The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ

Two Marshall County bodies of water are among the 33 Indiana lakes and rivers that will share $1,296,000 in LARE grant money for 2016-2107, as announced by Cameron Clark, Indiana DNR Director, earlier this month. LARE is an acronym for Lake and River Enhancement Program.


Lake Galbraith, on the campus of The Center at Donaldson, sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, will receive a grant of $15,000 to monitor water quality on the lake and it’s tributaries, sampling at inlets to the lake. They will also receive DNR assistance on vegetation surveying at the site. The project will be managed by The Center’s new Director of Ecological Relationships, Adam Thada.


According to the EPA, water quality monitoring is critical not only in understanding the water’s characteristics, but also in the identification of trends, emerging problems, and to evaluate pollution control efforts, determine their effectiveness and redirect efforts when warranted. 


The Yellow River, also in Marshall County, will receive a grant of $50,000 to stabilize its bank, prevent erosion and establish a canoe launch at River Park Square in Plymouth. They will be working with the Plymouth Park Department on the project.


In April 2016, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ received the Indiana Bicentennial Green Legacy Award for their efforts on The Center at Donaldson campus, honoring their tangible steps taken to living in harmony with the Earth.  Some of these steps include a robust, campus-wide recycling program, geothermal heating and cooling, use of hybrid vehicles, and growing food for the Sisters, co-workers and residents on campus.


The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ adopted the Earth Charter Initiative, a declaration of fundamental principals for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society into the 21st century, in accordance with their core value of Community, Simplicity, Openness the Spirit, and Dignity and Respect for All.

From June 26-July 1, three charismatic women joined Sisters Connie Bach and Marybeth Martin for an immersion experience of PHJC ministries in the Donaldson, northwest Indiana and Chicago areas. Not just volunteering, these women were imbibed with and witnessed the PHJC core values, mercy and social justice. They learned first-hand what it means to “walk in Catherine’s shoes.”

Sisters Katie Bobber, Mary Kevin Ryan and Michelle Dermody housed the group at St. Henry Convent in Chicago. Each day the group began with morning prayer and traveled to various ministries, including, Bethany Retreat House and Nazareth Home in East Chicago, Earthworks, MoonTree Studios and Catherine Kasper Home in Donaldson, Casa Catalina in Chicago, Salvation Army through HealthVisions Midwest in Hammond, and Sojourner Truth House in Gary. 

Volunteers had opportunities to work directly with individuals seeking simple basic necessities, including, food, clothing, shelter, preventative healthcare, child care and presence with the elderly. Volunteers also worked with their hands organizing, moving furniture, packing food bags, mulching trees, pulling weeds and working with Earth. Volunteer Katie D. expressed, “It was wonderful to experience the different ministries in a hands-on way.”  

Meals were shared with the Sisters in each area, and evening prayers and reflections on the day’s events were shared. 

PHJC long-term volunteer, Libby Riggs, shared: “What a great week of building community with other volunteers, the people we served and those who serve in these ministries every day. I'll be processing this week in my mind for weeks. What a great opportunity. Thanks to Srs. Connie Bach and Marybeth Martin for planning the details and for the support of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ for sponsoring it.” 

If you know of any single, Catholic woman seeking short- or long-term volunteer opportunities, please pass on the good word about the PHJC Volunteer Program and have them contact either Sister Connie Bach or Sister Marybeth Martin through

Ancilla College is pushing the boundaries again to provide education to a population who often goes ignored after high school thanks to a $20,200 grant from the Ball Brothers Venture Fund through Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI).


“A rising number of births have some phase of autism, yet there are very few programs in the U.S. for Asperger’s students after high school, despite the fact that many are very gifted,” said Ancilla President Dr. Ken Zirkle. “We have a perfect setting for a program such as this. This program will give another segment of the population the opportunity to become even more productive citizens.”


Ancilla College is one of four schools sharing a $75,000 grant for various projects. Of the four schools, Ancilla is the only one using its portion on a program to serve Asperger’s students. The college will train staff and begin development of a web-based resource for college-ready students on the spectrum to share with faculty and staff at other ICI campuses.


The grant is the first step in Ancilla’s long-term plan to create an on-campus center for autism education. Plans for the center include life skills training and college-level classes for high school graduates on the spectrum.


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children born in the United States are diagnosed with some type of autism spectrum disorder. “This is a highly complex disorder that spans a spectrum from severe to those who are high functioning and, with support, can lead highly productive lives,” said Jim Riley, Ancilla Autism Spectrum Program representative.


“Unfortunately, there are few programs for such individuals once they have graduated from high school,” Riley said.


Now, thanks to the grant, that may soon change.


Representatives from Lighthouse Autism Center, a Northern Indiana organization supporting families with autistic children, said this grant is a much-needed first step for Indiana.


“Ancilla College is truly leading by example and setting a standard for all colleges and universities through the creation of their Asperger’s program. Students with Asperger’s, autism and other special needs often require extra supports whether it’s academically or in other areas such as social and life skills. All students should be afforded the same opportunity to receive a college education, and Ancilla is helping to make that possible for all students of all abilities,” said Lighthouse Executive Director Gregg Maggioli and Clinical Director Leila Allen of Lighthouse in a written statement.


“As an organization that works with young children who have autism, we often consider what the future will hold for them. Our ultimate goal is a successful transition back to school, but even when children do return to school, they still sometimes struggle with things like self-help skills, staying on task, or meeting new people – making enrollment in college seem like an impossible task. Ancilla College, however, is breaking down those barriers, making what might not have been possible for many special needs students, possible. Lighthouse Autism Center is excited to support this program by acting as advisors and offering diverse perspectives,” they wrote. “We commend the work of Ancilla College made possible through the Ball Fund Award.” they wrote.


According to the National Autism Indicators Report of 2015, only 36 percent of young adults diagnosed with autism ever attend college or vocational-technical schools. In August of 2015, Lighthouse opened its doors to serve the need for autism therapy services for pre-college students in the surrounding area because of the indicated a high demand for programs to serve Asperger’s students on the college level. Ancilla is hoping to fulfill those demands.


The second component of the project will involve the creation of a web-based resource for Ancilla College faculty and staff as well as ICI member institutions. This resource will include such elements as strategies for planning in-class communication programs for faculty, including situational communication, and research in enhancing social interaction/talent development. While there are some online resources available for colleges and universities, those resources are limited.


Riley said, “Ancilla College is perfectly positioned to provide this program tailored to the needs and abilities of those who have what has been known as Asperger's Syndrome.”


On-campus training for faculty and staff will involve local, regional and national experts on Autism Spectrum Disorder with an emphasis on Asperger’s Syndrome. Project steering committee members will be involved in a visitation trip to the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Mercyhurst is noted as a model educational program for those with Asperger’s.


“The primary focus for the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) has been to provide quality resources to a growing population of adults on the spectrum and to replicate these services to ensure that as many individuals as possible gain access and skills, live independently and obtain meaningful employment. We are excited about the work and program developing at Ancilla College and are looking forward to any collaboration to support the success of this endeavor,” said Brad McGarry, director of the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst.