Cabrini: case study

Context

Cabrini Health is a Roman Catholic, not-for-profit healthcare service inspired by the spirit and vision of St. Frances Cabrini. What began as a small private hospital in 1948 has developed into a much larger, multi-facetted undertaking with two major hospitals, palliative and eldercare centres, a rehabilitation service, and both a biomedical engineering and a linen service – staffed by over four thousand employees.

Cabrini emerged from the missionary endeavours of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who like so many religious orders today, now find themselves in numerical decline. One of their legitimate concerns is that the organisations they founded continue to share the same spirit that first inspired their founder – even when they themselves are no longer physically present.

Cabrini Health is a Roman Catholic, not-for-profit healthcare service inspired by the spirit and vision of St. Frances Cabrini. What began as a small private hospital in 1948 has developed into a much larger, multi-facetted undertaking with two major hospitals, palliative and eldercare centres, a rehabilitation service, and both a biomedical engineering and a linen service – staffed by over four thousand employees.

Cabrini emerged from the missionary endeavours of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who like so many religious orders today, now find themselves in numerical decline. One of their legitimate concerns is that the organisations they founded continue to share the same spirit that first inspired their founder – even when they themselves are no longer physically present.

Task and Response

With a changing leadership, many of whom do not share the faith background of the founding sisters, ways had to be found to support them in this aspect of their stewardship of this Catholic organization. In response to an invitation by Catherine Garner, the Executive Director for Mission Integration at Cabrini, Mark Davis designed and resourced a conversational process for their use. This involved:

  • Researching the life, legacy and religious charism of St. Frances Cabrini and her sisters.
  • Drawing out from the story a number of key themes, which seemed characteristic of this unique way of living the Christian life.
  • Checking with the sisters themselves about the authenticity of the perspective.
  • Translating these themes into language which would be accessible to those without a background in the Catholic culture from which it emerged.
  • Creating a series of booklets around each theme comprising carefully chosen images and readings to both illustrate the theme and provide a basis for conversation.
  • Devising a two-hour conversational process within which this aspect of the spirituality of the organization could be explored.
  • Providing a skilled facilitator to accompany groups of leaders who could then reflect and converse about the significance of these themes to the organisation as a whole and their particular role in leadership.

Outcomes

Having piloted what became know as the ‘Cabrini Charism Conversations’ with the Executive team, it was found to be sufficiently helpful that Mark Davis was invited to deliver these specialised workshops among the top hundred leaders and managers within the organisation in groups of approximately ten individuals.

The feedback from participants has been extremely positive and the programme continues to be offered twice a year to different groups.

Executive and Board Formation

During these bi-annual trips, further formative conversations are undertaken with the Executive team and Board members are engaged in a shorter, similar exchange.

From the success of these encounters, Mark Davis was invited to devise and accompany a pilgrimage to the hometown of St. Frances Cabrini in Italy. This has been undertaken three times in recent years with a group of Board members, executives and leaders and has proved to be a very helpful formative engagement for those involved.