LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?

Important New Posts for Two Priests

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My column is not usually a place to discuss personnel moves, but I hope you will allow me to give you some background on two decisions that are particularly significant for our archdiocese.

Nearly thirty years ago, the bishops of the State of New York established Fidelis Care, a not-for-profit Medicaid health insurance company to assist those with limited means. Fidelis Care has grown so much over these past three decades that, by last year, it was serving 1.7 million people. 

Two years ago, the board of Fidelis Care, mostly lay health care professionals, approached the bishops of the state, and recommended to them that it was time to contemplate the sale of Fidelis Care. The bishops concurred, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the Church should not be in the insurance business, the future of a Medicaid health insurance company in these uncertain days lies beyond the scope of the Church’s ministry, and the state is more and more requiring Fidelis Care to do what it cannot do if Fidelis Care is to remain faithful to Catholic teachings and principles. We bishops agreed, as long as the buyer continued to serve our clients, and Catholic principles were respected. 

So, a plan to sell Fidelis Care was initiated, and after lengthy and intense negotiations, the sale of Fidelis Care to Centene, a national leader in managed care insurance programs, was finalized this past July. We cooperated closely with officials of the state throughout the process, especially the Charities Bureau of the Attorney General’s office. The $3.3 billion proceeds from the sale were used to establish the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. This money is not owned by the bishops, but is in a protected foundation for service to the poor, sick, and elderly. Like Fidelis Care, the Foundation will serve those who are most in need throughout New York State and will provide what is expected to be annual grants totaling $150 million in perpetuity for the health and health care-related needs, including all social determinants, e.g., elder care, poor children, education, housing, and food for the hungry, of all New Yorkers—of every color, nationality, and religion (or no religion at all).

This past June, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation held its first board meeting. It was decided that the bishops, who serve as the “members” of the foundation, and board of directors needed to begin identifying the leadership for the new Foundation and developing a grant-making protocol. They have been doing this for the past three months.

Quickly, the bishops and board recommended unanimously that, with my approval as his bishop, Monsignor Gregory Mustaciuolo was the logical and perfect choice to serve as the Foundation’s first CEO. Two years ago, he was charged by the bishops to direct the herculean project of selling Fidelis  Care and establishing the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, working with Mike Costello, an attorney from Albany, and a representative from each of the eight dioceses. Monsignor Mustaciuolo, while still faithfully fulfilling his responsibilities and duties as vicar general and chancellor, spearheaded a team of attorneys, finance people, government and regulatory authority experts, lobbyists, and communications and public relations professionals throughout the entire process. While I had counted on the continued service of Monsignor Mustaciuolo here in the archdiocese for some time forward, my principle is that I must always put the needs of the Church first.

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is the largest health care foundation in the State of New York and is, indeed, the largest foundation in the world to be guided by Catholic teachings and principles. What the Foundation will accomplish in the name of the Church is remarkable, and while I will personally miss the day-to-day counsel of Monsignor Mustaciuolo, I am confident that he will do even more good for the Church in his new role than he has been able to do throughout his nearly twenty-five years of chancery service. Besides, I greatly value his counsel, and have asked him to continue to stay close in guiding two important ongoing projects: the archdiocese’s response to the Attorney General’s subpoena, most especially because of the leadership role in the IRCP program; and the real estate transactions concerning our parishes and the archdiocese in the wake of Making All Things All New.

As acting CEO of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation since June, and aware since July that he will serve as CEO, Monsignor Mustaciuolo, together with the board, has been working diligently on getting the Foundation up and running by the end of the year, as directed by the Attorney General for the State of New York, necessitating this announcement at this time. They are getting closer to settling upon the office space and the hiring of several leadership positions. Also, they have contracted with David Barrett Partners, which is actively engaged in the search for a Chief Investment Officer, a critical position in a foundation of this sort. At the same time, they are developing a grant-making protocol for eventual approval by the bishops and lay board so that, thereafter, a professional grant-making team can be hired.

The first working board meeting with the board and bishops is scheduled for October. Once much of the above is settled and in place, I will come back to you with an update on the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. At this time, there really are no specifics to mention.

Inasmuch as I have known since late June/early July that Monsignor Mustaciuolo would be leaving at the end of the year to serve as CEO, I used the past three months to think about and pray over his successor as vicar general and chancellor. Recently, I invited Father Joseph LaMorte to serve in this position, and he accepted. As soon as we can appoint a new pastor to succeed him, Father LaMorte can begin his transition to this heavy new duty.  Father LaMorte has successfully served as pastor of large and active parishes, most recently at Saint Gregory Barbarigo in Garnerville. In addition, for 12 years he has served as chair of our archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, and, on top of all that, as a chaplain in the reserves. So, he knows our archdiocese and parishes very well. I am confident that he will serve effectively as our vicar general and chancellor, and look forward to working closely with him. Welcome, Father LaMorte.

Two great priests, in service to Jesus and His Church!

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