February 20, 1942 – September 21, 2022

Sister Mary Carolyn Welhoelter, Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, died on September 21, 2022 at Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson, IN surrounded by her Sisters and friends.

As the second eldest of seven children of Hank and Imogene Welhoelter, Sr. Mary Carolyn was born in St. Louis, MO, and was known to most as a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan. Her parents, brother Paul, her nephew, Sean., sister, Maggie Mercier, and her brother-in-law, Adrian Mercier all preceded her in death. She is survived by her sisters, Marilyn Jean Taylor, Martha Meyer, and Madelyn Kinnan, her brother Bob Welhoelter, and brothers-in-law Ed Taylor, Paul Meyer, and Dave Kinnan as well as numerous nieces, nephews and great nieces.

Sr. Mary Carolyn entered the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ on August 8, 1962 taking the name of Sr. DePaul for many years. She professed vows on August 6, 1965.

With a focus on childcare, parish ministry, and a keen sense of justice for those most unfortunate, Sr. Mary Carolyn served in a variety of assignments that included the following:

Angel Guardian Orphanage (1965-1968), St. Vincent Villa (1968-1971), Ancilla Domini High School (1971-1974), Project Renewal in Davenport, IA (1974-1975), Ancilla Domini Convent, Milwaukee, WI (1975-1981), St. Mary Convent, East St. Louis (1981-1982), St. Boniface Convent, Edwardsville, IL (1982-1997), Mary Katherine Convent, Cairo, IL (1997-2016), and Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson, IN (2016-2022). Sr. Mary Carolyn made friends easily and offered her creative energy, humor, and love for life at each of her ministries.

While rehabbing a house in Davenport, IA, she received a surprise guest, Saint Mother Theresa who was there locally for a speaking engagement. Another highlight of Sr. Mary Carolyn’s life was a service trip to Thailand in 1981, where she served in a relocation camp for Cambodian families displaced by Khmer Rouge. Each of her ministries provided her with great friendships, laughs and memories. Sr. Mary Carolyn will be remembered for her love of friends, life and those most in need.

The wake and funeral will be held on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, at Ancilla Domini Chapel, Donaldson, IN. Directions best through this address: 9601 Union Road, Plymouth, IN.

All times are EST
• 9:00 – 9:45am Visitation, Catherine Kasper Home Chapel
• 10:00am Visitation, Ancilla Domini Chapel
• 11:00am Mass of Christian Burial, Ancilla Domini Chapel

For those unable to attend in person, the Mass of Christian Burial will be livestreamed at poorhandmaids.org/live.

Memorial contributions to the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, P.O. Box #1, Donaldson, IN 46513 or on poorhandmaids.org.

August 11, 1955 – February 22, 2023

Sister Catherine Ann Schwemer, Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, died on February 22, 2023 surrounded by Sisters and family. Sr. Cathy died after an extended illness.

As the oldest of eight children of Donald and Gloria Schwemer, Sr. Cathy was born in Chelmsford, Essex, England. Her parents, brother Johnny and sister Debra all preceded her in death. Sr. Cathy is survived by her sisters Jackie Graham, Betty Homan, Vicki Schwemer and brothers Donald and Timothy, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Sr. Cathy entered the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ on August 17, 1986 and professed vows on September 3, 1989.

She received an Associate’s Degree from Muskegon Business College, a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Mundelein College in Chicago and a Masters of Arts in Pastoral Study from Washington Theological Union. With a focus on collaborating with partners and serving in whatever ways Sr. Cathy was needed, her varied ministries included the following:

Pastoral Associate/Director of Religious Education at St. Mary’s Church in Trenton, Illinois PHJC Associate Director; Coordinator for Sisters; Executive Director of North American Conference of Associates and Religious; Marketing and Program Coordinator at Lindenwood Retreat Center. Most recently, Sr. Cathy offered freelance retreat work and spiritual direction.

Sr. Cathy expressed her spirituality and creativity as an iconographer and often gave the reflective images of saints to others as gifts. Her icons helped us pause and pray.

When reflecting on her Silver Jubilee in 2014, Sr. Cathy said, “I have been blessed by the sharing of my life with a variety of people, family, friends, community members, co-workers, and mentors. Each one has left an imprint on me as I have journeyed through my life; some good, some painful, all teaching me and molding me into the person I am today.”

Wake, Funeral Services will be held in Ancilla Domini Chapel, Donaldson, IN. All times EST.
(Best address for directions: 9601 Union Road, Plymouth, IN)

Friday, March 3, 2023 6:30 – 7:00pm Visitation
7:00 – 8:30pm Wake Service/ Visitation

Saturday, March 4, 2023
10:00 – 11:00am Visitation
11:00am Mass of Christian Burial

For those unable to attend in person, the Mass of Christian Burial will be livestreamed at poorhandmaids.org/live.

Memorial contributions to the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, P.O. Box #1, Donaldson, IN 46513 or on poorhandmaids.org.

At the World Congress Against the Death Penalty on February 27, 2021, Pope Francis declared the death penalty to be a “grave violation of human right to life and never justified.” He stated that the right to life is “the source of all gifts and of all other rights” that must be protected.

The Pontiff further stated, “The dignity of the person is not lost even when he or she has committed the worst of crimes.” To that end, Pope Francis ordered a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says that “the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ of the American Province affirm this teaching and stand in support of the aforementioned statements made by Pope Francis. With Dignity and Respect for All as a central core value, we believe life is sacred throughout all stages of existence from conception to natural death. We invite all our partners in the work of the Spirit to defend the right to life of every individual.

In 2019, Justice William Barr reinstated the death penalty. Therefore, this Poor Handmaid stance is especially crucial at this time.

We continue to pray with and for those sentenced to death, that they may know the loving mercy of God.

Approved by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ American Province.

Signed by Provincial Leadership of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

July 14, 2021

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ support the latest LCWR Resolution regarding our relationship with Native communities and Native American boarding schools, in particular. Please note at the end of the Resolution there are six actions listed that we can do to work toward a right relationship with Indigenous communities.
Click here to read the resolution.

Welcome to Word Gathering Online! You’ll find additional content not found anywhere else and an inside look into Poor Handmaid ministries. You can also find the digital version of the Spring 2023 Word Gathering.

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ are members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. We endorse and support the LCWR Statement on Racism and Gun Violence in Buffalo, New York. We invite you to use this statement in your own prayer and reflection, outreach and action in ways that are helpful to you.

May God’s peace comfort and sustain all those whose lives are torn by racism and violence. May our lives give witness to the Gospel vision of love and compassion.

May 18, 2022

Our hearts are breaking as we once again come face to face with the racial hatred and gun violence that infect our land. The members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious extend their condolences to the Buffalo community and all who lost loved ones, friends, and neighbors and we say once more violence and white supremacy cannot stand. And we know that is not enough!

Racism is a virus, every bit as deadly as COVID-19, that has infected our nation since its inception and until we address it, people of color will continue to die, and our nation will continue to bleed. Racism, whether the institutional racism which privileges some at the expense of others or the daily acts of hate and discrimination, diminishes us all. It denies that most profound truth, that all of us are created in God’s image and each of us is entitled to lives of dignity and respect.

As women religious in a predominantly white organization, we recognize how we have been privileged. We lament our silence in the face of white supremacist ideology, and we acknowledge our complicity in institutional racism. We ask forgiveness of our sisters and brothers of color, and we pray for our nation’s healing. And we know that is not enough! It is time for bold, decisive action. We pledge to raise our voices and to act to end the violence and white supremacy which has cost us dearly. In the wake of the horror of Buffalo, we rededicate ourselves to LCWR’s commitment to dismantle systemic racism and white privilege and effect transformative change in our hearts, our organization, and our society and we pledge anew to build God’s beloved community. We will not permit that violence and white supremacy to stand!

LCWR is an association of leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has nearly 1300 members, who represent more than 38,800 women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, LCWR assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today’s world.

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.