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Commission looks to strengthen hospitals' ministry

Healthcare Evangelization Commission to include Catholic physicians, administrators

Published: April 4, 2014   

A new commission will soon be examining the degree to which the state’s Catholic health care organizations are fulfilling their apostolate.

Father Jason Tyler, diocesan ethicist and pastor of St. Edward Church in Little Rock, said the need for Catholic health care institutions and practitioners to operate in the image of Christ has never been greater.

“With all of us, no matter what we’re doing no matter what sort of ministry we’re undertaking, we have to watch out for complacency,” he said. “Health care can, if we’re not careful, slip into a way of thinking, ‘This is the way the world does it so we’re going to do it this way, but we’re going to put a few crosses up and we’re going to say a prayer.’ We want to make sure the Catholicity of this system is not something that is merely skin deep.”

Father Tyler is chairman for the new Healthcare Evangelization Commission, which is expected to convene for its first meeting in late May. He is joined by Matt Glover, diocesan vice chancellor for canonical affairs, and Patrick Gallaher, executive director of Catholic Charities of Arkansas. The remainder of the commission, to include representatives of the state’s Catholic hospitals, nurses and individual practitioners are being solicited.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, who spearheaded the creation of the commission, has consistently beat the drum for Catholic doctors and health systems in Arkansas to view their daily activities as an opportunity to witness Christ’s love and healing within a prescribed framework of morality and respect for human dignity. He was a supporter of the establishment of an Arkansas chapter of the Catholic Medical Association and celebrated the diocese’s first White Mass in October for medical personnel.

Father Tyler said he was eager to include physicians in the commission’s work to help identify how the diocese can support them to include their faith in their practice, starting with countering some of the negative stereotypes surrounding Catholic medical ethics.

One of the immediate challenges the commission will face will be translating what is called for in Scripture into real world policies and procedures. For instance, everyone knows about the call to serve the poor but what exactly that means in terms of delivery of service or philosophy of care may differ from place to place.

“That is the question: How do we take the clearest examples of Jesus and what he’s doing to heal people and how do we apply that in 21st century Arkansas?” Father Tyler said. “That’s our challenge now and that’s been our challenge in every century of the Church.”

Such challenges are additionally complicated by the fact the majority of workers in the state’s Catholic health systems come from a different religious background.

“Those who are not Catholic but are very much a part of our Catholic hospitals are people who are very important to make those hospitals work even, really, to make them Catholic,” he said. “All the things about caring for the poor, about compassion, about dignity of the human person and human life, those are values that are shared by people outside of our faith. We want to make sure that their voice is heard in this process.”

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