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What Makes a Catholic Hospital “Catholic” in an Age of Religious-Secular Collaboration? The Case of the Saint Marys Hospital and the Mayo Clinic


Mayo Clinic is recognized as a worldwide leader in innovative, high-quality health care. However, the Catholic mission and ideals from which this organization was formed are not widely recognized or known. From partnership with the Sisters of St. Francis in 1883, through restructuring of the Sponsorship Agreement in 1986 and current advancements, this Catholic mission remains vital today at Saint Marys Hospital. This manuscript explores the evolution and growth of sponsorship at Mayo Clinic, defined as “a collaboration between the Sisters of St. Francis and Mayo Clinic to preserve and promote key values that the founding Franciscan sisters and Mayo physicians embrace as basic to their mission, and to assure the Catholic identity of Saint Marys Hospital.” Historical context will be used to frame the evolution and preservation of Catholic identity at Saint Marys Hospital; and the shift from a “sponsorship-by-governance” to a “sponsorship-by-influence” model will be highlighted. Lastly, using the externally-developed Catholic Identity Matrix (developed by Ascension Health and the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota), specific examples of Catholic identity will be explored in this joint venture of Catholic health care institution and a secular, nonprofit corporation (Mayo Clinic).

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The authors wish to thank Jonathan J. Oviatt, Esq., Chief Legal Officer of the Mayo Clinic and the Members of the Saint Marys Sponsorship Board Inc. for their thoughtful review.

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Correspondence to Keith M. Swetz.

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This study was conducted on behalf of the Saint Marys Hospital Sponsorship Board, Inc.

The list of members who participated in this study are given in the appendix.

Content presented, in part, at the 2012 Catholic Health Assembly, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Philadelphia, PA, June 3–5, 2012.



Margaret Jean Keniry, OSF (President); Douglas A. Parks (Vice-President); Barbara A. Trueman, OSF (Secretary/Treasurer); Barbara L. Frederick (ex-officio, Administrator, Hospital Operations at Saint Marys Hospital) as well as Michael P. Bannon MD, MA; Brent A. Bauer MD; Lisa C. Carter; Donald L. DeCramer; Eric S. Edell MD; Glenn S. Forbes, MD; Rev. James H. Kunz; Marilyn Geiger, OSF, Joanne M. Loecher, OSF; Robert M. Morse, MD; Kimberly K. Otte, Esq.; Carmen Sonnek, OSF; Cheryl A. Weisbrod; and Julie L. Caulfield (Recording Secretary).

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Swetz, K.M., Crowley, M.E. & Maines, T.D. What Makes a Catholic Hospital “Catholic” in an Age of Religious-Secular Collaboration? The Case of the Saint Marys Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. HEC Forum 25, 95–107 (2013).

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