February 9, 2021 // Diocese

Celebrating the feast of St. Katharina Kasper, PHJC foundress

Beatified in 1978 and canonized in 2018, St. Katharina Kasper’s life mission was joyful, loving service to God’s children, especially the poor and the underserved. 

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ celebrated the third feast day since her canonization Feb. 1 in Donaldson. 

The Poor Handmaids order was founded in 1851 in Dernbach, Germany, by St. Katharina. Seventeen years later, in 1868, eight Poor Handmaids came to Fort Wayne at the request of Bishop John Henry Luers to minister in the Hessen Cassel area to German immigrants. Although St. Katharina had solicited the eight volunteers from among the sisters, more than 200 had volunteered. “The sisters on that boat, they were very brave, courageous women,” said Sister Eileen Sullivan. “They trusted God. They didn’t know if they’d ever see their homeland again.”

Photos by Barbara Allison
Sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ enter Ancilla Domini Chapel in Plymouth Feb. 1 for the first feast day Mass of foundress St. Katharina Kasper since it was formally inscribed on the Proper Calendar of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend last year.

Over the past 152 years, the Poor Handmaids have grown their rich history of service, especially in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese. Current areas of ministry in the diocese include Ancilla Beef and Grain Farm, Ancilla College, MoonTree Studios, Catherine Kasper Life Center and Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center, all in Donaldson; St. Michael School, Plymouth; PHJC Volunteers Homeless Outreach; St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Plymouth; St. Pius X School, Granger; St. Adalbert School, South Bend; St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Mishawaka; and St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and HealthVisions Midwest, Fort Wayne.

The sisters celebrated St. Katharina’s feast day — the first since it was officially inscribed last year in the Proper Calendar of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend calendar as an optional memorial — with Mass in Ancilla Domini Chapel. At the liturgy, Father Michael Okoro noted that St. Katharina was a poor woman from a poor background who possessed a deep faith. She was always attentive to the Spirit and the needs of her time, he said, and when the Lord called, she responded, “Let it be done to me according to your will.”

In her reflection, Sister Linda Volk said, “Because Katharina was genuinely attentive, she could truly hear; because she was genuinely aware, she could truly see; because she was authentically alive, she could truly be. To experience the fullness of life and to share it with others we are to truly hear, to truly see, and to truly be our authentic selves as envisioned by God. This is our basic calling in life, this is God’s will for us. The flame in the lamp of that charism is still burning brightly.”

Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ sisters visit with one another over Zoom to celebrate the feast day of their foundress, St. Katharina Kasper.

The sisters in the motherhouse then enjoyed a Zoom reunion with their other sisters at Catherine Kasper Home and Catherine’s Cottage on campus whom they hadn’t seen since the pandemic began last year. Love and laughter ensued for the next 40 minutes as they all got updates on one another’s lives. 

Sister Mary Jo Shingler gave thanks for the opportunity to visit with each other. “Thank you, scientists. I’m most grateful for this Zoom visit,” she said. Sister Rosemary Jurkowski added, “Dear ones! I miss you terribly! Being with you each day in prayer meant so much. I miss that and I hold you all in my heart.” Prior to the pandemic, the sisters would gather daily for Mass at the CKH Chapel.

Sister Deanne Blume, coordinator of sisters at Catherine Kasper Home, introduced the seven sisters gathered in the CKH conference room. Sisters Mary Carolyn Welhoelter and Florence Kuhn both wanted all the sisters to know that they’re still die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fans and can’t wait for baseball season to begin. Sister Mary Carolyn added, “Let’s all hang in there together so that we can hang together again.” 

Barbara Allison is the PHJC communications content specialist.

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