The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ

Spinning wheels lightly whirred in the background as ladies arrived in the Evergreen Room at Lindenwood on a recent Friday afternoon in February. As they gathered, a table in the lobby was also filling up. The table contained donations of handmade mittens, blankets, hats, and other woolen items the Spinner’s created to donate to two Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ ministries: Sojourner Truth House and Nazareth Home.

The Spinners Group, a group of fiber artist from Indiana and Michigan, formed about 25 years ago, have been coming to Lindenwood for this retreat. MoonTree artist in residence Peggy Coffey of LaPorte, Indiana is one of those founding members. “Fiber people are interesting,” said long time member and retreat organizer Eran McCarty of Fishers, Indiana, as she recalled the groups’ early days. “I remember when MoonTree was merely an idea, and I have watched it evolve,” she added. Since its early days, the group has also evolved from those 8-12 participants at the Villa into more than 40 women who look forward to the mid-February event all year long. 

One of those ladies is Sabine Schröder-Gravendyck of Pendleton, Indiana, a first-time Spinners retreat attendee. As she sat spinning a soft yarn combined of sheep’s wool and fur from her friend’s two Great Pyrenees dogs, she reflected on both the fellowship and the spinning process itself. “It’s a ladies time out,” she said. “If you look at it as a harvest (the dog fur), it’s totally different from having to clean something up,” she added with a thoughtful laugh.

Third year Spinners group member Nelly DeVault of Alexandria, Indiana, said she also looks forward to the annual gathering as she spun a strand of dark brown alpaca fiber together with gray wool fiber to stunning effect. Nelly raises two alpaca on her farm, and usually harvests a “sweaters worth” of wool from them each year. They’re sheered annually, but she leaves that arduous task to the professionals. 

As Eran noted, fiber artists are not only interesting people, they’re spiritually grounded and connected to the Earth and its resources as well. The Spinners retreat members saw sharing the fruits of their work with the two Poor Handmaids ministries as a natural next step for the group, who’s been connected to the sisters for nearly a quarter century. When Lindenwood events coordinator May Crider-Gunn greeted the ladies, she said a group of college students who usually retreat on the same weekend annually were disappointed to have missed the Spinners by a week this year. “Where are the spinning ladies?” the students asked May.  


In a ceremony Tuesday, February 7, 2017, Catherine Kasper Home Executive Director Carol McGuigan named Environmental Services co-worker Gaylene Engle the 2016 Employee of the Year. Based on the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Core Values of Dignity and Respect for All, Openness to the Spirit, Simplicity, and Community, Carol said Gaylene was the clear winner. “During times of need, Gaylene, on her own, always steps up to help,” Carol said, citing numerous times when Gaylene offered support or began fund drives for co-workers facing difficult circumstances. 

Gaylene, a co-worker at CKH for the last seven years, has worked for the Poor Handmaids in various capacities for 28 years. She began her career at the Poultry Farm as an egg gatherer and packer. When the Poultry Farm closed, she moved onto Dietary Services at the Motherhouse for the next 11 years. Later, she made the move to Environmental Services and has enjoyed the variety of job experiences.

Previously an Employee of the Month in June 2016, a surprised Gaylene was caught totally off guard by the announcement. After receiving her award, she was surrounded by and embraced by Sisters and colleagues, including her daughter, Nickole Castro, a Certified Nursing Assistant at Catherine Kasper Home.  

She considers the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Sisters family too. In 1991, Gaylene lost her husband and the father of her three children in a tragic car crash. The Sisters responded with their characteristic kindness and generosity. “I am still so grateful” she said. Gaylene has moved onto happier times. She’s remarried and enjoying life as a mother, grandmother, and now as the Employee of the Year, 2016. Congratulations Gaylene!


Update… “SB 309 is up for a possible committee vote this Thursday, February 16, at 9 a.m. at the Senate Utilities Committee, Room 233.  Click here to find your state senator. Please call him or her and urge them to vote NO on SB 309. Also, call Senator Jim Merrit's office at 800-382-9467 and ask him not to support SB 309. He is chair of the committee.”

The Poor Handmaids recently sent the letter below to their Indiana Congressman.  Please ask your Indiana legislators to vote NO on SB 309 and HB 1188, and YES on HB 1624. 

Dear Senator Randy Head and Representative Jack Jordon: We write to you concerned about proposed legislation related to solar power, SB 309 and HB 1188. 

As Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, we strive to stand with the poor and powerless in the search for justice, and to use our resources in response to the emerging needs of society. To that end, we have been continually looking for new ways to enhance our ecological relationships in our community in Marshall County. The continued use of fossil fuels has been a recent concern of ours, as the scientific evidence of their negative impacts has accumulated: lead-contaminated soils, extreme weather patterns, and shifting ecological communities. The effects of these disruptions are most likely to be borne by the vulnerable, who are least able to adapt. 

Our Leadership Team recently visited the 750-KW solar farm in Argos as well as other local solar arrays in order to learn more about how this technology is reducing utility bills, creating jobs, and decreasing dependence on dirty fuels that are worsening these ecological disruptions. We've been in discussion recently with several local solar installers about ways that we can "go solar." 

Passage of SB 309 (and HB 1188) would likely derail these efforts. As extensively documented in the press, SB 309 would force owners of private solar arrays to sell energy to the electrical monopoly at wholesale prices and purchase back at retail. The rationale behind SB 309 is that net metering arrangements (where periods of overproduction by private solar producers are credited at full retail prices) equate to dodging one's fair share of costs to maintain the electric grid. However, to date there has been no Indiana study of any kind to support this assertion. The great majority of studies conducted in other states show that net metering has benefits to the utilities greater or equal to their cost (Brookings Institution, 2016). 

Net metering works and it means more solar on the ground and jobs in the community. The solar industry now employs 1,567 Hoosiers in 72 Indiana business. When Nevada gutted net metering, the three largest solar installers left the state and new installations plummeted 92%. We should encourage more renewable energy, not less. 

The electricity required to power our six ministries and assist the work of our hundreds of employees is significant. We are looking for solar-powered options to reduce our bills and put our resources back into more local programs. Additionally, a large solar array would serve as an educational resource for students at Ancilla College, as well as a demonstration site to share the technology with rural residents and farmers. We are ready to invest in our own local "village," making use of the freely-available solar energy that falls on our land. Going solar would allow us to live our core values more deeply, to encourage democratic, distributed power instead of monopolistic, concentrated. 

Fortunately, alternative pro-solar legislation has been authored by Rep. Mike Speedy. HB 1624, in contrast to SB 309, would greatly expand opportunities for local Indiana schools, universities, and municipalities to install solar. 

Please vote NO on SB 309 and HB 1188, and YES on HB 1624. 


Provincial Leadership

Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ American Province