Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ celebrate jubilees
By Barbara Allison
DONALDSON — Nine Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Sisters who served in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese are celebrating jubilees this year. Four are celebrating their 70th jubilee, while five celebrate 50 years as women religious.
Sister Mary Conrad Kirchhoff celebrates 70 years as a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ. She served in the ministries of childcare, education and administration at St. Vincent Villa and St. Joseph Medical Center in Fort Wayne. She also ministered at St. Joseph School, in Mishawaka and was the provincial of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ American Province. In addition, she served as a general councilor in Dernbach, Germany. She is retired and resides at the Catherine Kasper Home in Donaldson.
Sister Antoinette Volk also marks her 70th year as a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ. She ministered in the areas of hospitality and food service at St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne and Convent Ancilla Domini in Donaldson. Currently she works in the community sewing room at the Catherine Kasper Home, where she retired.
Sister Julia Barry celebrates 70 years as a PHJC Sister. She worked in childcare ministries at St. Vincent Villa and as a homemaker at St. Paul Convent, both in Fort Wayne. She ministered at Convent Ancilla Domini and the Catherine Kasper Home in Donaldson, and at St. Bavo School in Mishawaka. Currently she volunteers in the Development Office of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. She resides at Convent Ancilla Domini.
Sister Josephine Iffert marks her 70th year with the Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ. Formerly known as Sister Concetta, she served as a provincial councilor for the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in Donaldson. She’s currently retired to Convent Ancilla Domini, where she ministers in prayer and community service.
Sister Sharon Marie Fox celebrates her 50th Jubilee, ministering in nursing and health care administration. She served at St. Joseph Hospital in Mishawaka, Catherine Kasper Home and Convent Ancilla Domini in Donaldson; and the South Bend Clinic and the Veteran’s Administration Clinic in South Bend. Currently she’s the wellness nurse for the Sisters at Convent Ancilla Domini, where she also resides.
Sister Mary Jane Ranek marks her 50th year as a PHJC Sister. Formerly known as Sister Janelle, she taught at Holy Spirit School in Fort Wayne and St. Monica School in Mishawaka, and served as the liturgist at Convent Ancilla Domini in Donaldson. She currently resides in Querétaro, Mexico, where she’s the director of Centro Catalina, ministering in the Poor Handmaids Mexico Pro-region.
Sister Mary Ellen Goeller, formerly known as Sister Marie William, celebrates 50 years as a Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ. A health care administrator, her home parish is St. Monica in Mishawaka. She also served as an administrator at the PHJC Ministry Center in Donaldson. Residing in Portage, she currently serves as the Regional Director of Mission Integration at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.
Sister Linda Volk, formerly known as Sister Cheryl, is also a 50-year jubilarian. An educator, she taught at St. Monica School in Mishawaka and served as a provincial councilor for the American Province in Donaldson. Currently she’s the coordinator of Sister residents at Convent Ancilla Domini, where she resides; and is also an environmental activist at The Center at Donaldson.
Sister Barbara Kuper, formerly known as Sister Raphael, celebrates her 50th Jubilee as a PHJC Sister. She served in childcare ministries at St. Vincent Villa in Fort Wayne and as the first director of Nazareth Home, a foster home founded by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in East Chicago. She’s currently a volunteer at Nazareth Home and resides at Catherine’s Convent in East Chicago.
Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ trace their roots to Dernbach, Germany where their foundress, Catherine Kasper, was born in 1820.
They continue in the foundress’ tradition of meeting the neighborhood needs of the people they are called to serve. Educational, spiritual, pastoral and home care ministries grow as they continue to be asked to minister in parishes serving the immigrant church.
In the early 1920s, the Motherhouse moved from Fort Wayne to Donaldson, just west of Plymouth.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Poor Handmaids in the United States moved, opened and closed many missions and continue to minister in health care, education and childcare; as well as retreat, parish, pastoral and social work.