Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ

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(PHJC, Official Catholic Directory #3230); known also as the Ancilla Domini Sisters, a congregation of religious women founded in 1851 at Dernbach bei Montabaur, Germany, by Katharina kasper (Mother Mary), with the sanction of Bp. Peter Joseph Blum of Limburg. When the foundress died in 1898, the congregation numbered 2,000 members and staffed 193 missions in Germany, Holland, England, and the U.S. The rules and constitutions of the Poor Handmaids, modeled on those of St. Vincent de Paul, received temporary papal approval in 1870 and were finally confirmed by Leo XIII.

In 1868, at the request of Bp. John Henry Luers of Fort Wayne, IN, the congregation made a foundation in his diocese at Hessen Cassel, where the sisters engaged in teaching and home nursing. Within a year they had established their motherhouse and a hospital (St. Joseph's) in Fort Wayne, with Sister M. Rose as first provincial. From it were founded St. Anne's and St. Elizabeth's in Chicago, IL; St. Mary Mercy, Gary, IN; St. Catherine's, East Chicago, IN; St. Mary's, East St. Louis, IL; and smaller institutions in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The congregation's Angel Guardian Orphanage in Chicago was opened in 1868 and early adopted the cottage system.

In the U.S., the congregation is involved in academic education at all levels, child care, healthcare, retirement homes, parish ministries, and retreats. The generalate is in Dernbach, Westerwald, Germany. Since 1922 the American motherhouse and novitiate has been located in Donaldson, IN.

Bibliography: g. t. meagher, With Attentive Ear and Courageous Heart: A Biography of Mother Mary Kasper (Milwaukee 1957).

[m. h. boll/eds.]

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Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ

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