SALT LAKE CITY — When Father Lawrence J. Scanlan, who later became the first Bishop of Salt Lake, assessed the needs of Catholics in what was then the Territory of Utah, he sent for help to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Ind. In 1875, Sisters M. Holy Cross Welsh and M. Bartholomew Darnell arrived to open Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City. Four years later, five other sisters went to the mining camp of Silver Reef, where they founded a hospital and school. In succeeding years, the Sisters of the Holy Cross opened a hospital in Ogden and a school in Park City, established a School of Nursing and founded the College of St. Mary of the Wasatch in Salt Lake City, among other ministries.
In the century and a half since then, the number of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Utah has dwindled, as have their ministries. However, when they sold Holy Cross Hospital in 1994, “the sisters of the Holy Cross didn’t skip a beat. They were totally committed to the state of Utah as they have been since 1875,” said Maria Farrington, president and executive director of Holy Cross Ministries, the nonprofit organization formed from the proceeds of the sale of the hospital.
After assessing the needs of the people of Utah, and recalling their mission to serve the underserved, the sisters “realized that the growing number of immigrants and their families and their children were in need of services,” Farrington said.
As a result, Holy Cross Ministries was formed to offer services in three areas: health care, education and justice. (See sidebar for statistics.) Most of those who are served by the programs are Spanish-speaking. Their permanent programs are in Park City and Salt Lake City, but immigration clinics are offered occasionally in Wendover, Logan and Brigham City.
In Park City, Holy Cross Ministries, in conjunction with St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, offers a School Readiness Program for students age 3 to 5. The goal is “to bring children up to speed and prepare them to enter the school district with the tools they need to succeed once they are there,” said Patricia Sanders, HCM director of development and communications. The program teaches English language skills and classroom literacy. HCM also collaborates with the Park City School District to offer a year-round after-school program.
This year, HCM began a Parents as Teachers program in which a certified parent educator goes to a home to teach caregivers with children up to the age of 3 how to help the child learn. This is unique because “many times our families are isolated through language [or] economics,” so having the program in the home reaches these families, Farrington said.
The program can serve 17 families; when it began in September it immediately reached capacity, Sanders said.
The Promotora Outreach Program in both Park City and Salt Lake City focuses on health care such as prenatal classes. In Salt Lake City, the promotora also helps facilitate a support group for bilingual parents who have children with special needs or complex medical cases.
HCM’s justice program assists immigrants and their families; last year, they provided legal immigration services to 2,343 people. Many of those served are victims of crime and their dependents who are cooperating with law enforcement.
In Salt Lake City, HCM also sponsors St. Martha’s Baby Project, which provides layettes to low-income families who bring an infant home from the hospital.
“The stories that are connected with that program are just incredible,” Sanders said. “A number of the moms have said don’t have a crib so the basket (the layette came in) is the baby’s bed.”