Congratulations Poor Handmaid Jubilarians

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Our seven Jubilarians share their story and reflect on being a Poor Handmaid.

Sister Jolise May - 60 Years

Having lived eighty plus years I hold an overabundance of memories to share as I celebrate my 60th jubilee as a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ. Not only can I trace the momentous events in my life as a PHJC, but more importantly, a supporting community and family who celebrated the many graced moments of my life.

Looking back over the years, there is a thread that has woven a variety of ministry opportunities into a rich fabric, a design that allowed me to experience God’s work close and up front. The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ have always affirmed the varied ministries that unfolded before me, be that in the field of education, finance, or administration. Each and every opportunity allowed me to keep before me the PHJC “Option for the Poor.” I have always looked upon my ministry as an opportunity to live out the name we call ourselves “Handmaids of the Lord.” As in the past, so in the present, I pray that we remain faithful to who we are as PHJCs.

Certainly, life for the PHJCs is “Mystery Unfolding.” It always has been and will continue to be so. We are learning to live in the NOW, to live in the mystery, to live without answers. What is important for me personally and certainly for the Community is to live it fully.

As a true PHJC I will enjoy a year-long jubilee celebration (PHJCs are party people), but most of all I will enjoy living my life and ministry as a PHJC for as long as I am gifted with years. 

Sister Deanne Blume - 50 Years

Reflecting on my life’s journey I can only stand in awe how God has worked and is still working in my life. My twenty-three-year ministry in education fulfilled my desire to be “mother” and to mentor children enriching their minds and hearts. My 15 years in the healthcare field enriched my appreciation for those who focus their efforts on health and the well-being of individuals. Most recently my ministry as a caregiver to our own PHJC Sisters living at Catherine Kasper Home has enriched my soul and spirit. PHJC ministry has broadened over these years but has always focused on the needs of the times. I proudly observe our Sisters who minister in whatever way they are able.

My prior heartfelt excitement at my 25th Jubilee is doubled now 25 years later. Each day I thank God for those who journey with me and daily pray that the Charism of our foundress, Blessed Catherine Kasper will continue to “ripple” throughout our international community and tenderly touch those people we serve. 

Sister Jean Christianson - 50 Years

What comes to my mind and heart as I celebrate my jubilee are my two families! In the first family, I experienced the loving support of my parents, brothers, and sisters. The second family, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, is a gift from God that marked my life beginning in first grade at St. Monica School in Mishawaka, Indiana until now. It was the Sisters’ examples of joy, happiness and a keen sense of service that motivated me to become like them. Because of these two families, there has always been a call to become part of something greater than just my life. That call continues to motivate me in my present ministry and life in the PHJC Mexican Pro-region. As I prostrated myself on the Ancilla Domini Chapel floor at First Profession never did I think I would be called to live in another country as a PHJC. What motivated me then has deepened more so: responding to the impulses of the Holy Spirit as Blessed Mary Catherine Kasper did in her life. I have experienced that being a PHJC has no boundaries and limits. The Charism of the foundress transcends all and is alive and well. The collaborative spirit with the laity that Blessed Mary Catherine lived in her life is part and parcel of the life of a PHJC. Ministry without the presence of laity, for me, is contrary to the basic Mission of a PHJC. 

I believe the words of Blessed Mary Catherine sums up the joy and appreciation that I have for the congregation and what it means to me. “Let us thank our loving God that in His boundless love, goodness, and mercy He has called us to the congregation through his grace and love, and showered upon each one of us and all of us the abundance of His grace.” (to the assistants, Letter 50, May 23, 1876).

Sister Joyce Diltz - 50 Years

As I reflect on my life, I think of the many people I’ve come to know in the various places I’ve lived and served ... students, parents, my fellow Sisters and other good friends and colleagues, volunteers, hospital patients in my chaplaincy days, those I’ve walked with in vocation ministry and in spiritual direction, guests I’ve been privileged to welcome to Bethany Retreat House, members of dream groups and workshops, people I’ve accompanied in retreat both at Bethany and in many other retreat centers and Motherhouse settings. My life has been richly blessed by so many people who have welcomed me into their hearts and lives.

I am grateful for my PHJC Sisters in the USA and across the world, women of deep faith and generous hearts who pool our energies and our resources to touch hearts and lives, to support the vulnerable, to welcome the stranger, to comfort and heal the wounded. Wherever we are and whatever we engage in, prayer and song and fun are always close at hand.

My vocation story interweaves with the story of religious life evolving over these 50 years from a lifestyle very private piety in a sheltered and hierarchical environment to a life today in which we Sisters share faith and responsibility for our life together in ways that keep calling us deeper into a relationship with God and one another. It has been exciting and very satisfying to have our life become at once personally and communally deeper and richer and at the same time more expansive and inclusive, welcoming others to pray and minister alongside us as we labor to give birth to God’s reign among us.

It has been my joy and privilege for the past 40 plus years to help individuals in retreat and spiritual direction to recognize and respond wholeheartedly to God who speaks within us and among us. I cherish this ministry and the privilege it gives me of having a front-row seat to see what God is doing in people’s lives.

Sister Margaret Ann Henss - 50 Years

It is hard to synthesize the many memories I have of my 50 years as a Poor Handmaid. I have been so blessed. I remember wanting to be a religious already in second grade. The PHJCs that taught me had a great influence in my life. My parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams. They supported me leaving home at age 14 to attend Ancilla Domini High School. My family continues to support me in my religious vocation.

I was blessed with 25 years of teaching high school math at St. Augustine High School, Chicago, Illinois; my Alma Mater, Ancilla Domini High School, and Mater Dei High School, Breese, Illinois. When I first started teaching, I thought I would be teaching for 50 years. However, after 25 years, I was asked to move into the field of finance for the province. I worked there for another 13 years and now I serve as the Director of Mission and Communication for HealthVisions Midwest. Helping the staff of HealthVisions know that they are carrying on the Charism, Mission and Values of Blessed Catherine Kasper is such a blessing for me.

I feel blessed for having the opportunity to participate in so many aspects of the congregation. I have traveled to Mexico, Germany, the Netherlands and India and met many Sisters outside of the U.S. I was blessed with attending the Beatification of Blessed Catherine Kasper, international meetings and most recently the PHJC International Spiritual and Cultural Exchange Program.

Even though fewer PHJCs are in active ministry, we can still have an influence on society through our ministries to instill the Gospel Beatitudes and Jesus’ commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our Charism, Mission, and Values flow from that. I am proud to be a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ.

Sister Kathleen Kelley - 50 Years

I was called to religious life at the age of four while visiting my aunt, Sister Marjaleen Kelley, on her first Mission as a teacher at St. Augustine School in Chicago. It was Vocation Week at the school. They had a display of dolls dressed as Poor Handmaid Sisters representing their ministries as teachers, childcare mothers, and nurses. I told my parents that day that I wanted to be a Sister and to minister to children. To my parents’ surprise, after being blessed to attend a Catholic grade school and Ancilla Domini High School, I joined the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Community at age 18. Having said “yes” to the Poor Handmaids and to the varied ministries I have served in, has enriched my life. These include childcare, teaching, health care, beautician, and sacristan. As I look toward the future I see our ministries less traditional. I see the twentyfirst-century ministries as education, pastoral and social work, neighborhood-based ministries, spiritual guidance and care of the environment. We live in a new time as disciples of Jesus, a time to be more prophetic.

My hope for myself and the PHJC community is to be open to the Holy Spirit, listen with ears and hearts, trust, educate ourselves, live our Charism and mission, and show the radical way to free ourselves to build up the Kingdom of God by the ways we live.

Sister Connie Bach - 25 Years

Memories that come to mind and heart, reflecting this jubilee year, include my parents who instilled a strong work ethic in me. Another wonderful memory is of my Grandmother who was an example of faith early on.

My ministries have included being a teacher for ten years, a principal for ten years and a music therapist. I especially loved working with persons with special needs! Now as Volunteer Program Co-Director I walk with women in living out the mission, Charism and Core Values of the PHJCs for limited time commitments. In Vocation Ministry, I encourage Sisters to invite women to be Poor Handmaids; and meet and walk with single, married, religious women exploring how God is calling them to serve in our Church today.

My most memorable experience as a Poor Handmaids, as I reflect on my life, was my participation in the International Spiritual and Cultural Exchange Program. “Walking in the footsteps of Catherine” took on a whole new meaning for me. Actually being in Dernbach, walking the same streets as Blessed Catherine Kasper, praying in the Heilborn Chapel, and learning so much about the PHJC history, the culture, and the places around Dernbach was exciting, fascinating and exhilarating! It was truly a holy experience!

The Poor Handmaids have an amazing opportunity to shape the Church today as we walk with and offer young people opportunities to explore and grow their relationship with Christ. My hopes are that we enter mutual collaboration and sharing with other communities and lay men and women and seek a new consciousness, creating forums for contemplative dialogue, discerning our truthful place in the universe.

“All is great that is done in God’s love; nothing done for God is small.” This quote of Blessed Catherine Kasper has been my motto in generously sharing my time, gifts and talents wherever I am called and in whatever ways I can do so.