October 7, 2014 // Local

Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ coming home to Fort Wayne

Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ started St. Joseph Hospital in 1869 and continued to serve there until 2013.

Advancing foundation service through partnership with Catholic Charities

By Meg Distler

FORT WAYNE — The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Sisters are organizing several events called “PHJCs Coming Home” in several cities over the next few years with the purpose of reconnecting with the people in those areas in which Poor Handmaids have ministered. “PHJCs Coming Home to Fort Wayne-Hessen Cassel,” the second of the PHJCs Coming Home weekends, will be held on Oct. 24-26 in Fort Wayne, with several scheduled events. (See below for listing)

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ have served the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend since 1868 with a rich heritage in education, childcare, healthcare and other ministries. They continue to minister in the diocese through their two ministries — St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and HealthVisions Fort Wayne.

For over 140 years, the Poor Handmaids have operated or ministered at St. Joseph Medical Center in Fort Wayne. In 1998, they sold the hospital and put a portion of the sale’s proceeds and local real estate holdings into their reorganized St. Joseph Community Health Foundation to maintain a ministry focused on continuing the PHJC legacy of helping those in need access healthcare and attain wellness. This strategy has enabled the foundation ministry to provide over $15.2 million through 999 grants to 182 Allen County community partners.

At that same time, they also used a portion of sale proceeds to establish HealthVisions Midwest, a community-based health improvement ministry with a location in Fort Wayne. The core principle of HealthVisions Fort Wayne is to build strong neighborhoods, through community partnerships using existing resources.

The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation has partnered actively with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend since 2000 to insure services have been available for pregnant teens, refugees and immigrants as well as those without adequate health insurance to enable them to access care and/or improve their health and wellness. The partners have worked together as advocates for the refugees and immigrants at numerous local and statewide forums.

Both the foundation and Catholic Charities have operated complimentary medical interpretation programs servicing different aspects of the healthcare treatment continuum for refugees from 2010 through 2012, as well. The foundation has also focused on supporting Catholic Charities and a few other complimentary organizations with training, support and funding for trained medical interpreters and healthcare navigators to assist non-English speaking refugees and immigrants learn to use local resources to manage their health and wellness.

In 2008, Catholic Charities asked the foundation to assist them in applying for additional government grants and contracts to care for the large numbers of unanticipated refugees arriving in the community. The foundation helped to raise over $2.7 million in additional funding for refugee services.

The foundation used the government grants to supplement their own funding to open the Community Resource Center for Refugees, later known as Catherine Kasper Place. From 2008 through 2012, there were nearly 25,000 visits annually to the center by local refugees to gain assistance from Catholic Charities and 10 other local agencies who hosted programming and services there.

The foundation has worked with Catholic Charities very specifically to assure that newly arriving refugees have healthcare coordinators working with them to navigate their required health assessments, immunizations and any follow up care identified in the initial health exam. In 2001, the foundation supported Catholic Charities with a grant to provide medical interpretation, translation and transportation to an estimated 400 non-English speaking Hispanics, Bosnians and Burmese. In 2008, a grant was provided to hire a nurse as the healthcare coordinator along with an assistant as a large number of arriving Burmese refugees struggled with complex health issues.

A second major strategy the two organizations have co-supported since 2003 is Catholic Charities’ Hispanic Health Advocate Program. Through this program, the health advocate, who is also a trained medical interpreter, accompanies approximately 250 Spanish-speaking clients with limited English language skills to their health related appointments annually, primarily to provide interpreting services.

Finally, the foundation and Catholic Charities are currently collaborating to establish a wide range of job development programming for refugees. Today, Catholic Charities assists refugees in finding employment and understanding the basics of how to adjust to the American work place. For their refugee clients looking for longer term vocational training, Catholic Charities refers their clients to the foundation’s Ivy Tech Refugee Scholars, which offers full scholarships to refugees who have been in the country less than five year to attain their Certified Nursing Assistant certification and for those interested in manufacturing, the CNC operator’s license.

This collaboration between Catholic Charities and the Poor Handmaids’ legacy ministry, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, has benefitted all of the refugees resettled here in Fort Wayne since 2001. The Poor Handmaids, since 2001, have offered 29 grants from the foundation to Catholic Charities to advance this work.


Coming Home to Fort Wayne-Hessen Cassel

— The second of the PHJCs Coming Home weekends, on Oct. 24-26

Events scheduled include:

• Saturday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m. a reunion will be held for former Poor Handmaids and Ancilla Domini High School alumnae at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in downtown Fort Wayne. At 5 p.m., a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, will celebrate the Poor Handmaid presence and ministry in the Fort Wayne area. Mass will be followed by a 6 p.m. reception at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory.

• Sunday, Oct. 26, at 10:30 a.m., Mass will be celebrated at St. Joseph Parish, Hessen Cassel, with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades as celebrant. Brunch will follow at St. Joseph Parish hall. Hessen Cassel is the first ministry the Poor Handmaids started after arriving in the United States in 1868. The public is invited to the Mass and the free reception.

• In addition, “Get to Know A Sister” Vocation Days will be held at some Fort Wayne area schools and a Theology on Tap-style event is planned. For more information and to register for these events, visit www.poorhandmaids.org/cominghome.


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