Newsletter: January 2018

Pope John Paul I.

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

To the world, he was John Paul I, a pope known primarily for the shortness of his term (33 days). To Pia Luciani, however, he was Uncle Albino, and in a recent interview she shared her memories of him:

Pia: He told stories, sometimes even jokes with a moral ending, exhorting us always to practice eutrapelia.

Reporter: Excuse me, what does that mean?

Pia: It is a Greek word, it means showing happiness to others, finding the joyful and playful side in all things, because, he told us, “When things go wrong, they never go completely wrong. There is always a solution.”

Eutrapelia. There, we’ve learned a new word for the new year and a good one to keep in mind. 2017 had a heaviness to it, and we need to look for the light, for the solutions to our problems, because they exist.

Dorothy Day, the writer and social activist, had a similar philosophy she called the “duty of delight.” She made it her response to suffering:

I was thinking how, as one gets older, we are tempted to sadness, knowing life as it is here on earth, the suffering, the Cross. And how we must overcome it daily, growing in love, and the joy which goes with loving.

It’s easy to look at the world today and sigh. The problems can seem overwhelming. Unthinkable violence is becoming commonplace. The common good is sacrificed because of greed and the lust for power. Life is devalued and creation is just a commodity and trash dump. But reacting with fear and despair leaves us cold. That turns the human heart into stone, and makes us mean and self-centered and prone to scapegoating.

Dorothy Day.

As Dorothy said, despair is a temptation, and overcoming it requires making a decision, every day, to move in the other direction with action, effort, and focus. She was ready for her critics:

People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.

To that we say, “Amen!” We know we’re not alone in believing this because so many steadfast people keep the Joseph House Crisis Center in operation. How wonderful it is to be united in working for the good of others, to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

Your support makes a difference. Here are a few people who can tell you how much:

Charlene, 31, is the mother of four children. A few months ago she had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed as bipolar. The process of recovery is not easy — Charlene is working hard to incorporate it into her journey through life. After finding the right medication level she is starting to feel more settled. She would have been lost without her mother’s help in taking care of the children.

Charlene came to the Joseph House a week before she was scheduled to return to work as a nursing assistant. A notice had been taped to her door by the sheriff’s office, stating that she was going to be evicted because of non-payment of rent. We called her landlord and received disheartening news: the entire amount of $1,400 needed to be paid to stop the eviction, not a penny less. That was way beyond our budget. We told Charlene we could hold $225 for her in case she found another source of funds.

Then the unexpected happened. An anonymous donor came to the door with a check for $1,400 to be used for Charlene’s rent. What? Angels exist! Charlene was overjoyed and so grateful as she took the check to her landlord.

Hilda, 40, lost everything when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. She and her young son made their way to the States and the Eastern Shore, living in a car for over a month. A childhood friend in the area helped Hilda find a place to live. After we paid $200 toward the security deposit, Hilda and her son were able to make the move before winter arrived. Her new landlord gave them some furniture and clothing. Hilda and her son have little, but it is more than what they left behind.

Jack is in his sixties and going through some major life events. He was recently widowed and just lost his job as a bail bondsman (after 20 years). Before that he was a police officer. Jack lives with his son who has kidney problems and may or may not be able to go back to work. Jack himself has a large tumor attached to his spine. In the midst of this he is looking for a job. Jack came to the Joseph House after the water was shut off in his home. He never thought he would have to ask for help. We sent $250 to the water utility.

Don, 60, went on disability after suffering a series of mini strokes. He can no longer work as a truck driver. He lives very frugally but is still having a hard time paying his basic expenses. We paid $250 toward his electric bill so the power would not be cut off in his home.

Mavis, 67, is working as a home health aide to support herself. She had back surgery not that long ago and is slowly recovering. The loss of work put her behind in her rent. Even though Mavis must walk with a cane, she feels she is almost ready to return to her job. She has no choice. We sent $200 to her landlord.

Antonia was homeless with her three children. Fortunately, a shelter had a family room available, and once Antonia knew her children were off the streets she could piece her life together. Before their time was up she found a housekeeping job. We paid $225 toward the security deposit for an apartment so she and her children could escape the cycle of homelessness.

It is very gratifying when we can help families in crisis take a step toward stable living. Thank you for your generosity in supporting the Joseph House. As we begin a new year, we hope you will continue to join us in our service to those in need. We will have a report on our activities during 2017 next month.

Every night when we go to sleep we place ourselves in the hands of God. He is the reason we can rise with joy and look forward to the day, knowing that whatever happens we will get through it together. May His abiding love grant you peace and much happiness.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Sr. Marilyn Bouchard, LSJM.

With the unanimous consent of her community, Sr. Marilyn Bouchard has been named Superior General of the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary. She replaces Sr. Connie Ladd, who served faithfully for 15 years.

Sr. Marilyn hails from Wisconsin and entered our community in 1990. She supervised our Baltimore mission for several years and then was the “right-hand woman” of Sr. Mary Elizabeth. Sr. Marilyn has been active in all aspects of the Joseph House and maintains close ties with the Village of Hope. She is an excellent promoter of our ministry to the community at large.

Sr. Connie will assist Sr. Marilyn as Vicar General. We pray that God will bless these two dedicated servants as they guide our community and direct our ministry with the poor. In His kindness, may He send wisdom and strength to help Sr. Marilyn carry out her new responsibilities of leadership. We know with her gentle spirit and loving heart she will be a good steward of the mission entrusted to us by our founder.

First Steps Toward Helping the Poor

January is Poverty Awareness Month.

According to the Census Bureau, 43.1 million people in the United States live in poverty. Of these, about 19.5 million live in deep poverty, which means their household income is less than 50% of the poverty threshold.

Furthermore, 105 million people live close to being in poverty. Their household incomes are above the poverty threshold, but they experience various degrees of insecurity in acquiring food, housing, utilities, and other necessities.

Poverty is something that affects a lot of people. What can we do to help?

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development offers two suggestions that anyone can do at anytime. They are good starting points:

Choose your words wisely. Using derogatory terms and/or making generalizations about people who are living in poverty works against people who are trying to get back on their feet. Instead, talk with people who are struggling and listen to their stories.

Show respect. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. Be respectful of people’s occupation and considerate of all types of workers we encounter every day.

Here’s an example to consider: when we sit down to eat, it is likely that many people at the bottom of the economic ladder were involved in providing our food, from the fields to the store.

Let our words and behavior show the respect that is due to all persons. From this foundation, an open heart leads to an open hand – a hand of welcome, a hand to help someone up.

When St. Joseph Sleeps

As Head of the Holy Family, extraordinary demands were placed on St. Joseph, and he worked hard at being the best husband and father he could be. This involved not only doing, but listening. St. Joseph was receptive to God’s will, and that set the course for the action he took. His life turned out far differently from the one he had planned. And for that we are eternally grateful!

To be strong yet pliable: the same attitude can guide us as we look after the people entrusted to our care.

During an apostolic journey to the Philippines in 2015, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of St. Joseph, what we can learn from him, and how we can trust in his prayers. His remarks were given at a meeting with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. Here is an excerpt:

The Scriptures seldom speak of St. Joseph, but when they do, we often find him resting, as an angel reveals God’s will to him in his dreams….

I am very fond of dreams in families. For nine months every mother and father dream about their baby. Am I right? [Yes!] They dream about what kind of child he or she will be… You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies.

So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves this question: Today did I dream about my children’s future? Today did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife? Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me? Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!

How many difficulties in married life are resolved when we leave room for dreaming, when we stop a moment to think of our spouse, and we dream about the goodness present in the good things all around us. So it is very important to reclaim love by what we do each day. Do not ever stop being newlyweds!…

Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us.

Joseph was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. As Christians, you too are called, like Joseph, to make a home for Jesus. To make a home for Jesus! You make a home for him in your hearts, your families, your parishes and your communities….

Demonstrating the receptive pose of St. Joseph.

I would also like to tell you something very personal. I have great love for St. Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of St. Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath St. Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!

Newsletter: December 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

In depicting the birth of Christ, Byzantine icons sometimes show St. Joseph sitting away from the manger, either resting with his eyes closed (symbolizing his dreams) or facing the devil (symbolizing the temptation to disbelief).

Art in Western culture places St. Joseph inside the stable, usually holding a lantern or leaning on his staff. The focus, of course, is on the baby Jesus and His mother Mary: classical artists enveloped them in a heavenly radiance. In some paintings, you have to look twice to find Joseph. But despite being in the background, he is not a “background” character in the story.

Quite the contrary. Although our patron saint probably liked to avoid the limelight, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved in our Savior’s birth. St. Joseph had to protect and care for Mary on the journey to Bethlehem, he had to find shelter for her, come up with a plan ‘B’ when the inns were full, keep her warm and comfortable in the stable, and when the time came for her to have her baby, he had to attend to all of her immediate needs. And then came the flight into Egypt, a perilous crossing that is glossed over in Scripture. St. Joseph had to be the hero for Mother and Child.

There was a lot to be done behind the scenes — and St. Joseph did it all with love. That was his specialty. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.” That was true for Mary and Jesus, and it is true for us through the power of his heavenly intercession.

The world needs St. Joseph. The world needs his dedication to family life and his fidelity to God, even when that requires facing adversity. As we contemplate the manger this Christmas, we must remember his strong, fatherly presence. . . a presence that made Mary and Jesus — who were so vulnerable — feel so safe.

Today, if you want to see the spirit of St. Joseph at work, come visit the Joseph House Crisis Center. Our volunteers embody his selfless and generous service. They also do the hidden work that goes unnoticed but is essential for our ministry.

You, with your prayers, donations, and financial support, make it all possible. For families in need, there is food on the table and a roof over their heads — because of you.

Joni, 31, is the mother of six. She works as a housekeeper in a resort hotel to support her family. When her mother had a stroke, Joni had to take a short, unpaid leave of absence to help care for her. Joni could not afford to lose the income, but her mother needed her. When the rent was due, Joni couldn’t pay it and received an eviction notice. That was the price she paid for helping her mother.

We sent $200 to the landlord to keep Joni and her children from becoming homeless. There are legions of people like Joni, women and men who work thankless jobs. They might as well be invisible. How often do we stop and consider their struggles?

Cheryl, 51, is another family caregiver. Her daughter has a late-stage cancer. The water was shut off in Cheryl’s home because she was beset by so many bills and so little money to pay for them. She has started a new job in a chicken processing plant, but climbing out of debt can be very hard. We paid the outstanding water bill of $217.

Rosie, 80, lives in a small house by the side of the road in a rural area. Her home is heated by propane and the tank was completely empty. She traveled 30 miles and crossed a state line to the Joseph House, looking for help. We paid $200 to the gas company.

Brianna, 32, lost her job at a hotel when business slowed down after the summer. The only other work she could find was a part-time job at a supermarket. Her husband Mike is in poor health. He was recently approved for disability but has not yet received any benefits.

It didn’t take long for Brianna and Mike to slide into the despair of poverty. Little things like soap and household supplies became unaffordable, not to mention the rent. Worries about money were eating away at the couple: Brianna experienced respiratory distress and had to be hospitalized for a few days. We sent $230 to their landlord, buying time to help Brianna and Mike make it through their hardships.

Phoebe, 56, lives in a one-room apartment, surrounded by concrete in a commercial zone. There is no greenery, no shade. Phoebe’s room is home for her and has been for seven years. She is disabled and it’s the only affordable place she can find. Even so, she lives on a pittance and is chronically late with the rent. She hadn’t realized that most of what she was paying was going to the late fees. Phoebe was worried and confused when she received an eviction notice. The Department of Social Services paid the back rent that was due. We paid $259 to cover the remaining costs and cancel the eviction.

Thank you once again for the many ways you show your love for the poor. You bring the Christmas spirit to them year-round. Food, shelter, heat, electricity, medicine. . . these are the gifts they receive because of you.

Your financial support keeps the Joseph House going, not any government funding. Just you and your concern for those in need. You can donate online here. It’s easy to do. Make a one-time or recurring donation. You can also donate in memory of someone.

The birth of Jesus can be a new birth for us. Knowing that you have helped someone in need will add special meaning to your celebration of Christmas.

You are close to us in prayer. Please use the Contact Form and send us your special intentions so we can pray for you during this holy season.

From all of us at the convent, the Joseph House Crisis Center, and the Joseph House Workshop, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

What am I preaching with my life?

Our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth was inspired by Br. Charles de Foucauld, who wrote:
Let us preach the Gospel in silence and with words….

It is the responsibility of all to preach in silence.

As for preaching with words, some should do it more than others,

but there are very few who should not do it at all.

This is according to each one’s vocation.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling made preaching the Gospel her life’s work.

What made it natural for her was that she let the Gospel shape every aspect of her life. She could not not preach the Gospel by the way she lived. Anything she might possibly call her own she gave back to God. He had access to everything.

Sister exemplified the observation of St. Vincent de Paul: “If God is the center of your life, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts.”

She had a few big moments in her life, but like everyone else her days were filled with little ones. She did the same things, with the same people, day in and day out. She “preached” a lot in those moments, giving witness to the love and mercy of God by being loving and merciful herself. Br. Charles said his goal was to have people look at him and say, “If that is the servant, imagine what the Master must be like!” Sister took that approach, too.

For personal reflection: What am I preaching by the way I live my life? I might be the only sermon someone else hears today.

Newsletter: November 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

A few years ago, Fr. Paul Mast, a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, spent a six-month sabbatical immersed in the lives of people living on the streets. The experience spoke to his heart, and he wrote about what he learned in a book called Street Sabbatical. In one story, he describes how helping the homeless involved a creative approach with their all-too-familiar cardboard signs:

I played the Public Relations Guru by challenging the imagination of two homeless men to change the message on their cardboard signs. Most of the signs I see have words that sound like “standard issue.” The message is so common and expected that the ones who carry them become invisible. The people walking the streets who live in houses aren’t inspired to engage those homeless because the signs have become familiar and in our culture, familiarity breeds contempt.

When I suggested that their signs tell a story they laughed saying their piece of cardboard wasn’t big enough to tell a story. I told them that it wasn’t the amount of words that told a story but the choice of words. Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway was asked to write a “full” story in just six words. Legend has it he wrote: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn!” What a story hidden in those words.

Those two homeless men stopped laughing when they heard that and after they got quiet we began to rewrite their signs. Here is what our imaginations created:

I’ve forgotten what a kind word sounds like. Please speak one!
I’m good at Please. Help me say Thank you more!
I’ve lost my dignity. Help me find it in your smile!
I’ve forgotten how to smile. Can I use your face as a mirror?
I hunger for a kind word as much as a cup of coffee.
Being homeless happened. Help me dream a way out of it.
Homeless, but also hungry for hope.
What I really need is a Good Samaritan!

Take a moment to reflect on these messages. Imagine people holding them. They can help us to see the homeless with new eyes. They can reactivate our feelings of compassion that have become worn out — a little humanizing goes a long way.

Fr. Paul Mast.

As Fr. Mast writes, these messages help us to “see a person with a story and not just someone stuck with the label ‘homeless.'”

Yes, every person has a story. By reading this Newsletter, you’ve gotten to know the stories of people who live in poverty. They are not anonymous faces — they are people who endure hunger, homelessness, and the other miseries of being poor. They are people who don’t have the luxury of ignoring these realities.

Your support of the Joseph House breaks the isolation that makes the poor feel their circumstances are hopeless. Thank you for being there for us — and for the people we lovingly serve.

We’d like to bring attention to one couple’s story. Eddie and Camille were homeless when they first came to the Joseph House. Eddie had back problems from an accident at work, and Camille was suffering from severe food poisoning. We immediately took her to the hospital where she stayed for four days. Upon her release, she joined Eddie in a motel room that we provided temporarily.

We then found a place for Eddie and Camille in a transitional shelter to give them time to get back on their feet. That was three months ago. Eddie now has a job at a restaurant and confided to us that he is no longer taking pain pills (he was afraid he was getting addicted). Tina is working part-time at a bank. They are saving money and getting ready to move out of the shelter. Both Eddie and Camille look to the future with optimism, something that once seemed impossible.

There is one thing they really need: reliable transportation. Eddie walks an hour to work each day, and although Camille can catch the bus, that may change when they move. Maybe someone would like to donate a used car? We are making this request and leaving it in God’s care.

Your generosity does so much for people in need. Stefan, for example, is 29 years old and autistic. His mother, who lives with and cares for him, said Stefan was born this way. She also told us his teeth never developed properly. They lack enamel and are rotting. We could see that Stefan’s teeth were in bad shape. His mother was worried about the pain and the spread of infection through his body. We called a dentist and paid $200 so Stefan could have emergency dental work.

Ginger, 36, is deaf and the mother of three. She recently moved her family because their previous residence was uninhabitable. Their new place is better, and Ginger was working as a dish washer to support her children. Then she lost her job, couldn’t pay the rent, and received an eviction notice. We sent the landlord $180 to give Ginger time to find a new job and not become homeless with her family.

The Joseph House assists working families every week and it’s all thanks to you.

Can we ask for even more? We try to make the holiday season a little brighter for the poor, and we need your help!

We need donations of food and toys, which can be delivered to our convent at 411 North Poplar Hill Avenue in Salisbury.

Frozen turkeys and chickens for Thanksgiving are needed by November 20.

Christmas toys and gifts (new and unwrapped) for children up to the age of 14 are needed by December 17. We prefer gifts that do not require batteries. Also, we cannot accept toy guns. Please contact us if you have any questions (410-742-9590 or LSJM@comcast.net).

There have been several tragic events lately, both at the hands of nature and of man. So many people have suffered grievous losses. The heartache touches us deeply and makes us grateful for all the things we take for granted. Perhaps this year as we celebrate Thanksgiving we can show our gratitude by reaching out a little more to those in need.

May this Day of Thanks be a blessing to you and the ones you hold dear!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

 

A Thanksgiving Prayer

O God, our God, we come before you in thanksgiving.

We come before you in the richness of autumn, pondering the shapes and colors of all your gifts, marveling at the landscape of our lives.

We come before you, filled with the power of your love, recognizing your presence, in the fruits of our labors and the bonds of our relationships.

We gather our sunshine and our shadow, our joy and our pain, our success and our failure, our love and our loneliness and, binding all together, we give them back to you.

We come before you like trusting children with outstretched arms, embracing all that fills the fields of our lives, lifting up every precious gift for your holy blessing.

Receive what we are, and make our lives whole.

Bless our world, and bring all your children peace.

And finally, gather all that you have created into the eternal celebration of your love.

Amen.

Author unknown

Newsletter: October 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

She was born in Philadelphia and raised in Baltimore.

She lived in a house built by her father on the banks of North Point Creek, from where she liked to set out in a row boat and go crabbing.

Trained as a registered nurse, she had several “careers,” and wasn’t afraid to start a new one at age 50 with nothing but a suitcase in hand.

When she was feeling burned out she sought advice from Mother Teresa.

She was fluent in French, had an eye for art, was an astute businesswoman and never owned a credit card.

She never married but was a mother to many.

She was, of course, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, the founder of the Joseph House and the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary. It has been thirteen years since she passed away from this earthly life on October 27, 2004.

Sister is with us in spirit and we see her handiwork everywhere we look. We’re speaking of the buildings where we live and serve the poor, and also of something deeper, on the inside. Hopefully we are not the same people we once were.

Her sense of mission was guided by the Mystical Body of Christ: we are many parts yet one body, and if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it (1 Corinthians 12:20,26). Sister felt that intensely. She told us, “When you see someone who is suffering, you realize that God is in that person. And He is suffering in that person. And if there’s anything I can do to help, to improve that situation, to let someone know his own value, I will do it.”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth visiting her family home. Photo taken in 1999.

We carry on the work she started and make it our own in the here and now. In one of the last staff meetings she attended, Sister gave us these words of encouragement, as recorded in the minutes: “Don’t give in, and don’t give up. It is such a privilege to work for God. Don’t cut God short, be happy He picked you. God picks those who are lowly, He wants to defeat His enemies that way.”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth knew that our work with the poor would be impossible without the support of countless individuals who want to share what they have with the less fortunate. Thank you for being a part of our ministry. You are the agents of Divine Providence for the Joseph House. Together we show solidarity with the weak and the poor, give hope and dignity to the destitute, and extend a hand to people in need.

Chantell, 48, has two children and lives on a monthly disability check. After falling behind in paying her electric bill, the power was turned off in her home and she was removed from the utility’s budget plan. That was more than 60 days ago. To get the power back on Chantell needs to pay the entire balance due, a large amount. She has been slowly raising the money but ran out of options as she approached her goal. She came to the Joseph House for help and we sent $200 to the electric company.

Cynthia, 72, also needed help with her electric bill, but it was the last thing on her mind. She is being treated for cancer of the jaw and throat. She was in the hospital recently for surgery and her daughter Marian came to see us on her behalf. Marian lost her job and is not able to help her mother as she normally does. We sent $200 to the electric company to help stop the impending cut-off in Cynthia’s home.

Leona, 51, needed help buying prescriptions, but she also needed to talk and have someone listen. After many surgeries for a brain disorder, her husband is now legally blind. Leona has become his “eyes” for him, and although they both keep a positive attitude, coping with this loss has been difficult. It’s hard to be brave and strong 24 hours a day. The Joseph House paid the pharmacy bill of $132. We also found out that Blind Industries has been a terrific resource for Leona’s husband.

Madeleine, 44, has been out of work for two months after falling and injuring herself. She has one daughter and has been living on the $310 monthly child support. Madeleine is rapidly falling behind in all of her bills. She came to the Joseph House because the water in her home was scheduled to be turned off. We paid the $202 bill. Madeleine works as a nursing assistant, and she said her doctor will soon give her clearance to return to her job.

Anna, 63, was finally approved for subsidized housing. She is disabled and was not keeping up with her basic expenses. In order to move into her subsidized apartment, however, Anna needed to pay a deposit, which was impossible given her budget. Fortunately, the Joseph House was able to make the $300 payment to the Housing Authority.

There are moments of joy and relief every day at the Crisis Center. Thank you for making them happen. You are a blessing to us and to the poor.

We depend on your generosity. You can donate online here.

Do you have a copy of the book about Sr. Mary Elizabeth? Entitled Sister Mary Elizabeth Gintling: A Life For God, it can be ordered through our website (Book on our Founder) or from your favorite bookseller.

Click here for a newspaper profile of Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

With our love and prayers,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

This Hermitage Speaks

Carlo Carretto was a Little Brother of Jesus, a religious community inspired by the life of Charles de Foucauld. With a poetic style, he also wrote several books that explored his desire to live a contemplative life in the world.

One of those books was about St. Francis of Assisi (I, Francis), and Carretto in fact died on the saint’s feast day (October 4) in 1988. What follows is an excerpt from the preface in which Carretto reflects on his time spent in a hermitage favored by St. Francis, a cave near the Italian town of Narni:

I sought out this hermitage because it is one of the special places of the Franciscan world, where the Saint sojourned on repeated occasions, and where all blends together in a perfect oneness. Forests, bare rock, the architecture, poverty, humility, simplicity, and beauty, all go together to form one of the masterpieces of the Franciscan spirit—an example to the centuries of peace, prayer, silence, ecology, beauty, and the human victory over the contradictions of time.

When we behold these hermitages, abodes of men and women of peace and prayer and joyous acceptance of poverty, we have the answer to the anguished conflicts that torment our civilization.

You see, these rocks say to us, peace is possible.

Do not seek for luxury when you build your houses, seek the essentials. Poverty will become beauty then, and liberating harmony—as you can see in this hermitage.

Do not destroy forests in order to build factories that swell the ranks of the unemployed and create unrest; help human beings to return to the countryside, to learn again to appreciate a truly well-turned object, to feel the joy of silence and of contact with earth and sky.

Do not hoard up money—inflation and greedy people lie in ambush for you; instead, leave the door of your heart open for a dialogue with your brother or sister, for service to the very poor.

Do not prostitute your labor fabricating things that last half a season, consuming what little raw material you have left; but make pails like the one you see here at this well—it has been drawing its water for centuries and is still in use.

The ill you speak of consumerism is a cover. You fill your mouth with words in order to stifle a bad conscience. Even as you speak, you are consumerism’s slaves, without any capacity for innovation and imagination.

And then . . .

Unburden yourselves of your fear of your brothers and sisters! Go out to meet them unarmed and meek. They are human beings too, just like you, and they need love and trust, even as you.

Do not be concerned with “what you are to eat and with what you are to drink” (Matt. 6:25); be calm, and you shall lack nothing. “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), and everything else will be given to you for good measure. “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).

Assisi, the city of St. Francis.

Yes, this hermitage speaks. It speaks and says brotherly and sisterly love is possible.

It speaks and says that God is our Father, that creatures are our brothers and sisters, and that peace is joy.

All you have to do is will it. Try it, brothers and sisters, try it, and you will see that it is possible.

The Gospel is true.
Jesus is the Son of God, and saves humankind.

Nonviolence is more constructive than violence.
Chastity is more pleasurable than impurity.
Poverty is more exciting than wealth.

Try to think about it, sisters and brothers. What an extraordinary adventure lies here before us. If we put Francis’s project into execution we shall be escaping the atomic apocalypse.

Is it not always this way? God proposes peace.
Why not try it?

The Poor Are Just Like Us

The following was written by Bishop Kenneth Edward Untener (1937-2004), who served as the bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw:

Helping the poor is not always a pleasant experience.

It’s no picnic helping the poor. There is often no feeling of fulfillment. It’s work — like a lot of virtue is work — like taking care of an elderly parent is work.

The poor, as fate would have it, are just like us. They are mixtures of virtues and vices. Like us, they are not always grateful. Like us, they don’t always trust. Like us, they don’t always respond. Like us, they are both generous and greedy. Like us, they are sometimes wonderful and sometimes awful. Whatever happened to the noble poor? Some are out there, but mostly they are in Charles Dickens.

The “poor” poor are not always so noble, and they are the hardest to deal with — which is probably why we don’t.

Mental note: When you help the poor, you always receive more than you give — but it may not seem that way at the time.

Newsletter: September 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

A prison can keep someone locked in, and also locked out.

In Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle, the protagonist, Jurgis Rudkus, finds himself homeless, destitute, and ravenously hungry. He staggers up and down the city streets looking for work, fighting hunger-induced fatigue. His struggle is to no avail: he is a prisoner, trapped in a type of reverse prison. As Sinclair explains,

“Everywhere he went, from one end of the vast city to the other, there were hundreds of others like him; everywhere was the sight of plenty — and the merciless hand of authority waving them away. There is one kind of prison where the man is behind bars, and everything that he desires is outside; and there is another kind where the things are behind the bars, and the man is outside.”

Excluded from society, not welcome anywhere, Rudkus is confined to the forgotten shadows. It’s easy for us to keep the poor and homeless locked in this sort of prison. We go about our lives, preoccupied with our own concerns, never seeing the poor because we avoid them. Mentally, if not physically, we shut them out from the world in which we choose to live.

Each of us has a key to this prison. The first door to unlock is the one leading to the heart. After that, we need to take a look at how we live. Ask God for help: He will open our eyes and opportunities to love the poor will present themselves. The doors we kept locked — out of fear? ignorance? prejudice? — will be in our power to open.

As a friend of the Joseph House, you already have an active concern for the well-being of people in need. With your support, we welcome the poor as our brothers and sisters and share with them the essential goods they are lacking. The Joseph House Crisis Center helps numerous families every week with food, rent, utility bills, and the like.

The Joseph House Workshop, which opened 12 years ago this month, provides personalized and in-depth assistance for up to eight homeless men at a time. The goal is to help these men learn the skills they need to find gainful employment and live independently. We’re not ones to toot our own horn, but the Workshop is doing a great job.

For homeless men, the Joseph House Workshop is an open door to a new life. It maintains a healthy, substance-free environment and is staffed 24 hours a day. Residents can live there for as long as two years (click here for more details about the program). Here is a report from the Workshop Director, Dr. Art Marsh, and the Resident Program Manager, Mr. Rudy Drummond:

We currently have all are beds filled or committed to be filled. We have seven residents housed at this point. One resident is in the most senior phase of the program, which requires considerable achievement. Four of our residents are about to begin Phase 2 (seeking employment). We currently have two residents about to enter Phase 1. We are awaiting another resident coming to us from Eastern Correctional Institution, who we anticipate will be joining us the end of this month.

One of our recent graduates, who enrolled in the Armed Services, will be returning to us for a brief visit before shipping out to his assigned station in South Korea. Several of our other successful graduates visit the Workshop periodically to confirm their on-going successes.

The Workshop is in need of volunteers to teach various aspects of Phase 1 life skill topics. The commitment would be for a one hour time period one to two days a week in the afternoon. It is our pleasure to note that all the successful residents, past and present, manifest a continued deep appreciation for all that the Workshop and the Little Sisters have given them.

God’s blessing has nurtured this ministry from the beginning. We’ve been told that the Workshop has quietly garnered an excellent reputation around town. This is due to the dedication and quality service supplied by the staff. You’re also key to the success: your generosity alone keeps the Workshop afloat. Thank you!

The Joseph House Workshop. Art is in front wearing a grey shirt, Rudy is in the back on the left.

Your generosity also makes the Crisis Center a refuge for people in need.

Tracey, 34, has three children and was working two jobs, but then she relapsed into alcoholism. She said stress was the reason she started drinking again. Tracey found a better reason for stopping — her family —  and has been sober for six months. She is trying to repair the damage that was done, and that includes getting the electricity turned back on in her home. The Joseph House paid $200 toward Tracey’s delinquent electric bill.

Howard, 59, is also trying to reclaim his life from alcoholism. He had his last drink a month ago while he was still homeless. Howard found a place to stay in a halfway house, but to continue living there he must pay rent. We agreed to send over $200. Howard opened up to one of our volunteers and talked about his childhood abuse and his current struggles with anxiety and depression.

Laura, 51, is a simple and humble woman. She lives alone and recently lost her job working in a restaurant kitchen. Her new job will be in a fast-food establishment. In the past month Laura earned $600. She paid some of her essential bills and was short on the $400 rent. We paid $200 to her landlord to stop the eviction.

When we die, we all hope St. Peter will open the Pearly Gates for us. How wonderful that will be, to be welcomed into God’s house, where there are many dwelling places and one prepared for each of us (John 14:2). Our exile will be at an end. In the meantime, let’s do what we can to help people who feel left out today.

As always, we hold you in our hearts each day in prayer. May you be blessed with happiness and peace.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

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