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Bishop McKnight affirms importance of the continuance of Catholic health care values; supports role of health care providers in living those values

JEFFERSON CITY – As representatives of SSM Health and Quorum Health Corporation announced their intent to explore a sale of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Jefferson City, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, who leads the Diocese of Jefferson City, looks forward to participating in the process, which will eventually require approval by the Holy See.

“Caring for the sick is a core element of our Catholic mission,” he said. “I am very much encouraged by the possibility of Quorum Health continuing the high quality of health care services in Jefferson City, honoring the legacy of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Mary and other pioneers.”

Having been informed on Tuesday morning of the two entities’ decision to enter into a period of exclusive negotiation, Bishop McKnight said it will be essential the negotiations honor not just the history of Catholic health care in the area, but its continuation. This can be accomplished by providing conscience protection for those who are employed at St. Mary’s, and in ensuring the church’s mission to provide care for those in need is prioritized.

Since St. Mary’s is a Catholic institution in the Diocese of Jefferson City, church law requires the local bishop to provide pastoral guidance in any transfer or sale, although he does not have direct or final authority. “The Church is concerned first and foremost about the obligation of our institutions to our mission,” Bishop McKnight explained. “Even if the hospital is sold, the mission of the church — to care for the sick in mind, body and spirit — must continue. We have an obligation to uphold that mission, alongside the obligation to be fiscally prudent.”

While a Catholic institution is one way of supporting the mission of the church, that mission can continue through the ministry of individuals who serve in the health care professions.

“I am grateful for all who work in health care, especially those who serve because of the values of our Christian faith,” the bishop said. “I look forward to continued collaboration in ensuring appropriate, high quality care to the people of Mid-Missouri.”