In the early days of the SMP hospitals, the Sisters were responsible for all aspects of their operations, including growing their own food and, in some cases like St. Margaret’s, raising cows and chickens. There were no boards of directors. The Sisters handled all business matters, as well as staffing the operating rooms, lab, X-ray and dietary departments. They were also the head nurses on all floors and night supervisors. In addition to all that, they did it without receiving any salaries for those directly serving in the health care ministries. In time, however, this kind of simplicity became unsustainable. Medical technology, government reimbursement, insurance, urbanization and the corresponding expansion and consolidation of healthcare institutions contributed to the complexity of health care from its formerly more local character.
In response to the realities of the time, including the advent of Medicare in the mid-sixties and the call of Vatican II for more active participation by the laity in the life of the Church, the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation invited the laity to help with the administration of their healthcare ministries. They were one of the first religious orders to establish boards of directors for their health care operations with lay members.
The transformation of health care to a more formal model coincided with a transformation that was taking place in religious orders of women and men following the Second Vatican Council – a dramatic decrease in religious vocations. As the business of healthcare became more and more complex, the lack of new religious women meant that, eventually, there would not be enough sisters to meet the needs of the healthcare facilities of the various religious orders.
The SMP Central Management Corporation was created in 1980 with an administrator and a controller working from offices at Maryvale. These two positions provided assistance with the overall administration of the health care ministries and allowed the Provincial Administration to focus on the administration of the religious congregation and their schools, while still maintaining their sponsorship of the healthcare ministries.
As sponsors, the Sisters controlled the overall direction of the healthcare ministries, while more and more responsibility for their day-to-day administration and leadership became the responsibility of lay persons.
It became clear that, in the absence of a surge of new vocations, the Sisters needed to address, in its long- range planning, the continuation of the Catholic identity of the healthcare ministries of SMP Health System if the Sisters were no longer available to function as sponsors. To prepare for that day, in 2015 the Sisters created the “Sisters of Mary of the Presentation Health Ministry” (SMP Health Ministry), a “public juridic person,” to serve as the canonical (Church) sponsor of SMP Health System and all its related ministries. (A public juridic person is a creation of canon law that is similar to a corporation under civil law.)
The purpose of SMP Health Ministry, as explained in its canonical statutes is “to further the healing mission of Jesus Christ…” The statutes also require that all of its work is to be consistent with the teachings the Catholic Church and in conformance with the mission, values, ethos and charism of the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation.
The “Members” of SMP Health Ministry are similar to the board of directors of a civil corporation. If there are not enough Sisters as Members, then the Bishop of the Diocese of Fargo or his representative will become a Member. All Members must be Catholics in full communion with the Church and participate in the organization’s formation program. These requirements are to assure that the Members are familiar with Catholic teaching, serious about their faith and responsive to the needs of the Church, as expressed through its health care ministries. The “formation” program provides an understanding of the history, mission and charism of the Sisters so the Members will oversee SMP Health System in a manner that will foster its mission and an authentic Catholic identity as established by the Sisters. Thus, the spirit and charism of the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation, along with the prayers of the Sisters throughout the history of the Congregation, will guide and sustain the ministries of SMP Health System as they continue their healing mission into the future.