Saint of the day:
Saint Maria Katharina Kasper
Patron Saint of Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ
Saint Maria Katharina Kasper
Recently, Pope Francis canonized seven new saints for the Church, one of whom was Maria Katharina Kasper, a young German woman who helped evangelize the mission diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana in the mid-nineteenth century.
Maria Katharina Kasper was born on May 26, 1820, in Dernbach, a small town in the Rhineland region of central Germany and baptized by the name Katharina. Her father had four children with his first wife. When Katharina's father died when she was a young adult, his children by his first marriage received the entirety of the family fortune, leaving Katharina's siblings and her mother destitute. Thus, Katharina had to delay her desire to enter religious life.
Delayed but undeterred, Katharina used her natural gifts for attracting friends and followers and her unwavering love of Christ to start her own religious community, the Poor Handmaids of Christ.
On August 15, 1848, Katharina founded her first household of sisters, a small household of four companions from Dernbach. They not only built community in the household, but they also opened their house to the sick who needed nursing and to a widow in need of shelter for her children. Two years later, Katharina’s congregation was formally approved, and, in August 1851, she and her sisters took vows as Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, and Katharina took the name Mother Maria Katharina.
Throughout the first few years, the Poor Handmaids grew in number. The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ spread throughout Germany, the Netherlands, and England, dedicating themselves to serving the poor in their communities.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the bishop of Fort Wayne, Indiana wrote to Mother Maria, petitioning her to send sisters to Fort Wayne to minister to the German immigrants who had settled there. Mother Maria sent eight sisters, selected from the hundreds who eagerly volunteered, to serve the immigrants of Indiana.
On August 14, 1868, eight Poor Handmaids boarded a ship from France to America and landed in New York ten days later. By the end of the month, the sisters had arrived in Indiana, and before another month had passed, they were caring for the needs of the parish church, running the school, and nursing the sick. Only a year later, the congregation had established their first hospital in America, St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The Poor Handmaids continued further west and established little households in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri. They continued Mother Maria Kasper’s mission to bring God’s love to the poor and to the sick.
Mother Maria Katharina passed away on February 2, 1898. She was beatified by Pope Paul VI in April 1978 and was canonized alongside Pope Paul VI and five others this past Sunday, October 14, 2018 by Pope Francis.
Saint Maria Katharina Kasper, courageous leader of faith—pray for us!
Motherhouse Church, Dernbach, Westerwald