A saint of their own

November 8, 2018

DONALDSON — Just east of La Porte County on U.S. 30 lies the small town of Donaldson, which recently got some really big news – the namesake of a local order of nuns was named a saint.

More than 100 sisters, associates, staff and friends of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ traveled to Rome from Donaldson for the canonization of the Blessed Catherine Kasper, now known as Saint Katharina Kasper, according to Jule Dowd, spokeswoman for the Poor Handmaids.

“Katharina was the foundress’ given name at birth in Dernbach, Germany, in 1820,” she said. “Here in the U.S., she has been known as Catherine Kasper, as in the Catherine Kasper Home in Donaldson.”

On Oct. 14, before an estimated crowd of 70,000 people, Pope Francis canonized Katharina Kasper, along with Pope Paul VI, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Francesco Spinelli, Vincenzo Romano, Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, and Nunzio Sulprizio.

“All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s Word into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind. May the Lord help us to imitate their example,” the Pope said.

Canonization is the act by which the Catholic Church declares a person who has died a saint, Dowd said. “By canonization, Pope Francis declared that Katharina Kasper and the other six newly named saints are with God and are examples of following Christ and worthy of imitation by the faithful.”

Kasper was born into a poor peasant family. Her father died when she was 21, and because of the law at the time, all the property went to the four children of her father’s first wife, to the exclusion of the second Mrs. Kasper and her children, Dowd said.

“To survive, Katharina worked as a farm hand for about 10 cents a day.”

But because she helped the people of her village, “other young women were attracted by Katharina’s example of service,” according to Dowd. On Aug. 15, 1848, Katharina moved into her first “little house” with four companions from the German village.

“The house became a center from which the sick of Dernbach were nursed, and it also served as a home for a widow and eight orphans,” she said. On Aug. 15, 1851, “Katharina and her companions professed their vows as Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Their ministry continued throughout Germany and spread to England, the United States in 1868, and the Netherlands, and today it includes India, Mexico, Brazil, Kenya and Nigeria.”

Kasper died on Feb. 2, 1898.

Beatification in the Catholic Church requires papal confirmation of a miracle. The incident that confirmed beatification for Kasper was the healing of a nun – Maria Herluka of Kasper’s order – from tuberculosis in September 1945. It was investigated from December 1968 until May 1970.

According to the Catherine Kasper Life Center, in 1975, medical experts determined the healing had no explanation and in 1976, theological consultants determined it was a direct result of Kasper’s intervention.

“Because of her exemplary work with the poor, the sick, and the children, and following the life of Christ, the Catholic Church named her Blessed Katharina Kasper on April 16, 1978, years before she was declared Saint Katharina Kasper,” Dowd said.

— From staff reports