The Legacy of Sister Suzanne Sassus, CSJ

Guest Post – Gabriela Robles, CEO and President

I met Sister Suzanne Sassus, CSJ, as an intern for St. Joseph Health System Foundation, which later became the Fund as we know it today. Sister Suzanne had established the Fund under the vision of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who believe in caring for their dear neighbor without distinction. I was young, eager, and curious about what my future held. I was also confused about which direction my career should go. At that time, I believed law school was the next logical step in my trajectory. Sr. Suzanne encouraged me to follow the path that gave me the greatest rewards. She has always been direct, tenacious, and an empathetic sounding board. And she is usually right.


In part, because of her guidance, I decided against law school and stayed with the Fund. And last week, nearly thirty years later, I had the honor of leading a celebration for her retirement from the Fund’s board of directors. I could fill pages with the words of wisdom she has shared with me over our years together. But our friend and colleague Anne Olin, president of Charitable Ventures, perfectly summarized Sr. Suzanne’s impact and inspiration.


Anne shared Sr. Suzanne’s favorite parable, “The Good Samaritan.” If you’re not familiar, The Good Samaritan tells the story of a traveler who was beaten and near death. A priest and Levite both walk past the man in need of aid. A Samaritan passed by and helped the injured man. The story is a reminder to do good deeds, but it also reminds us to lead with compassion and love.


As Anne reflected, it seems to go even deeper than that for Sr. Suzanne. The parable and Sr. Suzanne’s work call for a revolutionary love for people who are the most in need and the furthest from justice. The Fund invests in and fosters long-term partnerships to ensure communities are lively, hopeful, healthy, and just. Built on the foundation that is Sr. Suzanne’s calling and vision to heal those most in need, we who continue her legacy are motivated by compassion, kindness, and the desire to transform communities by challenging unjust systems. We seek to create communities that are more whole, more healed, and more able to flourish, hope, love, and grow.


After thirty years of working together to see her vision of health for all, I have said that Sr. Suzanne knows all my secrets. She is a trusted confidante, a valued mentor, and a cherished leader. When I told her we would continue her work, she looked at me and said, “I expect you to.”


Sr. Suzanne may have stepped down from the Fund’s board, but her work will never retire.


Please join me in thanking Sr. Suzanne for her contributions to our community by sharing a memory or a congratulatory wish below.


This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.