A Collaboration of Congregations

by Shelli Dankoff
OSF Healthcare System

Sister Mikela discusses the assimilation of Saint Anthony’s Health Center into the OSF family.

Five years ago in these pages, Sister Judith Ann Duvall, major superior of The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis and chairperson of the OSF HealthCare board, talked about how the Sisters are influencing the transformation of healthcare through their ministry.

Since then, OSF HealthCare has welcomed several hospitals into the system, including OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center in Alton, which is operated by The Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George. We sat down with Sister M. Mikela Meidl to talk about the assimilation of the two orders.

Why was the decision made to become part of the OSF family? Do the roots of The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George differ from those of The Sisters of The Third Order of St. Francis?
Our congregation provides healthcare in many countries around the world. In the United States, the culture and understanding of healthcare—how it can be provided, how it should be provided and how to make it sustainable—is changing at a rapid pace. There are many challenges to serve our populations with the integrity of our call within the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.

In the fall of 2013, it became clear that reaching out to a larger Catholic system to partner with would allow us to continue our healthcare ministry with more stability. Our major superior, Mother Margaretha Maria, requested we speak first with The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. Both of our congregations have our roots from the same community in Strasburg, Germany.

Our foundress, Mother M. Anselma Bopp, and a few other sisters broke off from the Holy Cross Sisters of Strasbourg, France in the mid-1800s. The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis had their original roots there as well. Another Sister from the Holy Cross Sisters founded a new community in Herford, Germany two years earlier, and was exiled from Germany only a few years after its founding... They went to Iowa, and it is from this community that The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis broke off in the 1870s.

While our roots are similar, our development was very different. Our congregation was not exiled from Germany and eventually became an international community. We have five provinces around the world and foundations through those provinces in 10 countries. We also serve in many apostolates, including healthcare, education, youth ministry, social work, domestic work and other needs within the church.

When we speak to the many similarities between our two congregations, we speak more to our understanding of the living out of our religious lives, the teachings of the church, and the desire to serve Jesus Christ through our lives and in union within the church. We are two Franciscan congregations that embrace our heritage of The Third Order of St. Francis. Because we understand healthcare in the same way, there is a confidence and trust working together. This is a sharing, a working side by side, and needs to be seen as such.

What are your duties as an executive vice president?
This position has allowed me to work alongside Sister Diane Marie McGrew, president of OSF HealthCare, who has facilitated handling the challenges that can come from learning curves in joining a large and complex system such as OSF. I am not only on the system and executive boards, but other boards, committees and workgroups within the organization—and that has helped me to understand, in a broader context, the strategy and vision of OSF HealthCare and begin to see where I can be supportive, offer value, and begin my accountability and responsibility within the ministry. It is a full-time job and a liaison position between our two congregations as we grow in our understanding of what shared governance means within OSF HealthCare.

What do you enjoy most about your position?
I enjoy most the confidence that our “coming together” is in God’s providence. To me, this is not about a personal career path or opportunities to grow professionally. My desire is to be faithful to God’s will in my life, whether working at the bedside as a nurse, which was my first training, or working in leadership and helping to form and support those who work at the bedside. It is not about what I do, but who I serve that brings me joy, confidence and hope that goes beyond the challenges in healthcare today. I enjoy the people I work with and the ability to support their work that brings healing and wholeness into the world.

Do you look at both orders as women of influence?
I believe the only influence necessary is to be a channel of God’s grace. It is not about me, but about him. My life and time is limited; his life is eternal. If I can bring his mercy and love into the world so the world can know better how powerful and healing that love is, then the world will be a better place. I think both of our congregations feel this at the core of our beings. We often will say, “I need to get out of the way and let God do his work.” If there is any good done, it is his.

Anything else you believe is important for readers to know about the Sisters and the work you are doing to transform healthcare?
We need their prayers and are grateful for their support for over 100 years. If we truly want success through the work of OSF, it comes from our union with God and his will. Pray for our fidelity to his working in our lives, not only for the Sisters, but for all those who minister within OSF. They are our mission partners, and they are your family members and neighbors. With around 17,000 mission partners within OSF, we are called to be a community of mercy, healing and love. iBi