Sponsorship Document


IHM Sponsorship Cohort 2011The IHM story is a long and joyful course of hope and vitality, proclaimed through works of justice, peace, liberation and love.

Imbued with enthusiasm for the challenge of gospel discipleship, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary embrace a charism fashioned and governed by love and self-emptying service to the people of God. The IHM story is a long and joyful course of hope and vitality, proclaimed through works of justice, peace, liberation and love. Individually and collectively, the IHM sisters manifest through their lives and ministries special concern, service and advocacy for the economically poor and spiritually neglected.

This spirit has characterized the IHM Congregation from the moment of its founding in 1845 in rural Michigan and continues to animate the Congregation's responsiveness to the needs of God's people today.

The need for loving, compassionate, mission-driven service is particularly critical in an increasingly consumer-driven society where cutbacks in healthcare, education and social service funding affect nearly everyone. In times of change, challenge and uncertainty, people depend upon strong institutions to which they can turn for support, guidance, competence, care and a firm commitment to preserving cherished values.

Such are the works that the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and our co-workers strive to maintain. The IHM Congregation has a sponsorship relationship with four entities: Maxis Health System, Carbondale, Pennsylvania; Marywood University, Scranton, Pennsylvania; Our Lady of Grace Montessori School and Center, Manhasset, New York; and St. Joseph Center, Scranton, Pennsylvania; and it co-sponsors Mother Seton Academy, Baltimore, Maryland.  In this document the term sponsorship is used to describe the relationship by which the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a religious congregation exercise stewardship as a means to assure fidelity to the ministries of the Catholic Church as reflected in the mission of the congregation and the missions of the institutions.

Over the years the IHM Congregation has chosen consistently to maintain a commitment to the governance, administration and staffing of its sponsored entities. The missions of these institutions continue to be highly relevant today. Each is an effective means of providing service and influencing public policy. Each serves as a force for good in society.

The governance and administration of sponsored institutions today grow increasingly complex in light of contemporary legal, financial and ethical challenges. Such complexity makes it critical for the members of the IHM Congregation and all associated with these institutions to understand the dynamics of IHM-sponsorship.

The Legal Structure

In order to provide a legal structure for their sponsored entities, religious institutes establish not-for-profit corporations. Thus, each sponsored work of the IHM Congregation has been incorporated, through a legal relationship determined by civil and canon law, as a public charitable corporation (often referred to as a 501(C)(3) corporation).

These corporations have a membership model of corporate governance that divides authority between the Members and the Trustees. The Members of the corporation are the Congregation President and Council and their successors. The Trustees of the corporation are lay and religious persons who have the fiduciary responsibility, along with the Members, of promoting the corporate purpose and preserving the mission of the entities according to Church tradition and in conformity with the spirit and mission of the IHM Congregation. The Members reserve to themselves the authority to influence decisions which preserve the identity, philosophy, mission and property of the sponsored work. These reserved powers and the authority of the Members are defined in the by-laws of each of the corporations.

The Members and the Trustees who govern the corporations do not own the assets. The assets are held by the corporation. The Members and Trustees exercise power and authority over the assets and the assets are dedicated permanently to the charitable purposes for which the corporations were established.

Challenges Facing IHM-Sponsored Works

In order to ensure the viability and vitality of the IHM-sponsored works, the Congregation encourages all those associated with these entities to study the challenges and issues facing them.

Many contemporary societal forces challenge the ability of sponsored works to realize their missions.

Economic challenges facing institutions today have been heightened due to the cutbacks in funding for healthcare, education and social services, as well as the pervasive and rapid economic fluctuations and adaptations that create changes in delivery systems. The cost of running institutions has increased due to such factors as the need for competitive salary and benefit packages and the necessary upgrading of information systems and other forms of technology. These institutions are also in competition with public sector institutions which often have the ability to charge less for services than private non-profit entities.

Many institutions must comply with political initiatives and the requirements of regulatory agencies that undermine their ability to further their missions. Tension and conflict often result as institutions are faced with decisions to pursue market-driven possibilities while remaining faithful to the mission. This tension can be heightened in communities where a social climate of hostility toward the poor exists that favors movement away from grants and entitlement programs.

With the growing religious and cultural diversity of personnel, institutions must continue to clarify the meaning of Catholic identity for their own staff members. Realistic understandings of the strengths and limitations of these institutions must also be conveyed to the public to counter the unrealistic expectations that are sometimes held such as the belief that Catholic institutions are responsible for providing unlimited access to free services.

Institutions also must examine the impact of demographic shifts in their geographic areas on the provision of services. For example, the northeastern part of the U.S., in which all IHM-sponsored institutions are located, is finding a shrinking pool of college age students and a rapidly growing elderly population with multiple chronic conditions.

Many factors within the IHM Congregation also present challenges to the future of its sponsored works. The number of IHM sisters available to serve in sponsored entities is diminishing as well as those available to serve in leadership positions. Among the IHM sisters there is a need for a common understanding of the meaning of sponsorship, as well as increased awareness of the challenges threatening the existence of sponsored works.

Future Plans for the IHM Congregation to Respond to the Needs of the Time Through its Sponsored Institutions

In collaboration with its sponsored works, the IHM Congregation is committed to the following as a means of adapting and remaining relevant and vibrant in ministry in response to the needs of our world:

Increasing the Congregation's involvement with its sponsored works by:

  • Developing a congregational approach to institutional sponsorship including criteria for  initiating and continuing sponsorship.

  • Networking with appropriate organizations to advocate for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and those most harshly affected by cutbacks in social programs.

Utilizing current congregational communication structures to educate IHM sisters on:

  • Current developments and understandings of sponsorship.

  • The IHM mission as it is expressed through sponsored works.

Involving IHM sisters in the missions of the sponsored entities by:  

  • Utilizing justice alerts to heighten awareness of forces threatening the ability of sponsored institutions to realize their missions and encourage public policy advocacy actions supportive of mission.

  • Alerting them to urgent personnel needs within the institutions to which they may respond.

  • Encouraging IHM sisters to consider ministry in sponsored works and providing them with educational opportunities to acquire appropriate expertise and experience.

  • Developing educational programs for IHM sister trustees.

Promoting a deeper understanding of the IHM Congregation and its mission and charism among all people who serve on boards and staff the sponsored works by:

  • Initiating an IHM mission core value definition process that would become the basis for a mission effectiveness program in each sponsored entity.

  • Involving non-IHM board members, administrators and staff of the sponsored entities in educational and reflection processes on the IHM mission through retreat days, participation  in IHM assemblies and other activities.

  • Creating a system by which the sponsored entities share with the Congregation their lived experiences of the IHM mission and charism.

January 1999