Holy Cross Sisters' legacy of service in Utah continues

Friday, Dec. 12, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY — When nine Sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Cross came to Utah from Notre Dame, Ind., in 1875 to start a school in the remote mining town of Silver Reef, they began a legacy that continues today. 
The original sisters came at the request of Father Lawrence Scanlan, who became the first bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake.
That same year, Sisters M. Holy Cross Welsh and M. Bartholomew Darnell opened Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City. In 1879, a hospital was opened in Silver Reef, according to Salt of the Earth by Bernice Maher Mooney. 
The hospitals and schools reflect the mission statement of the Holy Cross Sisters, which is to follow Jesus where they are called throughout the world to reflect on the signs of the times, discern needs, and respond. 
Today, Holy Cross Sisters are located in India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Uganda, Peru, Brazil, the United States and Mexico. 
Throughout their tenure in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the sisters have been involved in pastoral ministry, health care and education. 
The Holy Cross School of Nursing in Salt Lake City was established in 1901; as a student there in the 1950s, Sister Miriam Joanne Frankenfeld was influenced to enter the order, she said. 
“We wore full habits then and there were sisters on every floor of the hospital; we tried to see the patients at least once a day,” she said. After entering the order and graduating from the nursing school, she went into pediatrics. 
At various times, Sr. Miriam Joanne worked in other hospitals across the United States, but would return to Holy Cross Hospital. “It was my home base,” she said.
Sister Joan Marie Steadman was the vice president for missions at Holy Cross Hospital in 1994. The hospital had the same services as any hospital, but it also had “outreach services that people couldn’t get elsewhere,” she said.
For example, they offered a program for individuals with HIV/AIDS and a grief center with programs for both adults and children. 
Sister Linda Marie Bellemore ensured that HIV/AIDS individuals had resources to help them maintain their health, she said.
“I shared the life journey with people who were suddenly facing death head-on; I listened to what would give their lives meaning that particular day,” she said. “This could be contacting an estranged family member, planting a tree for a loved one, helping plan a funeral, or bringing them their favorite brand of hamburger and fries.”
The sisters’ colleagues at the hospital had a deep sense of the Holy Cross mission and “we responded as best as we could to the needs of the poor and those on the margins,” said Sr. Joan Marie.
Therefore, “it was painful in 1994 when we made the decision to sell the hospital; it was like pulling up our roots,” said Sr. Miriam Joanne. 
When Holy Cross Hospital was sold, the sisters discerned what needs they were being called to respond to in Utah, and Holy Cross Ministries was born; Sister Alice Mary Quintana was the first executive director.
From the beginning they worked to collaborate with others in the community to provide services that were not being addressed elsewhere. “What emerged were people living on the margins because of poverty and the challenge of being immigrants in a new place,” said Sr. Joan Marie.
Under Sister Suzanne Brennan, executive director from 1997 to 2014, Holy Cross Ministries grew to include an After School and School Readiness program in Park City, which Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski heads. Holy Cross Ministries also has a counseling program that works with the Catholic schools of Utah on issues such as bullying and problem solving, and a health program that assists people with blood pressure and diabetes. 
Sister Kathleen Moroney is an attorney in the Holy Cross Ministries immigration department; she and two other attorneys assist clients with the ability to work legally in Utah, and with cases of domestic violence and deportation. 
Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, has known the Holy Cross Sisters all of his life, he said. They were at Judge Memorial Catholic High School when “my mother graduated in 1929, and when I attended grade school and graduated from Judge,” he said. “The sisters were dedicated, professional, excellent educators and truly women of faith.”
It is through Holy Cross Ministries that the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross presence continues in Utah, as well as through Sister Yvonne Hatt, who in based in Cedar City; Sisters Catherine Kamphaus and Genevra Rolf, superintendent and associate superintendent, respectively, of Utah Catholic Schools; Sister Celine Dounies at Saint John the Baptist Elementary School; Sister Patrice McGee at Juan Diego Catholic High School; and, until recently, Sister Joseph Cecile Voelker as pastoral associate in Ogden, said Msgr. Fitzgerald. “Their legacy remains in the foundational blocks of this diocese.”

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