Death Does Not Win

Jennifer Gordon, SCL, System Director, Mission Services

Today is Good Friday, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar. On this day, we remember the suffering and death of Jesus. In the Catholic tradition, Good Friday is the only day of the year that Mass is not celebrated. Instead, we gather for a solemn prayer service which includes Veneration of the Cross.

It is always a powerful experience for me as I watch others approach the cross. Some kiss it, or press their foreheads to the wood. Some touch it tenderly, while others kneel or bow reverently. I like to imagine that each of us is placing the pain and uncertainty of our lives at the foot of Jesus’ cross — a mother worried about her teenage daughter; a homeless man wondering where he will sleep tonight; an adult son who has just placed his father into a nursing home; a nurse, worried about the patient she cared for during her most recent shift; a businesswoman struggling to make a decision that will affect the lives of hundreds of her colleagues; a man whose marriage is crumbling; a child trying to navigate his parents’ recent divorce; a young pregnant woman, wondering how she will care for her child alone. On Good Friday, all of these struggles and all of this pain are nailed with Jesus to the cross.

Jesus’ friends who watched him suffer and die had no idea how the story would end. They knew only the pain of loss, the end of a dream, the finality of death. They could not yet see the joy of Easter morning, could not imagine the miracle of the empty tomb. We, however, have the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight. Still, the joy of Easter cannot erase the suffering of Good Friday; rather it calls us to see suffering as part of a larger story. How willing am I to enter into another person’s pain, not to “fix” anything but simply to be there? How willing am I to embrace the vulnerability inherent in allowing others to be present to my own pain?

Good Friday reminds us that pain and suffering — both our own and that of our world — are real and unavoidable. And still, Easter assures us that death does not win. We are, as Saint John Paul II said, “Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

By: Jennifer Gordon, SCL, System Director, Mission Services

Thank a Sister! National Catholic Sisters Week is March 8-14

From left to right: Sister Barbara Aldrich, VP, Mission Integration, St. Mary’s Medical Center; Sister Maureen Hall, Chair, Leaven Ministries; Sister Charlotte White, Vice Chair, Leaven Ministries; Sister Jennifer Gordon, System Director, Mission Services

Please join us in honoring our heritage and celebrating our founding Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCLs) during National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14.

The special week shines a spotlight on the profound impact of our Catholic Sisters, in conjunction with National Women’s History Month. The SCLs founded our health ministry and continue to play a role today. It offers a chance to recognize all that these incredible women have done for us and our patients for generations.

National Catholic Sisters Week celebrates the commitment, compassion and influential work of women religious across ministries — from pressing the front lines of social change to education, healthcare or advocating for the poor.

“We are observing National Catholic Sisters Week this year in the context of marking the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism — the characteristic gifts and spirit of St. Vincent de Paul to whom our religious Community traces its roots,” explains Sister Constance Phelps, Community Director, SCLs, and a Board Director for SCL Health. “Vincent is known as the saint of charity whose legacy is that he challenges us to respect and serve persons who are poor.”

During National Catholic Sisters Week, as we show our appreciate for the contributions of the SCLs, they too will be using the time to pause for gratitude. They will offer special prayers of thanksgiving for everyone with whom they have served, and for all the people they have served through their ministries. The Sisters are grateful for their vocations to religious, consecrated life and for the many good people who have graced their lives, Phelps said.

We invite you to share a message of gratitude, thought or prayer for the SCLs in the comment section below during this special week honoring our founding Sisters.

*Please note that comments may take a few hours to appear.

A World of Difference in Tanzania

At long last and nearing the end of our team’s two weeks in Tanzania, the container of donations and medical supplies arrived! This 40-foot container was shipped months ago, but required extensive processing before it was delivered to the hospital.

As soon as it arrived, our team got to work unpacking and setting up the supplies, equipment and laptops donated by SCL Health.  Many laptops went to the MaaSAE Lutheran Girls School where young girls are able to receive a secondary education. This school provides an essential service to these young women because it gives them economic independence in a culture where the biggest challenge is forced marriages and a life of servitude. These ambitious women have dreams of becoming doctors, chemists and teachers. Watch as one of these girls shares her dream of becoming a doctor.

Back at Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre, our team was wrapping up their work and teaching a seminar on Basic Life Support (BLS). Nearly 80 nursing students attended the session and things even got musical when Amy Kreeger taught chest compressions to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.  You can watch a video of this hit lesson here.

Throughout their two weeks in Tanzania, our associates used their creativity, expertise and teamwork to accomplish their long list of goals. From installing the new medical air compressor and x-ray machine, to increasing server storage and leading educational seminars, this trip made a lasting impact on the lives of our Tanzanian brothers and sisters.

Breathing Easier in Tanzania

Tanzania2017_2Our team of 10 SCL Health associates and two physicians have been in Arusha, Tanzania, for a week and have already accomplished so much. From teaching caregivers to perform a bronchoscopy to installing the new x-ray machine and data storage hardware, their work is having a tremendous impact on the lives of so many in need of care.

A New Skill
With a crowd of enthusiastic participants gathered around, Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre’s (ALMC) first bronchoscopy was performed this week.Tanzania2017_1 Our team provided the new bronchoscope as well as interactive training videos and hands-on practice so, when needed, the clinicians were ready to use their new skills.

Shortly after, a patient with a chronic cough was admitted who would benefit greatly from a bronchoscopy. Our team quickly hooked up the new equipment and the ALMC medical staff and students were able to participate in the procedure. With this simple test, they were able to rule out any significant pathology, including cancer. Previously, doctors at ALMC would have had to subject the patient to many more tests, and may not have been able to rule out several possible causes.

X-Rays and IT: The Work Continues
Remember that 40-year-old, broken x-ray machine at Selian Lutheran Hospital? Thanks to some hard work and muscle from our volunteers and ALMC staff, it’s out of there! Our team has replaced it with an x-ray machine donated by Saint Joseph Hospital. This new system will provide years of reliable imaging moving forward, an incredible advancement for a hospital that has not had any x-ray capability for years. Still, can you imagine a hospital having x-ray and CT images, but not being able to store them?

Data storage is something we rarely have to think about in the United States, but in Tanzania it is a huge obstacle to ongoing patient care. Until this trip to Tanzania, ALMC had to dump all of their data every eight weeks because there wasn’t enough storage. This meant that, if a patient came back with a recurring issue, there was no record of their previous treatment. For the last week, our IT team has been working on installing storage hardware that will be able to store x-ray images. Tanzania2017_4Thanks to our volunteers’ dedicated work, not only will historical images now be available, but ALMC staff will be able to transmit them to other locations around the world to be interpreted by people with radiology expertise.

Messages of Thanks
SCL Health’s generous donations of time, equipment and supplies never go unnoticed by the staff at ALMC. Watch Sister Paulina and Sister Tumaini share a video message of thanks for the kindness of SCL Health!

Mount Saint Vincent Foster Care Helps Those Most Vulnerable

Foster_330x220When it comes to SCL Health’s mission to serve those who are poor and vulnerable, there are few people as vulnerable as foster children. Removed from their homes, often due to abuse or neglect, these children and teens need someone to love them and support them during the most important developmental period of their lives.

That’s why Mount Saint Vincent, our Denver-based child welfare services provider, now offers a foster care program.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or support the program, or if you’re curious to learn more, send an email to Melissa at or visit You can also follow Mount Saint Vincent on Facebook at

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or support the program, or if you’re curious to learn more, send an email to Melissa at or visit You can also follow Mount Saint Vincent on Facebook at

“It’s a crisis,” said Melissa Maile, Director of Foster Care, about the need in Colorado. “There just aren’t enough families available to care for children needing homes.”

Mount Saint Vincent is especially well-positioned to take on this important work. Founded in 1883 as an orphanage to help children and families, it’s one of SCL Health’s oldest ministries. In 1969, it began specializing in helping children with severe emotional and behavioral challenges due to trauma, mental illness, abuse or neglect. With its unique history, the agency expanded its services to provide expertise, certification classes, support groups and resources for families and volunteers in the foster care program.

Being a foster parent isn’t easy, but it is rewarding, Melissa says. Some foster families go on to permanently adopt children, while others may fill a brief, but invaluable role in a child’s life that lasts only a few weeks.

“People say they feel called to do it,” she says. “They want to give back.”

If becoming a foster parent is too much of a commitment, there are other ways volunteers with a passion for this work can contribute. These include:

  • Providing respite care for foster families
  • Babysitting
  • Helping foster families with meals, errands and other household needs
  • Hosting an informational night at your home or church

Since starting the program in March, Mount Saint Vincent has worked to keep up with demand. Every day, Maile receives referrals, not all of which she can handle without more families. Even so, the program is making a difference. To date, it has served 47 children and facilitated 11 adoptions.

Still Work to be Done: Volunteers Head Back to Tanzania

Tanzania_1What do a Registered Nurse from Good Samaritan and a Network Engineer from St. Vincent have in common? They’re two of the 10 SCL Health associates heading to Tanzania, Africa, on January 20 for this year’s international ministry work in the country.

Every year, SCL Health travels to Arusha, Tanzania, to take our mission to serve the poor and vulnerable abroad. Our work in Tanzania began in 2005 and, over the past 12 years, our health system has brought essential equipment, supplies and training to our partner hospitals in the area — Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre (ALMC) and Selian Lutheran Hospital. Our work has also benefitted Plaster House, a part of ALMC that houses children during their pre- and postoperative care and rehabilitation.

Tanzania_2Our Purpose and Impact:
Would you walk 12 miles with a broken bone to get an x-ray? Probably not! Still, this is the reality for many people in Tanzania. Since Selian Lutheran Hospital doesn’t have a working x-ray machine, injured and weak patients are required to walk an additional 12 miles to ALMC in the hopes of getting an x-ray. During this year’s trip, our associates will install an eight-year-old Quantum digital x-ray system, generously donated by Saint Joseph Hospital. Additionally, we will install a whole house medical air system that will support mixed gas therapy in the NICU, ICU and during surgery. Our information technology professionals will also be present to install computers and work on the hospital’s servers, network and data storage.

Over the two-week trip, our medical team will be supporting and teaching the physicians and nurses at Selian and Arusha Lutheran Medical Centers. They will host a Skills Fair to teach how to care for respiratory and cardiac patients. The overall goal of the medical team is to improve care in every facet of a patient’s life — physical, mental, social and spiritual.

Tanzania_3Why Work Internationally?
As a faith-based health system, our mission calls us to serve those in need within our hospitals and clinics, but also those across the continent and throughout the world.

According to the Catholic Health Association, “Through the international outreach of Catholic healthcare, we expand our understanding of who is our neighbor … As our international outreach moves out in concrete ways throughout the world, we begin to break down boundaries and borders and become the sacrament of service and solidarity that the Church is called to be.”

Meet the team:













You can follow the group’s journey here on SCL Health News by clicking on the tab labeled “Tanzania.” We’ll be providing updates from the team over the next two weeks. The group will also be keeping a personal blog of their day-to-day experiences.

If you would like to help, Plaster House (a part of ALMC) accepts donations at Through this site, 100% of the dollars donated go directly to the children and improving their care. Want to join us in wishing well to our travelers? Leave your comment in the forum below!

SCL Health Changes Vision Statement

vision_1Internet Entrepreneur Jason Calacanis once said: “You have to have a big vision and take very small steps to get there. You have to be humble as you execute but visionary and gigantic in terms of your aspiration.”

At SCL Health, our Vision Statement is a driving force and source of inspiration for virtually everything we do and every decision we make, so when we change it, it’s a really big deal.

And we just did.

Recognizing this important role it plays in our success, we have made revisions to ensure it more precisely reflects what areas of strategic focus our ministry sees as primary to our identity and future success.

We have added language to make our vision more precise in describing what we aspire to do and who we aspire to be. Specifically, these changes were made to:

  • Emphasize we care for the whole person (mind, body and spirit) and we are a trusted partner, not just a healthcare organization. This is particularly important as we focus on advocating for accountable health, personal responsibility and providing a continuum of healthcare services.
  • Define what exceptional care is (well-coordinated, accessible, affordable, safe and results in the best outcomes), and to clarify that all of us, not just clinicians share in the responsibility to improve health and patient experience.
  • Underscore the important work we are doing to care not only for individuals, but populations and communities, such as those suffering from chronic illness.
  • Focus attention on our efforts to be a community-based network and partner with those who share this vision and our values (no changes made to this statement)

vision_2_716x477So, without further ado, here is a look at SCL Health’s future, the way we see it:

Inspired by our faith,

  • We will be distinguished as the trusted person-centered partner to those who engage with us in their physical, mental and spiritual health decisions.
  • We will share accountability with our clinicians, associates and affiliated stakeholders to deliver exceptional care that is well-coordinated, accessible, affordable, safe, and results in optimal outcomes for individuals and populations.
  • We will grow as community-based health networks in partnership with others who share our vision and values and align with us to be an essential provider to those we serve.

Now it’s your turn; tell us what SCL Health means to you by leaving a comment below!

VIDEO: The Life of Mother Xavier Ross

“Look forward to the good that is yet to be.” These were the words of Mother Xavier Ross, Foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. If you want to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of SCL Health’s rich history, check out this video of Sister Maureen Hall, SCL telling the story of Mother Xavier Ross’ life. The video is 45 minutes in length and an enlightening look at our history.


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$222 Million, 296,000 Lives,1 Mission

CommunityBenefitSCL Health contributed $222.4 million in community benefit last year. This was nearly seven percent more than the year before, despite increasing financial demands on hospitals and health systems nationwide.

All told, our community benefit programs and services served roughly 296,000 lives.

“Our mission at SCL Health is to improve the health of the people and communities we serve, especially those who are poor and vulnerable,” said Gaye Woods, System Director of Community Benefit for SCL Health. “Our contributions are one of the many ways we work to fulfill this mission and reveal God’s healing love.”

Community Benefit contributions include charity care, unreimbursed Medicaid and other subsidized healthcare services, community-building activities, and community health improvement initiatives.

Much of our focus is driven by the Community Health Needs Assessments conducted by each of our hospitals in collaboration with public health departments and others. From these assessments, we identify areas of need to focus our health improvement plans. In recent years, the areas of increasing needs have included behavioral health, obesity and access to healthcare services.

View our complete 2016 Annual Report here.

A Shout Out to Our Sisters

TheLanding_330x220SCL Health’s founding Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth did whatever they could, with whatever they had, to fulfill their calling from God to bring his healing ministry to the Western frontier. As they worked to establish schools, orphanages and hospitals for those in need, they walked boldly into smoky saloons to solicit donations from miners and cowboys. They carried heavy rocks from the riverbanks to build hospital foundations.

Today, this determined spirit and visionary thinking lives on. In a changing healthcare landscape, we are inspired by our founding Sisters, who taught us what’s truly possible when you simply decide to make something so.