World AIDS Day: Sisters respond to AIDS epidemic, part 2
While yesterday’s blog post shared the stories of two amazing Sisters of Providence who worked with those living and dying from AIDS, they are not the only ones.
In 1987, as a mission novice, Sister Barbara Battista moved to Chicago where she ministered as an oncology pharmacist at Saint Joseph Hospital in the Lakeview neighborhood. At this time, Lakeview had the highest concentration of AIDS cases in Chicago. She encountered many young men with Kaposi’s sarcoma which is an AIDS defining illness. It was an emotionally depleting ministry.
Sister Anita Bechert lost her grand-nephew to AIDS in 1992. The family created a panel in his memory for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. When it came to Terre Haute in April 1994, Sister Anita was there to see it for herself. Not only did she see it, but she also served as a reader of names. She said, “When they didn’t have readers and I was there, I read extra times if they needed someone. And I read my grand-nephew’s name several times … I really appreciated representing something, standing up for something that needs to be witnessed to.”
In 1993, Sister Carole Kimes was ministering as a hospice nurse in Indianapolis. “One of my patients who touched me most was Bill,” said Sister Carole. “He taught me how those living with AIDS were alienated from others due to fear. He taught me about loving the person and not fearing the person because of diagnosis. Bill gave even as he was dying. His early formation began with the Sisters of Providence in school and he felt that Providence embraced him to send him another Sister of Providence to walk him home.”
Numerous Sisters of Providence attended the annual AIDS Walk in Indianapolis over the years. Among them were: Sisters Anita Bechert, Jean Patrice Keenon, Angela Louise Schwartz, Rita Clare Gerardot, Mary Lois Hennel, Dorothy Hucksoll, Marceline Mattingly, Rose Marita Riordan, Catherine Hartman, Sharon Sullivan, Frances Joan Baker and Charles Van Hoy.
On this World AIDS Day, I hope we can see the legacy of Mother Theodore Guerin and the mission to “honor Divine Providence and to further God’s loving plans by devoting itself to works of love, mercy and justice in service among God’s people,” lived out through the ministry of these sisters.