Where Are They Now: Interview with Sister Rosemary Flanigan

Where Are They Now is a new series that brings updates of former board and Community Action Committee (CAC) members. Sr. Rosemary Flanigan was one of the original members of Health Forward’s Community Action Committee, serving from January 2004 to December 2005. She was appointed by then Attorney General Jay Nixon.

1. In what capacity did you serve on the CAC?
I was a member of the newly formed Community Advisory Committee. I remember when Attorney General Jay Nixon came to talk to us about how the Foundation was set up, and why CAC was an integral part of the Foundation’s essence.

The Foundation did all the nitty-gritty work–investing the funds, devising the procedures to request funds, allocating the funds, but CAC was all about membership of the Foundation board.

We reviewed the members’ activities, evaluated their performance and named replacement of members on the board. That way, Foundation members were relieved of political processes, and they could simply pay attention to their business.

2. What are your fondest memories of serving on the CAC?
First of all, I had never served on such a committee before!!! I entered that group, well aware that all my life as a religious Sister had been spent in a classroom. I met Sister Therese Bangert but she worked in the community, helped organize in the Kansas City, Kan. community. Her life was as unlike my own, as were the lives of Rosemary Lowe and Brent Schondelmeyer, both of whom had years of experience working in community affairs, on institutional boards, as part of political entities. But that group of people was so warm and welcoming, that I soon stopped feeling like an outsider.

I remember first meeting Wendell Olson and his wife, Myrna (who always drove up from Concordia with him and sat in the meeting). I came to realize that Wendell was a major mover and shaker in that mid-Missouri region, and I marveled that he could think of anything to talk to me about–and yet we chatted away each meeting.

The physician members of CAC were unlike most physicians of my acquaintance; Michael Weaver, George Hoech, Richard Hellman, Howard Braby, James Flynn–they were activists, as engaged in the communities in which they worked as they were engaged with their patients. Years later, when Dr. Weaver’s and my paths would cross in bioethical matters, I marveled at the breadth of his concern as I have seen it unfold over the years.

So, too, with lawyers and businessmen/women and ministers, like Rev. Anyanwu Cox–I felt so out of touch with their ongoing concerns, yet they drew me in, and others who might have felt a bit of estrangement as I did.

3. What have you been doing since you left?
I spent two years with CAC, and realized during that time how progressively worse my hearing was becoming. So when I could no longer trust myself to pick up voices from around the table, I submitted my resignation and returned for my last few years with the Center for Practical Bioethics where I had been working since I hung up the chalk at Rockhurst University in 1992. But there, too, I realized how my impaired hearing interfered with my duties there, so retired from the Center and now am an 85-year old retiree!!

I volunteer in the archives at St. Teresa’s Academy two mornings a week–Kansas City’s oldest high school (145 years old).

4. Do you still follow Health Forward? In what ways?
Yes, I am still interested in the Foundation’s activities, and ordinarily look at agenda announcements and always look at Jennifer Sykes’ monthly reports. The activities of the Foundation have become such an integral part of Kansas City history that one does not easily turn the Foundation off.

5. What has impressed you most about Health Forward?
There are a number of things:

  1. The magnitude of the task!!! Not just the amount of money initially involved, but then the responsibility of wisely investing it so it would grow into the future. Then disbursement–devising ways and means to evaluate projects and allocate funds when there are countless calls for help.
  2. The dire consequences of not doing the task set before the Foundation and doing it well. The human repercussions of even the least failure could be crushing.
  3. Whenever the Health Forward Board would meet with the CAC, I would watch body language of that carefully selected group. And I was impressed. We had some major figures in the community as part of that Foundation Board and they were serious about their responsibilities. This was a group that worked and worked diligently to fulfill their duties. Health Forward had remarkable foresight in its chair, Dr. Harry Jonas. And he had a wall of back-up with Steve Roling and his cadre of workers in the office.

I consider myself fortunate to have spent two years in the company of such people, both on CAC and on Health Forward.

Health Forward

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006