MANITOWOC — For the past 30 years, Sr. Laura Wolf has been nurturing the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries Inc.
“This sounds paternalistic, but I feel the organizations in Sponsored Ministries are my children, and every one of them has skills,” said Sr. Laura, who helped create Sponsored Ministries in 1985 and serves as its president and chief executive officer.
“What you’re doing is pushing them to adulthood, to maturity, to making good decisions without cutting the line that tethers them to you. And sooner or later, they stand on their own and do fine. You care about them with the same love and attention as you care about your family.”
Organizations served by Sponsored Ministries include Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc; St. Paul Elder Services in Kaukauna; Franciscan Care Services in West Point, Neb.; Genesis HealthCare System in Zanesville, Ohio; and Silver Lake College in Manitowoc.
Sponsored Ministries’ mission is “to carry out the commitment of the sponsor to the healing and educational mission of the Catholic Church through the provision of quality health care and educational services. In a spirit of partnership with dedicated religious and lay leaders, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries will strengthen the sponsor’s commitment by managing change, ensuring stewardship of resources and integrating mission and values.”
Sr. Laura said she enjoys being part of an organization that helps so many people.
“It also means I get an opportunity to impact how and where our sisters serve and how the ministries that we’ve developed for over a century will be assured for the future,” she said. “It allows me the opportunity to build on the tradition of the congregation and to call forth from the people who work with us their very best commitment to church, community and profession of the areas they serve.”
Sr. Laura hails from Delaware, Ohio, located about 30 miles north of the state capital, Columbus. She joined the Manitowoc-based Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in the 1960s, and the sisters continued to have a presence in the Delaware area until 1986.
Sr. Laura graduated from Silver Lake College in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a specialty in social sciences. (Prior to graduating, she taught for six years in Zanesville, Ohio, and two years in Waukesha.) After that, the sisters needed assistance in their health care operations, so they sent her to St. Louis University in Missouri, where she simultaneously earned a master’s degree in health administration and a juris doctorate in law.
She then began her health care career at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Zanesville, where she served first as the assistant vice president of quality assurance and then as vice president of support services and in-house legal counsel. Through those positions, she gained an invaluable understanding of health care institutional management and operations.
In May 1985, the sisters brought Sr. Laura back to Manitowoc and tasked her with helping to create a health system for the hospitals and nursing homes under their sponsorship. By October of that year, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity HealthCare Ministry — a non-stock, not-for-profit corporation — was established (the name change occurred when Silver Lake College was brought under its umbrella in 2012).
“Over that past 30 years you can see the growth in independence and commitment on the part of our member institutions … so that at some later time, I have no fear that they’ll continue to serve the church well,” Sr. Laura said. “And that makes me feel really good. That’s why we were created. That’s why the organization came to be. I’ve designed it, I’ve built it and I’ve served in it for 30 years. So I want to see it continue to do well.”
Sr. Laura said traveling to the out-of-area locations can become tiring, but she said it’s vital to stay in touch with all of the organizations.
“We’ve worked hard to keep our organizations connected to the church, so when people come to us they know that this is the church active in their lives,” she said. “And I think that gets lost in all the consolidations that occur in all the big systems. Don’t get me wrong, we’re a big business — nearly $1 billion in assets — but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to serve the people of God and the church in the manner of the Franciscan sisters.”
And she continues to do so with a smile.
“I never really thought I would be doing this,” she said, “but this is the path the Lord has sent me on. I couldn’t find something else that’s as stimulating and as rewarding as these organizations are for me. That I’ve been able to serve the church, the community and the ministry in this way for so long has been a great gift.”