Bringing the Mission into Our Times

Sister Sheila Browne, RSM, on meeting today’s needs

After nearly a decade away from Sacramento, Sister Sheila Browne, RSM has recently returned to the area to serve as the vice president of mission integration at Mercy San Juan Medical Center. Mercy Foundation and Dignity Health are excited and grateful for the opportunity to work with her once again. While she is responsible for coordinating the volunteer program and ensuring the spiritual needs of patients are met, she is principally a guide for the overall spirit and culture of the hospital and its employees. “I see my role as ensuring that the mission and values of the Sisters of Mercy, as well as our story, is integrated into everything we do.”

Stories of the Sisters’ courage during historic flooding in 1861 provide important context for our health care ministries today. As Sacramento lay under eight feet of muddy water, the convent became the center of flood relief, even though the entire first floor was submerged. During the five months of consistent floods, the Sisters went out in boats daily, climbing in and out of second story windows to minister to the sick and dying.It is a striking story that tangibly illustrates the mission of the Sisters of Mercy to care for those in need. Sr. Sheila is interested in finding this same spirit of dedication in the work we carry out today. “We are inspired by the stories of Sister Mary Baptist Russell and the Sisters of Mercy who founded our ministries here, as we should be,” explains Sr. Sheila, “the question is: how do we create new inspirational stories today? We have wonderful people doing wonderful things on behalf of our mission. How do we seek what the first Sisters sought to accomplish, but in our times?”

“The Sisters of Mercy have always sought to respond to the needs around them,” recounts Sr. Sheila, “if a school was needed, they established one. If there was a lack of health care, they built a hospital. Today, we have new needs: addressing the behavioral health crisis, improving wellness care, and transitioning toward more outpatient and in-home care are all examples of how we can meet needs through our health care ministry.”

Although the Sisters continue to lead and inspire, it is community members who will carry out this work today. “Catherine McAuley never called it ‘philanthropy.’ She was simply connecting those in need with people who had the resources to help them. We can continue that tradition,” Sr. Sheila explains. “Now, more than ever, philanthropy is essential to the sustainability of our ministries. We can’t continue without people’s support because of limited capital and tight budgets. We must have the support of our community.” She believes that, together with Mercy Foundation and our wonderful community of donors, we can accomplish great things.

“There is so much potential here to take our health care ministry to the next level,” Sr. Sheila says of her impressions from meeting leaders at Mercy San Juan. “We are working toward certification as a Healing Hospital and I think it’s incredibly important.” The Healing Hospital Certification is awarded to medical facilities by the Erie Chapman Foundation in recognition of exceptional quality and commitment to a culture of Radical Loving Care. This approach emphasizes creating patient experiences that honor the vulnerability of people in need and consistently provide each patient with loving care from all their care givers.

To foster this culture, she hopes to share with employees a sense of the organization’s history and purpose. “I believe we lead by example. I want to support employees to become strong mission leaders so that they will be successful in continuing this work.” As a visible representative of the Sisters’ mission to serve and care for those in need, Sr. Sheila is the perfect person to guide us as we continue to meet the needs of our times. Mercy Foundation looks forward to working with Sr. Sheila as she continues to cultivate the culture of mission-driven service and philanthropy at Mercy San Juan Medical Center.