Compassionate care during Utah’s AIDS crisis
Holy Cross Sisters who ministered to individuals with HIV or AIDS in Utah during the height of the U.S. health epidemic are recognized in the documentary film “Quiet Heroes,” which will be released to video on December 11. Distributed through First Run Features, the DVD of the film is available for pre-order on Amazon.
The film focuses on the compassionate care provided by infectious disease specialist Dr. Kristen Ries and physician assistant Maggie Snyder, who were the only medical professionals in the state during the mid-1980s treating people who had contracted HIV or AIDS. Given the fear and stigma that surrounded homosexuality and HIV and AIDS at that time, many individuals were ostracized by their loved ones, churches, government agencies and health care providers.
These individuals, under the care of Dr. Ries and Ms. Snyder, found respite and treatment at Salt Lake City’s Holy Cross Hospital—founded and formerly sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Cross—with the sanction and support of Sister Olivia Marie (Hutcheson), CSC, then vice president for mission at the hospital.
Four Holy Cross Sisters, Roberta Bennett, Joan Marie Steadman, Linda Bellemore and Bernadette (Bernie) Mulick, served in ministry with the marginalized population. Sister Linda, a nurse who developed a comprehensive Continuity of Care program for HIV and AIDS patients, and Sister Bernie, a nurse who served as a physician assistant to Dr. Ries and helped staff a clinic in St. George, Utah, were interviewed for the film.
People with HIV or AIDS were considered “the lepers of our time,” said Sister Bernie, recalling her experiences in Utah. “The need was great,” she said, and “Dr. Ries saw the need.” When clients didn’t show up for their appointments, recalled Sister Linda, Dr. Ries or Ms. Snyder would contact her. “I’d call to check on our clients, who were also our friends, and I’d go pick them up and take them to the hospital.” As Sisters of the Holy Cross, she added, “We are called to minister where there is need—whatever the need is, wherever we are.”
The Congregation began its health care ministry in Utah in 1875, with the founding of Holy Cross Hospital. Today, the Congregation sponsors Holy Cross Ministries of Utah, which provides health screenings, immigration legal services and educational programs for underserved individuals in the area. In 2011, the Congregation and the sisters who served with Dr. Ries and Snyder were recognized by the Utah AIDS Foundation, receiving the honor of “Pioneers in HIV.”
“Quiet Heroes,” created by Utah filmmakers Jenny Mackenzie, Jared Ruga and Amanda Stoddard, had its world premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival— one of 110 feature-length films selected for screening from 3,901 category submissions. The film also has aired on cable and satellite channel Logo TV. Further information is available at www.quietheroes.net.