Our Foundress: Blessed Mary Catherine Kasper

Born: May 26, 1820 in Dernbach, Germany

Died: February 2, 1898

Founded a "Pious Association" in 1842 in order to promote Christian life.

The members helped wherever they encountered need:

  • in families
  • with children, the sick, the poor and needy

On August 15, 1851 this "Pious Association" became a religious community, the Congregation of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, or popularly known as the "Dernbach Sisters" in keeping with their place of origin.

The center of the International Congregation has remained there until today.

Mary Catherine Kasper was proclaimed blessed on April 16, 1978 by Pope Paul VI in Rome.


Charism and Spirituality

The charism and spirituality of our Foundress, Mary Catherine Kasper, are just as present in the PHJC Congregation today as they were at the time of the founding of the Congregation.

Mary Catherine was not a person who came with a plan. She tried with all her strength to recognize what God’s will for her and for the Congregation was in the situations that she encountered. And when she became aware of it, she put it into practice, irrespective of whether or not it complied with her expectations, or if it led her down unknown and unusual paths.

We understand spirituality as the spiritual element, as the living Spirit within us that inspires us to act and to live in the Spirit of Jesus Christ and Mary Catherine Kasper.

That is why we speak of spirituality as an essential element of the Spirit that strengthens our faith life and leads faith to greater depths and fulfillment. Christian spirituality is the striving for a fulfilled and credible life. That includes our acceptance of the content and values of the Christian faith and their integration into the structure of our lives, so that they inspire us and offer us breath, spirit and “fire” for life.


Who is General Leadership?

Sr. Barbara (Councilor), Sr. Annemarie (Vicaress), Sr. Gonzalo (Superior), Sr. Shirley (Councilor)

The Generalate is made up of the General Superior and her Councilors. These Sisters are elected every six years by the General Chapter, the highest legislative body in the Congregation.

The General Secretary and the General Treasurer also belong to the Generalate; they are appointed by the General Superior with the approval of her Council.

The Generalate bears the primary responsibility for the Congregation.

In the spirit of our Foundress they try to fulfill their responsibilities in the Congregation, which are given to them through the Constitutions and which the General Chapter assigns to them. One of the most important responsibilities for General Leadership is to promote unity within the Congregation and keep alive the awareness of internationality in the provinces, regions, and mission groups, and to put new life into the charism and spirituality of Mary Catherine.

Contact address:


Followers of Blessed Mary Catherine Kasper

The charism and spirituality of Blessed Mary Catherine Kasper are not only alive in her Sisters, the Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, but also continue to touch the hearts of those who wish to make God visible and known in their specific way of life. Catherine's spirit continues to penetrate their hearts as they follow in her footsteps of simplicity, service to the poor and the desire to seek God's will in their lives. Listed below are the groups already formed in four of the countries where Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ serve. We invite you to learn more about the followers of Blessed Catherine.

Catherine Kasper Circle
Catherine Kasper Community
Fiat Spiritus Community
USA / Germany

Poor Handmaids – an international congregation

The Congregation was founded in Germany in the year 1851. Later, the Sisters were called to the Netherlands in 1859, to the USA in 1868, to England in 1876 and to Bohemia in 1881.

However, it has only been in the past forty years that our Congregation was called to India and since then we have followed the call to care for the needy in other countries.

This has also been a learning curve for us. As a result we have gradually grown in understanding what it means to be an ‘International Congregation’. We are learning together:

  • To discover and accept our unique individual, cultural, historical and social roots.
  • To treat each other with mutual respect and to discover our differences as riches and as gift from God.
  • To affirm that my culture is not at the center of all things but is in concert with all other cultures in our community.

Today there are Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, in England, India, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya and Nigeria.


The Heilborn Chapel

The Heilborn chapel dates from 1692. Impressive and imposing is the connection with the centuries-old linden trees.

The Heilborn chapel is a dedicated to Mary Mother of God just outside Dernbach. The chapel attracts many people every day. Katharina Kasper, too, frequently prayed at the chapel. It was said that here is where she decided on the name of the congregation.

Opposite the chapel there is the fountain, the water of which has been known to have given healing effects.