Salvatorian sponsorship ministry emerges

Sister Maureen Hopkins, SDS, Provincial, 1972-1978

January 3, 1984 – “New needs in the Church and world are calling forth new responses from persons gifted with the ability to respond to these needs.”

Those words, spoken by Sister Maureen Hopkins, SDS at our 1977 General Chapter in Rome, focused on new methods of Salvatorian influence. (Photo above features 2000-2003 Sponsorship Corporation Board. Left to right Sisters Virginia Honish and Beverly Heitke) As SDS institutions grew, so did our collaboration with lay workers. In our education ministry, financial and administrative professionals began directing tuition and fundraising initiatives, as well as contributing their educational expertise. In the healthcare industry, increasingly complex government regulations required a higher level of expertise among doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators. Soon, laypersons outnumbered our sisters in nearly every institution, even those founded by Salvatorians.

Our sisters’ role in managing our institutions was changing. The “family firm” approach where everyone learned on the job was no longer enough. In the words of Sr. Maureen, a new response was needed. The Salvatorian sponsorship ministry was that response.

Sponsorship coordinator, Dr. Frank Probst

In 1984, our North American Provincial Leadership Team appointed Sr. Maureen and Dr. Frank Probst as Sponsorship Coordinators. Together, they codified our efforts to ensure our SDS values remain at the center of our sponsored institutions. Over the years, our sisters gradually delegated day-to-day institutional decision making to appointed lay leadership and newly incorporated boards of directors. Each institution—whether in healthcare or education—was founded on Salvatorian principles. The challenge of sponsorship, then, was to ensure those principles continue to thrive and remain relevant amid ongoing changes often demanded by the professions themselves.

For our sisters, “sponsorship is a means of influencing the mission, character and philosophy of an institution.” More specifically, our sponsored institutions are tasked with promoting justice, improving the quality of life, a preferential option for the poor, collaboration with others, and responsible stewardship.

Through religious sponsorship, our sisters maintain this level of influence in many different ways. We lead in-service programs for Divine Savior Holy Angels High School faculty and staff, and for administrators and staff at St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus. We hold seats on governing boards of our sponsored institutions, approving or amending countless important decisions. We lead ethics committees and offer financial consultation alongside institution executives.  During this Era 4 in our history, the actual practice of collaborative decision-making for each institutional ministry would evolve.  By 2000, we took another giant step forward with the formation of the SDS Sponsorship Corporation.

Since Sr. Maureen’s call more than 30 years ago, our sisters have remained dedicated to keeping the Salvatorian mission at the heart of each sponsored institution. We have met “new needs” with “new responses,” showing once again what it truly means to move and bend in season.

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