PHJC Coming Home to Fort Wayne/Hessen Cassel

Poet T. S. Eliot said, “Home is where one starts from.” This could not be truer for the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ American Province and the Fort Wayne area.

An October PHJC Coming Home event lasting several days enabled the Poor Handmaids to reconnect with the people of the Fort Wayne area, former PHJC Sisters and students of Ancilla Domini High School, people they taught in multiple schools in the area, children they cared for in St. Vincent Villa, and former co-workers and patients from St. Joseph Hospital, where they ministered from 1869-2013.

In 1868 eight Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ arrived in Hessen Cassel, Indiana near Fort Wayne to care for German immigrants. This was their first ministry in America. Immediately they began teaching, caring for children and the sick and working in the parish.

Today Poor Handmaids continue to minister in the area through St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and HealthVisions Fort Wayne as well as having a continued connection with St. Joseph Hospital.

On Thursday, October 23, Poor Handmaids in collaboration with the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese, joined young adults at Fortezza Coffee shop in downtown Fort Wayne for a night of discernment. Sister Marybeth Martin, PHJC lead the discussion on service and discernment. PHJC co-workers: Meg Distler from St. Joseph Community Health Foundation; Geoff Williams from Ancilla Systems Incorporated; and Donna Sikorski, PHJC Associate Director along with former Ancilla College student, Amanda Amstutz shared their personal stories with a packed room.

The next day, two teams of Poor Handmaid Sisters spent time with students from St. Vincent de Paul School and Bishop Dwenger High School for a “Get to Know a Sister Day.” A vocation day was also spent at St. Joseph School Hessen Cassel the previous week. Poor Handmaids previously taught at these schools and for several of the Sisters it felt like “coming home.”

On Saturday, October 25, former Poor Handmaids and Ancilla Domini High School alumnae met for a reunion at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Fort Wayne. They enjoyed reconnecting and sharing stories of their time they spent together in community or school. Later a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception honored the PHJC presence and ministry in the Fort Wayne area. Sister Judith Diltz, PHJC, Provincial, welcomed all who attended. Mass was celebrated by Monsignor Robert Schulte who gave a heart warming homily in which he thanked the Poor Handmaids for their service in Fort Wayne.

An evening reception was held at the conservatory and was open to the public. Sisters and guests enjoyed fellowship, music, and delicious food, they perused the displays from many PHJC ministries, had an opportunity to watch videos of Sisters speaking about their vocation, and learned more about Poor Handmaids through a presentation by Sister Loretta Schleper, PHJC.

Sunday October 26 Sister Carole Langhauser, PHJC welcomed people to a chilly early morning prayer service at Catholic Cemetery honoring the 82 pioneer Poor Handmaids who are buried in the cemetery. Flowers were placed at each gravesite in respect for these Sisters who paved the way for others who followed in their footsteps.

After the cemetery service, participants took the short drive to St. Joseph Parish Hessen Cassel for Mass, which was concelebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Father Bill Kummer and Monsignor Owen Campion. Bishop Rhoades thanked the Poor Handmaids for the years of dedicated service. He said he was inspired as he read a biography of Blessed Catherine Kasper’s life and her formation of the PHJC Congregation despite the many obstacles she faced as she did so with deep faith and courage. A brunch was served immediately after Mass for over 200 people in the parish hall.

In appreciation for the 28 ministries where they served in the Fort Wayne area, Poor Handmaids presented a plaque to each of the ministries still in existence.

The next PHJC Coming Home event will be South Bend/Mishawaka on April 10-12, 2015.

See the Image Gallery from the Fort Wayne/Hessen Cassel event.