The General Leadership Team of the international congregation of Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ (PHJC) recently visited northern Indiana from Dernbach, Germany. Their purpose was to come to know each Sister better as well as experience the ministries in which PHJC Sisters are engaged.
Elected by their Sisters in nine countries, the General Leadership Team includes Sister Gonzalo Vakasseril, General Superior (India), Sister Annemarie Kampwerth (USA), Sister Shirley Bell (USA) and Sister Barbara Spiegelhoff (Germany). The team began their 10-week visit in the United States at the end of November in Chicago, going to the order’s Motherhouse in Donaldson, IN and then traveled to the various convents and ministry areas in four States.
Last week, the four Sisters visited two of their ministries in Fort Wayne: The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and HealthVisions Fort Wayne. They also paid a visit to the graves of 82 Poor Handmaid Sisters buried at Catholic Cemetery on Lake Ave. They prayed there and laid flowers upon the graves to pay tribute to the Sisters and their work. They also toured The Carriage House, a grantee of the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, whose work embodies many of their values.
Sister Shirley Bell, Councilor, advised, “A highlight of the visit was to see how our Sisters and co-workers partner together in ministry convinced of the vision of our foundress, Blessed Catherine Kasper. Our Core Values of Openness to the Spirit, Dignity and Respect for All, Simplicity and Community are easily seen in the Sisters’ and co-workers’ enthusiasm and dedication.”
She further shared, “The manner through which our Sisters and co-workers touch people’s lives is a great joy for us. It’s not only the ministry that they do that’s important, but also how they pray together for the ministry and with those whom they serve. From all the ministries at The Center at Donaldson, to teaching at St. Pius X in Granger, to HealthVisions and The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation in Fort Wayne, we experienced the witness of Christ-centered love.”
While the general leadership was here in the U.S., the American Poor Handmaids held their Chapter to discuss and make decisions for the future. A few of the areas of focus were Spiritual Life and Community Living, Vocation and Lay Volunteer involvement, long-term Sustainability of the environment and their ministries, and ongoing Social Justice and Advocacy for the poor and vulnerable. The general leadership thought those concerns were important for the future of the PHJC community not only here in the U.S. but throughout the nine countries (Germany, the Netherlands, England, the United States, India, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya and Nigeria) where they serve as an international congregation.
Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ first came from Germany to the U.S. in 1868, to Hessen Castle, Indiana at the request of Bishop Luers. Through the years they have served the poor locally in many ways including, operating the St. Vincent Villa Orphanage, caring for the sick at St. Joseph Medical Center, and teaching in Catholic schools.
In 1998, St. Joseph Medical Center was sold. The Sisters continue to provide aid to the poor and underserved in the greater Fort Wayne area through the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and HealthVisions Fort Wayne, ongoing ministries funded in part from the sale of the St. Joseph Medical Center.