan]Prior to 1971, our hospitals, social service centers, and other health care institutions in the United States were individual corporations that were distinct from one another. Each reported to and was represented by the Provincial leadership of St. Clare or St. Anthony Provinces. The members of each corporation appointed board of trustee members to their respective hospital or health care facility. The 1971 General Chapter instituted a new, centralized government structure for the entire Congregation, including its health care facilities. In the United States, Provinces were suspended, with Sisters and institutions there relating to leadership on the General government level. Assets of each Province, including hospitals, were transferred into the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Corporation in Brooklyn, NY. All facilities remained individually incorporated, but were now represented by Congregational Leadership, with Leadership appointing the board of trustees for each.

c11 07HSI boardAt the 1974 Chapter, Delegates called for a study of the Congregation’s health care institutions and social service centers. The Apostolic Works Commission was established to evaluate the healing mission of the Congregation. In 1977, the Commission, consisting of seven Sisters and a consultant, completed the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Health Care Survey. As a result of this survey, the Congregation renewed its commitment to sponsorship of health care facilities. The Commission also saw the need to share and incorporate the charism of the Congregation and Sisters with the mission of the institutions. Several Sisters were named Stewards of Unique Identity. These Stewards brought together Sisters, administrators, and board members of various facilities to integrate the missions of the institutions and Congregation. This new collaboration was seen as a way to develop and renew the Franciscan vision of our ministry of healing and health promotion, give creative local expression to that vision in SFP institutions, and bring our vision to bear upon the development policy within the Church and civic communities.

c11 05Group photo from Franciscan Games including sr.Joanne Schuster Tony Randall and Franco Harris 1988
             c11 06Sports honoree award recipient Johnny Bench with srs.Joanne Schuster and Marilyn Fischer - 1993
c11 08Franciscan Games - 1992
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The Stewards program identified several goals, including the promotion of institutions’ identities as Catholic and Franciscan as well as increased cooperation among each institution and Leadership. The Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Health Care Movement was created in 1980 to implement these goals. On October 28, 1983, the Movement became the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Health System, Inc. (HSI). Under the new system, each institution sponsored by the Sisters was connected to the others through a formalized Mission Statement. In 1987 HSI was restructured, becoming a more unified and integrated health care organization governed by a national office. In 1997 HSI was renamed Franciscan Health Partnership. FHP was the fifth largest Catholic Health System in the United States serving over 800,000 inpatients annually.

After the establishment of a centralized health care movement, the Congregation saw the need to also establish a centralized system of fundraising.  At the 1981 Congregational Assembly Sr. Marilyn Fischer reviewed the history of fundraising within the Congregation. This resulted in the formation of the Fund Raising Committee, a group of New York area business leaders. In 1984 the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Foundation was formally established to raise funds from individuals, foundations, and corporations committed to continuing the mission-driven programs of HSI and the Congregation.

The Foundation organized the First Franciscan Games in September 1987. The event was the first national event of the newly restructured HSI. New York Governor Mario Cuomo and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio were Honorary National co-Chairs the first year. Each year employees and administrators of HSI facilities, Sisters, and celebrities gathered in New York for a weekend of camaraderie, fundraising, and sports while celebrating the Congregation’s ministry of healing.

By the mid-1990s the Congregation’s hospitals were struggling to remain financially solvent due to increasing government regulations and low health insurance reimbursement rates. The Congregation tried to increase its bargaining power with insurance companies by entering into relationships with larger Catholic health care organizations. This effort was not enough, and after much prayerful discernment the Congregation decided to divest of the Franciscan Health Partnership in September 1998.  All of the facilities, except St. Elizabeth Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, which closed, became a part of either Catholic Healthcare Partners (now known as Mercy Health) or the Bon Secours Health System. Many Sisters continued to serve at the divested facilities. Still others explored new ways of expressing their ministry of healing, a commitment that continues to this day.

After the divestment of the Congregation’s health care ministries, the Foundation’s primary focus shifted to supporting the existing ministries of the Sisters and developing new SFP programs and ministries. The Franciscan Sisters of the Poor Foundation continues to be an important source of funding and counsel for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor ministries around the world. Its mission is to generate the financial resources essential to sustain the worldwide programs and institutions of the Sisters. Programs target poverty, health, hunger, women's empowerment, education, and spiritual guidance for the marginalized of all faiths. The programs and services supported are in the five countries on five continents where the Congregation is: Brazil, Italy, Senegal, United States and Philippines. The Foundation is committed to generating the resources that enable the Sisters to fulfill their vision, mission and dreams. One hundred percent of all funds donated go directly to the Sisters’ programs.

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Published: February 2, 2017