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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to serving others through a message of peace, non-violence and what he called the Beloved Community; all of these being rooted in love. He was a voice for the voiceless. A beacon of hope in a confused world. He became a symbol of strength for an entire nation and beyond.
Now, almost 50 after his death, Dr. King’s legacy continues to guide us on matters of morality, equality, human dignity and diversity.
His work continues to energize, motivate and guide those on a mission for justice and healing in the world. Those determined to reach beyond the status quo, overcome life’s hurdles, and create lasting change for good.
And that change doesn’t happen when we are comfortable or complacent. It happens when we recognize that only we can make a difference, and in fact, must make a difference. Change happens when we recognize the opportunity to do better. Be better. Lead better.
SSM Health believes diversity makes us stronger and allows God’s presence to be revealed. We believe a diverse work community allows the gifts of all to contribute to the best outcomes. Our success lies in diversity. It’s part of our past and the key to our future.
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1933, SSM Health’s founding sisters, the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, opened the nation’s first Catholic hospital for African Americans. St. Mary’s Infirmary welcomed African American patients, but also gave African American physicians and nurses a place to be trained and to practice their professions. These sisters were following in the footsteps of their foundress, Mother Mary Odilia Berger and the first sisters who came to St. Louis from Germany in 1872 to immediately began caring for the sick and the poor in the midst of a smallpox epidemic. The sisters did what they believed God was calling them to do. They cared for people in their homes, especially the poor who did not have money to be cared for in hospitals. They recognized the dignity of each person and brought healing to society’s most vulnerable with compassion and care. We continue to be inspired by their courage and commitment at SSM Health today.
In a letter to SSM Health’s 33,000 employees last year, CEO Bill Thompson highlighted the ways we’re working together with our communities to inspire service, promote justice and embrace diversity.
Our founding sisters were trailblazers. They began a health care ministry that today is stronger and larger than they could ever have imagined. They were advocates for the poor and vulnerable, and their lives and ministry inspire us to carry on their legacy in the communities we serve.
“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a national day of service when we are all encouraged to celebrate by committing to improve the lives of others. So we ask you, what are you doing to serve others?
Because after all, “everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." - Martin Luther King Jr.
Peggy Van Gundy is the System Director of Mission and Formation for SSM Health. She is a board-certified chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and has been with SSM Health for 18 years.
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