June 10, 2022

The American Province of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ calls for common sense gun laws in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, TX on May 24, 2022 as well as the other multiple mass shootings. The Uvalde mass shooting was the twenty-second school shooting this year.

We weep at the loss of young, innocent lives of children in our schools as well as staff members who leave behind spouses and children. Students and adults face daily fears and worries about the numerous shootings all too often in our country. So many lives have been lost by gun violence. It is time for common sense gun safety laws before more lives are lost in such tragedies.

We call on members of Congress to take immediate action, to enact legislation banning access to semi-automatic assault weapons with high capacity ammunition magazines, to require stringent background checks for all gun purchases, to restrict concealed weapons in or around schools and other public places, to support red flag laws and to restrict the ownership or use of guns and other weapons by persons with mental illness. We also call on Congress to bolster mental health services across our country.

We pray for grieving families, school personnel, and all suffering from these tragic school shootings and loss of life. Every child should have the freedom to attend school without the fear of being shot while trying to learn. Every person should be able to go to work, to their place of worship, or to a store without fear of becoming a victim of a shooting.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4)

Sister Mary Jane Ranek, Pilgrim Soul

By Bill Burke | Maria Center Resident

It seems Mary Jane Ranek was born with an active adaptability gene, as she seems to thrive in a variety of situations. In 1959 at age 14 she left home and family in Illinois to join a community of other girls entering Ancilla Domini High School in Indiana. She took to her new environment. The culture of friendship, spiritual guidance, and service brought order and direction to the teenager’s life. After graduating in 1963, she took another communal step as a Poor Handmaid postulant. The seeds of her vocation were sown back in the eighth grade in Edwardsville, Illinois, when her Poor Handmaid teacher asked Mary Jane to think about life as a Sister. At Ancilla Domini, she thought about it. Life as a Poor Handmaid might work. In 1966 she had the “great honor” of professing her vows as a Poor Handmaid.

As a young Poor Handmaid, her talents led her to service through music. She studied music at Alverno College in Milwaukee, receiving a BA, and went on to receive two MAs, one in Music Education from DePaul University in Chicago, and one in Music and Liturgy from St. Joseph College in Rensselaer. While she was advancing her own education, she began teaching children, first music and art to fifth graders in Hammond, Indiana, later at various other parish schools for about fifteen years. In 1985, the Poor Handmaids recognized Sister Mary Jane’s musical talent, and she was called to the Motherhouse to direct music and liturgy.

During this period, Vatican II was transforming the life of religious congregations across the globe. Sister Mary Jane joined other Sisters in the examination of community life, from dress codes to self-governance. Poor Handmaids paid special attention to core values, a study that called for flexibility and adaptability in the commitment “to serve wherever the need arises.”

Eight years later in 1993, Sister Mary Jane answered the call to serve in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico, which has become her home for the past thirty years. In Queretaro, Sister Mary Jane has found a place where needs are abundant and programs to address them require creativity and flexibility. She joined Sister Marilyn in establishing a Novitiate house for young Mexican women. She also taught at the Conservatory of Music for five years. She helped start a school for children. She directed a sewing program for indigenous Otomi women at El Puente de Esperea (Bridge of Hope) in Queretaro for ten years, as well as coordinated a similar program in the village of San Ildefonso Tultepec. Some of these projects have been undertaken with companions; some have been done alone. For several years she has lived alone in the village of San Ildefonso.

After handing over the sewing program to one of the Otomi women and closing a learning center for children, she began her current mission. In this new chapter of her service, she keeps the challenge of liturgist and theologian Father Robert Hovda close to her soul—”Don’t just celebrate Eucharist, be the Eucharist, broken and shared.” Three days a week she visits the sick and elderly in nearby villages – praying, talking, and bringing Eucharist. On a typical Tuesday, for example, she and a companion visit an 84-year-old mother and her disabled son suffering from Huntington’s disease. The care team assists the family by getting the son changed and washed in the morning. They feed him, talk, pray, clean the house, do laundry, and cook as needed. Then it’s out the door to the next family.

In this way she shares life with people who accept trials and hardship as normal for the human condition. Poverty and its attendant afflictions are everywhere. Although the challenges appear formidable, Sister Mary Jane’s daily routine is rich with unspoken transcendence. Her life as a Poor Handmaid has instilled in her the rituals of daily prayer and sacrament. In her private prayer, she likes to light incense and candles to nourish her contemplative spirit. She also has the life and inspiration of Saint Katharina Kasper, who taught that God is present everywhere. The same God who accompanied Saint Katharina on the streets of Dernbach to lend help wherever needed accompanies Sister Mary Jane in the streets of San Ildefonso Tultepec.

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ offer Taizé prayer services the first and third Wednesday of the month to the public. Our prayer services begin at 7pm EST and are available in-person or livestream at poorhandmaids.org/livestream. We welcome all denominations.

We Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ of the American Province stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of Ukraine who are facing the unprovoked terrors of war. Catholic Relief Services is accepting donations to help the more than 2.9 million people in need of assistance.
Get involved HERE.

Worship is the purpose of this chapel – to respond to God’s unconditional love through beauty, music, words, actions. The chapel is the center of liturgical celebration and of community prayer for the Sisters. The Ancilla Domini Chapel is open to all who visit The Center at Donaldson.

In late 2021 the Poor Handmaid Provincial Leadership Team presented the new Vision that would lead the congregation into the future. It was developed by Poor Handmaid Sisters through discussions, prayer, and discernment. As the Vision is implemented throughout the ministries, check back for stories and inspiration.

This monthly opportunity is for anyone who needs to lay down stress and re-center themselves. Come for a mostly unstructured time of still-ness, prayer, creative reflection, time in nature with optional spiritual direction.
August 8, & Sept. 12, 2022 | 10 AM – 4PM
COST: $40, Includes lunch.

We Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ and all who partner with us in the work of the Spirit commit to promoting inclusive community that recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of each person. As a congregation of women religious in partnership with many others we advocate and practice equity, diversity, and inclusion as the touchstones of the right relationships that describe justice for all aspects of creation, the human as well as the other-than-human.