Sister Roch Transforms Health Care, Earns Lifetime Achievement Award

June 23, 2014

Story by Mercy's Nancy Hughson

The Catholic Health Association (CHA) has named Mercy’s Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, as a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing how she guided Mercy through momentous growth and change to become a leader in health care delivery innovation and the sixth largest Catholic health system in the United States. The award will be presented today at CHA’s 2014 Catholic Health Assembly in Chicago.

Sister Roch’s remarkable career in health care started more than 50 years ago as a nursing student and over the years led to positions of leadership including hospital president, the Mercy health system’s first president and CEO, chair of the board, and today, health ministry liaison and board member. She shepherded Mercy’s transition from individual hospitals to a system, and then to a new form of leadership designed to ensure the future of the health ministry with fewer Sisters of Mercy to serve.

“Sister Roch is one of a kind,” said Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity and president and CEO of CHA. “She has led huge health systems, chaired CHA and American Hospital Association (AHA), and yet she pushes for our organizations to focus not on her but on honoring others who, as she puts it, are great members of the orchestra who daily make Catholic health care happen. Her career has been incredible, and her most significant accomplishment is the love she has engendered in the hearts of those who have worked with her in hospitals or on boards. Sister Roch embodies what is best about Catholic health care: compassion and quality. She is a true daughter of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy.”

In addition to the CHA Lifetime Achievement Award, Sister Roch has a very long list of accomplishments and awards honoring her achievements, including induction into Modern Healthcare’s Healthcare Hall of Fame and the AHA Distinguished Service Award.

When asked how she has chosen her path, Sister Roch said, “My life has been a continuing calling forth. Our religious community recognizes individual Sisters’ abilities and encourages us. I became involved in organizations when I felt there was a fit and I could do things to help move a situation forward. Anything we have is a gift and we’re to use it to serve others.”

A woman of committed faith with a determined sense of service, Sister Roch has served on numerous boards, committees, task forces and councils – from national organizations, like the AHA, CHA and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to regional, state and local groups such as the Archdiocese of St. Louis Commission on Human Rights, Healthcare for the Homeless, St. Louis University School of Nursing Advisory Board and Nurses for Newborns.

As is her habit, she deflects credit for achievement to those around her.

“I have been privileged to work and serve with wonderful women and men,” said Sister Roch. “God always sends the right people into your life.”

Her fellow Sisters know Sister Roch has often been that right person.

“As Sisters of Mercy, we have a bias for action – to be of service to others. That’s a recurring theme for her,” said Sister Maria Luisa Vera, a Sister of Mercy and president of Mercy Ministries in Laredo, Texas. “But she also has a wonderful sense of humor and some wonderful mottos: Rochisms. When she led meetings where a discussion went on and on, she would sometimes ask, ‘Are we shedding any light on this, or are we just generating heat?’”

Others echo that sentiment.

“I’ve had the great honor and privilege of knowing Sister Roch for many years, and working alongside her for the last 15 years,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy president and CEO. “Not only has she been extremely supportive, but she also has been an amazing mentor and friend. I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of this distinguished award.”




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