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St. Bonaventure University

SBU’s Franciscan Institute provides yearlong formation in Franciscan mission to Midwest Health System

Jun 09, 2023

The Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University has completed a one-year program in Franciscan mission and leadership training for the Hospital Sisters Health System headquartered in Springfield, Illinois.

The program was developed by the institute’s director, Fr. David B. Couturier, O.F.M. Cap., and Jeff Papia, chief strategy officer of Our Lady of Victory Human Services in Lackawanna, New York. The goal was to provide a solid education in basic Franciscan values and apply them to the challenges of mission leadership in a complex health network. More than 200 executives, physicians, nurses and administrators participated in this training.  

With 15 hospitals, scores of community-based health centers and clinics, nearly 2,300 physician partners, and more than 13,000 colleagues, the Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) serves 14 communities in Illinois and Wisconsin. Its mission is “to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high-quality Franciscan health care ministry.”

The Franciscan Institute is an educational unit of St. Bonaventure University committed to Franciscan research, publication, and education. Part of its portfolio is Franciscan mission-based leadership training at educational, social service, religious and health care Franciscan institutions. Using its vast resources of Franciscan publications and its network of scholars of the Franciscan intellectual tradition from around the world, the Franciscan Institute continues to provide workshops that take the best insights from contemporary Franciscan scholarship and apply them to real-life challenges in the workplace.

Guided by Fr. David and Papia, the HSHS leadership came together to pray and reflect what it means to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love today to patients and to one another as colleagues. Sessions focused on trust, subsidiarity and solidarity, creativity and hope as learning practices in Franciscan institutions.

Papia spoke of the need for Franciscan and other mission-driven organizations to dedicate time for leadership formation.  

“Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the complexities of the present challenge us to return to that which is simple, yet transformative – the mission we espouse, the lived experiences of those engaging in the work, the relationships upon which we rely, and the vision that we share. Thoughtful formation around the seemingly ordinary can become a wellspring for that which is extraordinary,” he said.

Dr. Rachelle Barina, chief mission officer for the Hospital Sisters Health System, expressed her gratitude for the training.

“Fr. David and Jeff have a beautiful approach to sharing Franciscan insights and facilitating personal and group reflection,” she said. “Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) has benefited greatly from their gifts. They connected effectively with executives and middle managers and were able to make practical connections to the daily work of serving in Franciscan health ministry. We are sincerely grateful for their efforts and contributions.”

The Franciscan Institute will welcome 22 participants for its Franciscan mission-based leadership training program at St. Bonaventure University on July 12-15, 2023.

For more information about the institute, visit