When the Poor Handmaid Sisters left on June 14, 2016 to travel to various locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, they travelled in a number of vehicles: three vans and one car, to visit places in these states where Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ had formerly ministered among God’s people.
The great distance that separates these former sites of ministry from the current PHJC ministry locations in Illinois and Indiana would have seemed even more distant to the first PHJC Sisters who journeyed from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Minnesota and Wisconsin in 1884 by train.
While visiting the graves of Sisters buried in St. Agnes Cemetery in Ashland, and St. Francis Cemetery in Superior, Wisconsin and also those buried in New Ulm Catholic Cemetery in Minnesota, it was meaningful to sing the song, “This is Holy Ground,” and to place individual roses on the graves of the Sisters buried far from other Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. In fact, some of them had been born in Germany and had come to the United States to serve the people of this country, mostly German-speaking immigrants.
The people whom we met during our seven-day pilgrimage-type trip became new friends and some expressed the desire to remain in contact with us in the future. These are people who may not have known each other, but who are now connected because in the past, there were Sisters who were courageous enough to travel to distant locations to serve.
The experiences of those seven days remain a gift we share with the people we met. Although many will not see each other again, the ties that bind us are deeper than the distance of miles that separate us. They believe in and serve a God who knows no degrees of separation or distance or time.
For myself, I now feel a great connection with the Sisters I never knew, but who are my Sisters in heaven. To visit the places where there had been Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in the past was a gift that will remain with me into the future. And to all the people I met along the way who had known our Sisters, it was a joy to share a meal and prayer at the various cemeteries and Eucharistic Liturgies.