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 Summer 2022 Word Gathering. We hope you enjoy this issue.


Walking in the Worn Out Shoes of Katharina Kasper

Sister Nkechi Iwuoha, PHJC, discusses the release of her book, Walking in the Worn Out Shoes of Katharina Kasper: A Symbol of Transformation.
Air Castles and Earth Foundations

Air Castles and Earth Foundations

By Judy Williamson, Heritage and Archives

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” -Henry David Thoreau

It is said that everything is composed of the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. New dreams and new projects begin today with what is called visioning. In the past the terminology air castles was used when the Ancilla Domini Motherhouse was being planned and under construction. By envisioning castles in the air, the new inhabitants of the Motherhouse imagined what life would be like living at Donaldson and having surroundings different from the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana where they had been located for fifty years. Chapter 1 of the Chronicles entitled Memories of Moving written by Sister Antonita relates the beginning and meaning of air castles. She writes:

One of the most precious gifts we have received from the all-bountiful God, is the gift of understanding. It is the gift which distinguishes man from animal and affords to man a pleasant hour. This gift enables man to study the works of the Creator Himself. The eye of understanding permits one to see objects mentally, and to arrange his plans for the future. The understanding creates imagination, and the latter plays an important part in the drama of life. Who can count the number of air castles built in every walk of life by the active power, Imagination?

As plans develop and the building begins to take shape Sister Antonita relates that the accounts of work at Donaldson emerge and much enthusiasm is aroused. Sister Antonita states: “It is the daily topic of conversation, and air castles hover thick and plenty in the air, flittering here and there, altered with each new thought and suggestion.” Although each Sister may envision her air castles differently, they all concur that the new Motherhouse will very truly be an earthly paradise when completed.

This new edifice was to be the future home of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ for all ages, and by building these early air castles and fond fancies of their new home, each dreamer instilled a sense of desire and readiness for new beginnings that would lead to decades long service in the tradition of Saint Katharina Kasper.

August 13, 1922, was the official move-in date, and this August 13, 2022 marks the 100th anniversary—the Centennial—of the Motherhouse. In preparation for the move-in, every window, floor, nook and cranny, closet and chapel, was thoroughly and lovingly cleaned and prepared by the new residents. After years of anticipation, the day did finally arrive. Now 100 years later, Sisters, residents, co-workers, staff, and visitors use the building daily, calling it home.

What remains of the air castles that were dreamed about early on? Everything that is still important and in existence today remains. The earthly foundations that have created the ongoing legacy in the development of the four values of Saint Katharina Kasper are what now holds up the foundation. Simplicity, Openness to the Spirit, Community, and Dignity and Rustice for all prevail within and outside the building’s walls. The past and the future intersect within these walls and create an enduring present. Past programs and new initiatives document the ongoing relevancy of the Mission of the Poor Handmaids in building a better future for all concerned. Artifacts remain that remind us of the tradition of excellence that defined the initiatives of the Congregation in the past and assist the PHJCs in dreaming themselves into an equally remarkable future as they look forward to the next 100 years.

Air castles, like goals, need foundations or feet underneath them in order to bring the spirit in harmony with the present. Past laurels no longer serve to instill new initiatives, but thoughts regarding new air castles will. Daydreams can and do lead to future realities and can be God-inspired. A century is a milestone, but not the end zone. Each new beginning can and should predict a picture-perfect end result in the making, and create time to relax, renew, celebrate, and begin again.

Join the celebration this August by visiting the Heritage Room across from Reception to view the early images of the building of the PHJC Motherhouse on display, and the Ancilla Domini Chapel Showcase for an additional display of memorabilia. Also, plan to attend Sister Mary Jo Shingler’s talk on the History of the Motherhouse. The date will be announced soon. Let’s honor the past in order to dream and secure a new future.


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