History

HealthVisions Midwest (HVM) was founded in August 1998 to further the mission and values of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ (PHJC). The first services were offered in November 1988 in Allen County, Indiana after the sale of St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne. HVM conducted focus groups throughout the community to identify primary areas of concern among the poorest and most powerless segments of the population. The findings uncovered two primary needs at that time: 1) immediate, concentrated efforts to remove lead contamination in public housing, and 2) the need for community gardens that would encourage residents to grow their own food and embrace healthier eating habits.

From the beginning, HealthVisions acknowledged that substantive and relevant community partnerships would be vital to fulfilling its mission. Community Health Improvement Councils were established in key Fort Wayne zip codes to collect data and assess health needs. Evaluation of this data prompted HVM to work with the local Health Department to eliminate lead poisoning in public housing and to sponsor Chapter Two Health and Exercise Programs for seniors. Addressing the two primary needs identified in initial focus groups laid the foundation for progress in Fort Wayne and Allen County as lead remediation began and community gardens were planted. These initial collaborations have evolved into the Allen County Health Disparities Coalition, with over 80 dedicated community members serving to date.

HealthVisions prides itself on identifying a need, facilitating the initial process then transitioning tasks to community partners who are empowered to shepherd them to a satisfactory outcome. This enables HVM to identify other priority items in the areas they serve, thus continually evolving to meet the most relevant and greatest need. Some of the former programs were:

  • Prevention of Lead Poisoning – Fort Wayne/Allen County
  • Healthy Eating through Community Gardens — St. Joseph and Allen Counties
  • Medical Mobile Unit for Mishawaka, Plymouth and South Bend, IN
  • Prenatal Care Coordination – Lake County, IN
  • REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health/Alcance): Pre-natal Care for Hispanic Women – Lake County, IN
  • MORE (Mission Outreach Reaching Everyone): Empowered congregations to provide outreach ministries—East St. Louis, IL (this program is still ongoing)

The evolution of our programs shows how we stay attuned to the signs of the time. A significant part of HVM is partnerships. We encourage organizations to work together and to refer clients to each other’s resources. We break down the silo mentality. Creating an atmosphere of working together speaks to sustainability. HealthVisions has programs in three locations: Fort Wayne and Hammond, IN and in East St. Louis, IL.

  • Bridges to Wellness Program/Network – Hammond
  • Community Health Worker Training -- Hammond
  • Breast and Cervical Cancer/WiseWoman Programs – Hammond
  • Mission Outreach Reaching Everyone (MORE) – East St. Louis
  • Faith in Action to Serve and Transform (FAST) – East St. Louis
  • Living a Healthy Life (Chronic Disease Self-Management) – East St. Louis
  • American Diabetes Association’s HEAL and DEEP programs East St. Louis and Hammond
  • Allen County Health Disparities Coalition – Fort Wayne
  • Diabetes Self-Management – Fort Wayne
  • Empowered Program – Fort Wayne

In 2016 HealthVisions Midwest became the premiere certifying vendor for INCHWA (Indiana Community Health Worker Association) certifying Community Health Workers across the state of Indiana.

The Foundress of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ

St. Katharina Kasper established the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in 1851 in Dernbach, Germany. Her devotion to helping the poor, sick, and vulnerable, as well as her dedication to the betterment of the human condition have prevailed through the continued work of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ since that time.

In the aftermath of the Civil War in America, a request came from the Diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana for help in ministering to the many German immigrants who had settled in the area. Eight German Sisters were selected from among the two hundred who volunteered for the mission in America. On July 30, 1868, the eight Sisters accompanied by Catherine Kasper and her assistant, left the small village of Dernbach, Germany for the seafront of Le Havre, France. There on August 14, the eight Poor Handmaids boarded the ship, Pereyre and soon were heading for America, arriving in New York ten days later. Following a brief stay, the Sisters then traveled to Hessen Cassel, Indiana, just outside of Fort Wayne, arriving on August 28. By September 10, the Sisters had taken charge of the parish school, were assigned to nursing the sick in the area, and assumed the responsibility of caring for the needs of the parish church.

In 1869, the congregation's first hospital in America, St. Joseph Hospital, was established in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This institution was also the site of the PHJC first American Motherhouse. It was located in the former Rockhill Hotel. The Sisters operated a school of nursing from 1918 to 1968, and operated the hospital until 1998, when it was sold. In 1922 the Motherhouse moved to Donaldson, Indiana.

In 1869, the congregation's first hospital in America, St. Joseph Hospital, was established in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This institution was also the site of the PHJC first American Motherhouse. It was located in the former Rockhill Hotel. The Sisters operated a school of nursing from 1918 to 1968, and operated the hospital until 1998, when it was sold. In 1922 the Motherhouse moved to Donaldson, Indiana.

The Poor Handmaids who operated several hospitals sold them to be able to continue in their foundress' tradition of meeting the neighborhood needs of the people they were called to serve. Their commitment to creating healthy communities by empowering people to live a healthy life led to the founding of HealthVisions Midwest. It is the mission of the Poor Handmaids to deliver quality healthcare to the communities they serve. When community partners are able to carry out the work, the Poor Handmaids focus on the unmet needs of the community.

Catherine Kasper, known in religious life, as Mother Mary, died on February 2, 1898. Her good works and following the life of Christ caused the Catholic Church to name her Blessed Catherine Kasper on April 16, 1978.

On October 14, 2018, Blessed Catherine Kasper was canonized as St. Katharina Kasper by Pope Francis.

CLICK HERE for more about the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ and our foundress Saint Katharina Kasper.