Fruits of Holy Cross: Holy Cross Ministries

This month we take a deeper look at Holy Cross Ministries (HCM) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Holy Cross Ministries, established in 1994, traces its history to 1875 when the Sisters of the Holy Cross first arrived in Utah to begin a hospital for injured railroad workers and miners. Over the years, the sisters have identified and responded to the needs of the people of Salt Lake City and its surrounding communities through health care and education. Today outreach to vulnerable populations continuesincluding women, children and immigrants—through early childhood education, legal immigration support and health care assistance to connect individuals with community resources. This month’s fruits explores HCM’s new pilot program to provide trauma-based counseling to immigrants who are victims of crime, and a School Readiness Program to provide early childhood education resources—all made possible by Ministry With the Poor Fund grants.

Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski, CSC, director of Education at Holy Cross Ministries, enjoys some outdoor time with students in the School Readiness Program.

Ministry

In 2018, HCM served 3,563 people. Of those, 79 percent were women or children, 73 percent had no insurance, over 95 percent spoke only Spanish in their homes and more than half of all the families served were living in poverty. HCM fills a critical void in education for children ages 3 and under, giving a much-needed boost to students facing barriers because of poverty. Parents are also included in the educational programming through the Parent Group Connection classes offered monthly. These classes are held in the evenings and offer a variety of educational sessions focused on childhood development and parenting skills. Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski, CSC, serves as the director of Education at Holy Cross Ministries.   

​Sisters Madeleine Marie (Clayton), CSC, left, and M. Genevra (Rolf), CSC, at a recent Holy Cross Ministries Board of Trustees meeting

HCM also offers a counseling program—free of cost—for immigrants suffering from domestic abuse. Services include one-on-one sessions, group sessions and case management services. In addition to counseling and early childhood education, HCM has easily accessible legal resources for underserved, immigrant families in Utah through its Legal Immigration Program. It operates Utah's first and largest U-Visa program and has helped over 10,000 men, women and children gain some type of legal status since opening in 2000.

Recent projects

Trauma Support for Immigrants: The low-income clients served through the Legal Immigration Program are mainly women and children of Latino descent, who are victims of domestic violence and other crimes. In providing legal aid for victims of crime, HCM identified the need to offer in-house, bilingual, bicultural trauma-based counseling services as well. Program staff recognized there were very few options available for mental health support due to a lack of affordable or free services and lack of services offered in Spanish. HCM piloted a support program in 2018 and immediately reached capacity. 

Sister Madeleine Marie (Clayton), CSC, serves on the HCM board of trustees. She sponsored the application for the pilot trauma-based counseling program to receive Ministry With the Poor funding.  Given the program’s outreach to vulnerable populations,​ she knew it would be a perfect fit with the mission of the fund.  The Ministry With the Poor Fund is directly supporting ​training for counselors, and partially supporting the services of a licensed clinical social worker.  The demand for the program is great and the program is ​recruiting more interns to help meet ​the need for services.

School Readiness Program: Holy Cross Ministries' School Readiness Program provides classroom early childhood education to children of preschool age, and the Parents as Teachers Program supports families with children ages 3 and under. HCM’s early childhood programs also received donor supported Ministry With the Poor funds. Because of this funding​, 82 children and their parents were served through in-class education and home visits. Additionally, ​the School Readiness Program teamed up with another local non-profit, Arts Kids, for a collaborative project. Staff from Arts Kids now come to the School Readiness classroom every week to facilitate social-emotional programming with HCM’s ​3-year-old students. Children from low-income families often ​lack resources ​and opportunities to engage in activities such as visiting the parks or playing games. Early childhood is a critical time for children to develop fine-motor skills, which in many ways will be the cornerstone for their academic careers. Missing out on opportunities to refine and understand the muscle memory for tasks as simple as holding a pencil can put children behind. The beauty of Arts Kids' activities is that they go beyond motor skills and help children develop self-confidence and practice teamwork.

​Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski, CSC, center, director of Education at Holy Cross Ministries, works with students in the School Readiness Program.

​Students from the School Readiness Program ​have fun ​while developing their motor skills and growing socially through collaboration and teamwork.

Moving forward

Holy Cross Ministries continues to seek opportunities for collaboration and partnership to extend its reach. The School Readiness Program and Parents as Teachers Program ​want to expand their programming to high risk ​children with​ ​certification and affiliation to incorporate a home-visiting component ​that will enable children to reach their full potential. The trauma counseling program will continue to ​use knowledge gained through its pilot experience to improve counseling services to immigrants suffering from abuse.

Thank you

Thanks to Ministry with the Poor donations, funding is made available to HCM to support teachers, counseling programs and facilitate new partnerships. “I want the donors to know that they accompany us to the classroom, the clinics, the homes that we visit—we all stand together to support the dignity of the poor and to speak for them.  The donors' presence is a very real one—their hands and hearts are with us every day,” said Sister Mary Ann.

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