Creative, Collaborative Evangelization: Inspired Founders’ Circle Member Shares Vision
Chris Allen, MHSA, FACHE is a dynamic member of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan’s Board of Directors and a member of the Founders’ Circle.
Recently retired, for 42 years Allen served in healthcare administration. For the past 14 years he was President and CEO of Authority Health, the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority, which enhances population health through linking existing health resources and filling gaps with programs and services. During his tenure at Authority Health, he drastically increased its programming for underserved residents. At Authority Health physicians were trained in the following ares: pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine, and psychiatry. Allen is also Chairman of the Board of the Bon Secours Health System.
Chris Allen got involved with the Catholic Foundation because he believes in its mission and how it is well-positioned to support creative evangelization efforts and innovative, collaborative programming to positively impact our community. He was especially inspired by the Foundation’s competitive granting program which annually funds projects for Catholic education and formation, parish life, and social outreach.
Allen grew up at Annunciation Parish in Detroit, where his parents were very active. His mother lived into her 90s and even in the last years of her life she served on the Annunciation/Our Lady of Sorrows parish council. His parents provided an example and gave him a drive to be of service in his career and in leadership with Catholic nonprofit organizations.
Allen recognizes that while many area suburban parishes are well-attended, urban parishes have been struggling. So the Church in the City Endowment grants, which support evangelization and parish ministries specifically in Detroit, are something he’s especially passionate about.
“Education in urban areas is key, especially for communities of color. These grants can extend the reach of the church where it is needed most,” Allen shared. “There is so much more we as a Catholic Church can do. The Foundation’s grants help to make that happen. When last year’s grants were awarded there was such a wonderful energy of appreciation and possibility in the room, so I’m eager to keep that going.”
“There is so much more we as a Catholic Church can do. The Foundation’s grants help to make that happen.”
Previously Allen served as chair of the Catholic Medical Mission Board, and had the opportunity to see CMMB’s work in South Sudan, Zambia, Kenya, Peru and Haiti. He was impressed by the approach of the missions there and believes that similar approaches for addressing health care needs could be used in underserved urban neighborhoods in this country.
“During my tenure at Authority Health, we recognized that a person’s zip code is a great predictor of life expectancy and chronic disease they are likely to have. I call it the power of place; where someone grows up impacts their health, their education, and often dictates what is going to happen in their lives. So I’m asking, ‘How do you align the right organizations and church ministries around a focused effort that would drive change in these underserved zip codes, just like we do with mission work around the world?’” Allen asks.
Allen challenges Catholic ministries in southeast Michigan to work for a collective impact, connecting with other communities that allow them to improve what they do, focused on the holistic well-being of the individuals they are serving. He believes that the Catholic Foundation is well-positioned to encourage collaboration among grant program applicants, so that they are able to build on their work in a sustainable way, long after the grant runs out.
Allen sees the potential for parishes and nonprofit organizations to work creatively and collaboratively to address health issues, and provide greater access to housing and healthy foods. For example, grants could help parish and nonprofit food distribution sites connect with the 2,000 farms growing organic food in and around Detroit.
“Parishes with relevant ministries, such as tapping into opportunities to offer healthy food, would attract people to engage more deeply in their Catholic faith and could attract newcomers. The passion and energy in innovative programming like that would draw people toward our churches – a work of evangelization through service,” Allen reflected. “Archbishop Vigneron is talking about unleashing the Gospel, and what better way to do that than the grants and services that the Foundation provides.”
Chris Allen is a shining example of the many thoughtful and dedicated members of the Founders’ Circle who are supporting this dynamic work.