Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award Citation
June 26th, 2009
Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C.
In this, the bicentennial year of the Daughters of Charity, we are pleased to salute a Daughter who exemplifies Elizabeth Ann Seton’s care for the poor and the needy. Sister Carol Keehan has a distinguished career in health care administration and governance. For 15 years she served as the president and chief executive officer of Providence Hospital AND Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center here in Washington, DC. More recently, she was the board chair of Ascension Health’s Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola, FL. In multiple settings, Sister Carol has been a tireless advocate for the most vulnerable among us.
And now, as the ninth president of the Catholic Health Association, representing the 620 Catholic hospitals and 1000 skilled and assisted living facilities in the United States, she uses this public platform, as well as her rich experience and personal commitment, to win hearts and minds to the mission of Catholic health care.
Sister Carol uses her skills for dialogue to help multiple stakeholders identify common ground, sometimes in delicate or contentious situations. As a member of several health, labor, and domestic policy committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, she translates complex ethical and social justice issues for the enlightenment of all. Of particular note are her efforts to bring greater understanding and mutual respect between representatives of organized labor and Catholic health care. With Sister Carol’s help, these two strong champions of social justice with deep roots in the American Catholic tradition are working to turn their an all-too-often conflictual relationship into a cooperative one that aims to enhance the dignity of all who work in Catholic health care and the people they serve.
Sister Carol is at home in any setting: the White House, Congressional hearing rooms, Vatican curial offices, national and diocesan Church circles, health system board rooms, hospitals, clinics, shelters, and soup kitchens. Wherever she goes, she promotes the Church’s health care ministry in a pluralistic society, and calls the ministry to be its best self in the face of sometimes hostile or skeptical critics. She consistently uses her access to the powerful to advocate on behalf of the powerless. The imperative to design and enact meaningful health care reform in the United States is currently engaging her best efforts, as she works with diverse constituencies to craft solutions that enhance the common good.
In addition to her passion for the ministry, Sister Carol is characterized by simplicity, graciousness, and a sense of humor that puts even her fiercest opponent at ease. Many others have recognized her leadership: she has received the American Hospital Association’s Trustee Award; the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award from Pope Benedict XVI; the American Cardinal’s Encouragement Award; the Medal of Honor and the Msgr. George C. Higgins Labor Advocacy Award from the Archdiocese of Washington. Several universities have bestowed several honorary doctorates in recognition of her service to the Church.
It is with great appreciation of her extraordinary contributions to creating common ground between Church leaders and government officials, organized labor and Catholic health care providers, the rich and the poor, that the Catholic Common Ground Initiative bestows its 2009 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin award on Sister Carol Keehan, DC.