by Sr. Connie Bach, PHJC

On October 14, 2018, I had the wonderful experience of a lifetime in attending the canonization celebration of our foundress, Saint Katharina Kasper at St. Peter’s in Rome. It set me on fire! I am still left speechless when I am asked what it feels like “to be the daughter of a saint!” I know down deep inside that following “Catherine” calls me to a deeper commitment in my personal life to the conscious pursuit servant leadership at all levels in my life, as she did, among the poor and underserved and in care for Earth.

In my human, imperfect nature, I can only turn to “Catherine” as a model exemplar. She herself was a poor German peasant girl who knew nothing about religious life but sought only to do the will of God in her life. She was unlearned and sickly, but she had a passion for service, a dedication to prayer, a devotion to Our Lady and a desire gained from a vision to gather women around her who sought to do the same.

“Not all those who point the way to God for us may themselves be perfect. There are figures gleaming in their holy causes who are awkward in their personal lives. They are sometimes in confusion, as we are. They are virtuous beyond telling in one dimension and weak to the point of sin in others. At the same time, they hold a fire in their hearts bright enough to light a way for many. They are impelled by the will of God for humankind and they will brook no less. They stand on gilded stilts above the rest of their generation and become a sign for all generations. They are proof of possibility from ages past and a symbol of hope for ages yet to come. They stand in mute conviction of the age in which they lived and challenge us to do the same. Most of all, they are important to us now. “ —from A Passion for Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis)

As a daughter of Saint Katharina, I desire to grow more intimately in love with God and to move beyond myself in reaching out to others in love and compassion, sharing the fire within while helping to build the kingdom here among us.

Where did I obtain such zeal? I believe my parents planted these seeds early on. They always taught by word and example to never let a good deed go undone. As well, I learned many lessons from my Poor Handmaid teachers at St. Mary’s in East Chicago. In fact, I have many mentors who have touched my life in ways not always seen. I learned to be the hands, feet, voice and eyes that see and serve those most in need with deep compassion.

My then pastor, Fr. Bob Gehring, nurtured these same seeds. He taught me that we will never be perfect, but we are always loved and touched by God’s grace in mysterious and amazing ways if we are attentive enough to feel the spark, open enough to allow it to enkindle our hearts and, as Pope Francis exhorts us all, ready enough “…to set the world ablaze!”

Saint Katharina Kasper ignited the same fire in her sisters when they began the congregation in 1851 and again in 1868 when she sent the first eight sisters to America to serve German immigrants and orphans. Over seven thousand women have walked in her shoes, and I am deeply grateful for her electrifying spark in my life!

By Autumn Meyers | NWI.LIfe

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ recently added a stunning new organ to its Ancilla Domini Chapel. On Sunday, April 30, the Poor Handmaids held its very first organ recital to celebrate this wonderful addition. People from all over the community gathered for a one-of-a-kind organ concert and were left absolutely speechless. 

The new organ was handcrafted by Taylor and Boody Organ builders in Virginia and completed on March 3. A blessing service for the new instrument was held on March 25, but a recital was the perfect choice to showcase the organ to the public. 

The recital featured none other than Balint Karosi, a concert organist who specializes in playing these types of organs and has performed throughout the United States and Europe. Karosi is well-known for his ability to interpret music and bring it to life in the most unique, touching way. The Poor Handmaids’ Director of Liturgy and Music, Andrew Jennings, knew he had to get Karosi to play the first recital. 

“When playing this type of instrument, making good music is about so much more than just being accurate and hitting the right notes. This organ is unique because, unlike other organs, the wind is unstable and noncontinuous. It pumps and breathes as you play it, so you have to know how to listen to the organ and feel how it’s breathing, and Balint is just incredible at it. The music just pours from him,” said Jennings. 

Karosi was honored to play such a breathtaking instrument and demonstrate its beauty to the community for the first time.

“It’s craftsmanship respects centuries of traditions for organ building. This organ is going to last hundreds of years because it’s made with traditional materials. It’s a high-quality, handcrafted organ, which cannot be said about a lot of organs in the United States. This is an instrument that Johann Sebastian Bach himself could have sat down at and would have felt immediately at home,” said Karosi. 

Karosi played mostly classical German music in honor of the Poor Handmaids and their German origins, but he played a few modern pieces as well. Everyone loved it. As people swayed and bowed their heads, soaking in the music, it became clear that the new organ is more than just an instrument. It’s a powerful, spiritual tool. 

“Spiritual well-being is a big part of the Poor Handmaids’ mission, and regardless of a person’s faith or background, there’s sort of a transcendental moment that a person can have in a space like this. As you listen to the music it turns into a very sensory experience and allows you to feel outside of yourself and feel that bigger thing, whatever that may be. We always want to make this space free to the public so they can experience it,” said Jennings. 

What also makes this organ so special is that it is literally a part of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ campus. All of the carvings on the organ were made from the wood of a Linden tree that stood in the heart of the campus. The tree had to be cut down for safety issues, and the Sisters thought it would be a wonderful way to keep its memory alive. 

“That tree was planted here and grew here, and it’s going to remain here forever. From a spiritual perspective, it gives you that sense that all creation says glory to God,” said Jennings. 

It’s ultimately incredible that such a breathtaking instrument resides right here in Northwest Indiana. Most organs this beautiful are commonly found in Europe and have been there for hundreds of years. The fact that the Poor Handmaids now have one should not be overlooked. 

“If you want to spare yourself a trip to Europe to hear a European organ, all you have to do is come here. You will hear the same sounds that you would hear on an organ in Europe that is hundreds of years old. It’s wonderful to bring those sounds right here to the middle of Indiana,” said Karosi. 

The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ are proud of their new instrument and can’t wait for the community to experience if for themselves.

“This is a gift to the community. Our campus is a place of spiritual nourishment, and we want people to come out and experience this new instrument, even if it’s not for recitals. I’m hoping to encourage more people to come to play the instrument just for their own gratification. If students in the area want to come and practice or get lessons, I want to encourage them to do so,” said Jennings. 

January 15, 1922 – January 1, 2022

Sister Antoinette (Marie) Volk, Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, died at 99 yrs old on January 1, 2022 at the Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson, Indiana. She was just 2 weeks away from her 100th birthday.

Born to Anton and Catherine (Kuenstler), Wendelin, IL she was preceded in death by her parents along with her brothers Virgil, Anton, Don, Louis and her sister, Sr. Loretta Volk, PHJC. She is survived by her sister Ethel Zwilling.

Sister Antoinette entered the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ September 8, 1943 and professed her vows June 25, 1946.

Sister Antoinette began her ministry in the dietary departments at Angel Guardian Orphanage, St. Mary’s School Carlyle IL, St. Mary’s Hospital East St. Louis IL, and St. Joseph Hospital Fort Wayne IN. Beginning in 1960 she held dietary supervisory positions at Convent Ancilla Domini in Donaldson IN, St. Mary’s Hospital Gary IN, and St. Augustine Convent Chicago IL. In 1990 she became the Coordinator of Hospitality for the United Family Center, Chicago IL. and transitioned in 1996 as a companion to the elderly from Saint Peter and Paul parish Chicago IL. Sister Antoinette considered each new mission a new beginning and in it she made love visible. Sister’s daily living was a prayer of loving service which she offered up for each person. Before Sr. Antoinette left her last mission and retired, the presenter at her farewell expressed the sentiments of so many people: “We are humbled by her gift of prayer and the beauty of her complete trust in God not on a day-to-day basis, but, minute-by-minute.”

Sister Antoinette officially retired to the Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson, IN on July 1, 2001. Even in retirement she continued to serve by caring for the other sisters and residents at Catherine Kasper Home. She also designed and sewed baby quilts and comforters, selling or gifting to those in need, and her creations were always admired and appreciated.

Visitation and Services will be held at Ancilla Domini Chapel in Donaldson, Indiana.
Visitation on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 (4:30 – 8:00 p.m. EDT); Prayer Service (7:00 p.m. EDT)

Visitation on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 (10:00 – 11:00 a.m. EDT ) followed by the Mass of Resurrection and burial in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Donaldson, Indiana.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, PO Box 1, Donaldson, Indiana 46513 or on

Sister Inez Wilmering (Louise), Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, died on Tuesday, May 10th at the Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson, Indiana. She was 99 years of age.

She was born in Mishawaka, IN to Paul and Catherine (Young) who preceded her in death along with her brother John R. Wilmering.

Louise entered the Poor Handmaid Community on December 8,1940 taking the name Sister Inez. She professed her vows on June 25,1943.

Sister Inez’ early ministry was in clerical work at three hospitals. In 1952 she received her nursing degree and served as a nurse and supervisor at various PHJC hospitals. The hospitals included St. Mary Mercy, Gary, IN; St. Mary, East St. Louis IL; St. Joseph, Fort Wayne IN; St. Joseph, Mishawaka, IN. At St. Catherine, East Chicago, IN Sr. Inez was discharge planner and clinical instructor in pharmacology and diabetes. She completed her nursing career at the Catherine Kasper Home in Donaldson, IN from 1977-1985. She then moved on to internal community service being quite adept at wrangling the challenges of Medicare in the business office. Later, she served as a faithful volunteer. She loved God’s beautiful earth and being outdoors. Her garden was her joy!

Sister Inez shared that her call in Baptism gave her the wonderful gift of faith. Faith was her guide and support throughout her 99 years and continued to grow as she experienced God’s love for all of creation.

She officially retired in October 2015 moving to Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson.

Visitation will begin at 9:30am EDT on Tuesday, May 17 in Catherine Kasper Home chapel, with a reflection and sharing of her life at 10:00am EDT. The Mass of Resurrection will follow at 11:00am EDT with burial in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. Services will be live streamed at

Memorial contributions may be made to the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, PO Box 1, Donaldson, Indiana 46513 or on

September 9, 1937 – August 27, 2022

Sister Pauline Bridegroom, PHJC (Sr. Mary Luke), Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, passed away at age 84 at the Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson, Indiana.

She was born in Leiters Ford, Indiana to Paul Lough and Louise Genevieve Bridegroom (Emge). Her parents preceded her in death, along with her sisters Ann Toole Harrison and Jennifer Emge Bridegroom (Dodie) and niece Terri Vylee Esposita. Sister Pauline is survived by her brother Thomas Bernard Bridegroom, sister-in-law Jan and many nieces and nephews (including greats and great greats!)

Sr. Pauline entered the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ August 22, 1956 and professed her vows July 16, 1959.

She ministered to God’s people in a variety of ways: in education, pastoral care, as hospital chaplain, librarian, clerical assistant. She served at Angel Guardian Orphanage in Chicago, schools in Mishawaka, Fort Wayne, Gary IN and in Germantown IL. She also served at St. Joseph Hospital in Mishawaka and Fort Wayne, McAuley Retirement Center in Farmington Hills MI and John XXIII Retreat Center in Hartford City IN. She retired to Catherine’s Cottage in Donaldson in 2016.

She brought joy to many people through her stories and humor. One of the ways Sr. Pauline brought her playfulness to others was entertaining folks as the clown, ‘Sweet Cheeks.’ We are grateful for Sr. Pauline and all the lives her life touched.

Wake and funeral September 1, 2022 at Ancilla Domini Chapel (All times EST)
9:30 – 10:30 a.m.— Wake Service and Visitation
11:00 a.m.— Mass of Resurrection

For those unable to attend in person, the Wake Service and Mass of Resurrection will be livestreamed at

Memorial contributions may be made to the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, PO Box 1, Donaldson, Indiana 46513 or on

December 19, 1928 – September 13, 2022

Sister Georgine Schleper (Regina), Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, died on September 13, 2022 at the Catherine Kasper Home, Donaldson, Indiana.

She was born in Trenton, Illinois to Henry George and Catherine Therese Schleper (Rakers) who preceded her in death along with her brothers Anthony, Alphonse, Herman, Albert, and George and her sisters Bernadine Emig, Josephine Rehkemper, Christine Hilmes and Sister Teresa Schleper, PHJC. She was the eighth child of ten children. She is survived by her niece, Sister Loretta Schleper, PHJC and 26 nieces and nephews.

Entering the Poor Handmaid Community on August 23, 1947 as Regina, she took the name Sister Georgine and professed her vows on June 25, 1950.

Sister Georgine became an RN in 1953 having graduated from St. Joseph School of Nursing, Fort Wayne, Indiana. She received her B.S. in Nursing from St. Francis College also in Fort Wayne. Sister Georgine also received her certification to become a Chaplain. As Chaplain she ministered at St. Elizabeth Hospital, Chicago, Illinois; St. Francis Medical Center, Peoria, Illinois; Mercy Healthcare, Homewood, Illinois; and Carlyle Health Center, Carlyle, Illinois.

In 2011 Sister Georgine retired to the Catherine Kasper Home at The Center at Donaldson to be near her sister, Sister Teresa Schleper, PHJC.

Wake and funeral Monday, September 19, 2022 at Ancilla Domini Chapel, Donaldson, Indiana.
For directions: 9601 Union Rd., Plymouth, IN 46563

(All times EDT)
9:00 to 9:30 a.m. — Catherine Kasper Home chapel— Visitation for residents and staff members of Catherine Kasper Home
9:45 a.m. — Wake Service and Visitation Ancilla Domini Chapel
11:00 a.m. — Mass of Resurrection Ancilla Domini Chapel

For those unable to attend in person, the Wake Service and Mass of Resurrection will be livestreamed at

Memorial contributions may be made to the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, PO Box 1, Donaldson, Indiana 46513 or on

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

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

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

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

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.