Donaldson, Indiana — Sr. Judith Diltz, provincial of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in the United States, has been thinking a lot about history lately.
For the last four years, the community held Coming Home events around the Midwest leading up to this year's 150th anniversary of its arrival in the United States from Germany. The events were a sort of family reunion for sisters, family members, former sisters, alumni of the order's schools and colleges, volunteers and the people they've served.
Then, earlier this year, Pope Francis announced the congregation's founder, Blessed Catherine Kasper, would be canonized Oct. 14 at the Vatican with Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero; Pope Paul VI, who beatified Kasper in 1978, less than five months before his death; and four others.
As Diltz spoke in her motherhouse office, the grounds of the campus were filled with people visiting for the final Coming Home weekend Aug. 17-19, and the convent that would normally be quiet on a Saturday was instead filled with laughter as sisters and visitors enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day under giant shade trees.
In the motherhouse chapel, a large painting of Kasper sat on an easel near the altar, surrounded by flowers, while in the nursing home chapel, a shrine had been set up to venerate a pair of Kasper's shoes.
Diltz, who attended Kasper's beatification in Rome, will lead a pilgrimage to the canonization in Rome and then to Germany for celebrations in Kasper's home village of Dernbach.
"Everyone knows religious life is at a critical point right now, but our history says don't be afraid of beginnings and endings," she said. "Instead, see how God's hand is present in whatever is happening."
That is a lesson directly from Kasper's life.