The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ

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

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. 


In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole Church.

World Day for Consecrated Life is observed in parishes on Saturday and Sunday, February 4-5, 2017.


God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as sisters, brothers, religious priests, consecrated virgins, and hermits, as well as members of Secular Institutes. Renew their knowledge and love of you, and send your Holy Spirit to help them respond generously and courageously to your will. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

© 2011, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All Rights Reserved. Image © SuperStock. Used with permission.