The Foundress of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ
Saint 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 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.