The Spirituality of Charles de Foucauld

We are anxiously waiting to hear when Charles de Foucauld will be canonized. The date should be announced soon. To help you know more about our spiritual father, here are the main points of his spirituality, as written by our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling:

There are four basic elements of the spirituality of Br. Charles. The first is poverty. In order to be really free in this materialistic world it is necessary to divest oneself of that which is not necessary. For Br. Charles, that meant living a life of extreme poverty in imitation of the life of Christ and also as a sign that, for the Christian, life now is lived in expectation of what is to come, it is not an end in itself.

The second is contemplation. It is expressed specifically in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament as a direct way to seek the Lord and also in meditation on the gospels.

The third is the desert. It is in the desert that one is faced with the reality of who God is. He reveals Himself to those who wait for Him in the desert. And those who wait are made aware of their own weakness and inability to do anything without Him. So, time spent in solitude is a vital aspect of a follower of Br. Charles.

The final point of this spirituality is charity. This is expressed in being as far as possible a friend to all persons, in total availability and in hospitality.

For more information, please see the Br. Charles section of our website.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth in the Holy Land, a place Charles loved. He lived in Nazareth for several years and it filled his spirit. “Imitate Jesus in His hidden life. Be as small and poor as He is,” Charles wrote in his journal.

Newsletter: September 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

According to verse twenty-one of the nineteenth chapter of Proverbs, “Many are the plans of the human heart, but it is the decision of the Lord that endures.”

A Yiddish proverb puts it another way: “We plan and God laughs.”

We all know what it’s like. We have hopes and dreams, we make plans and get ready for what we have in mind, and then the unexpected happens. We find out, once again, that the universe is under no obligation to cooperate with us. It could be rain on the day of a picnic, or something much more consequential, like a pandemic. Despite our power and strength, there is a limit to what we can control.

That’s why wise people always add “God willing” whenever they make any sort of plans.

Coping with change and the unpredictability of life can make us resilient. But each individual can only handle so much, especially when great losses are involved. Regina, for example, never imagined the pain and difficulties she would have to face. She was married, had children, and was working as a nurse. Seventeen years ago, however, she became infected with flesh-eating bacteria. An area of her upper leg had to be surgically removed. The infection still spread and she went into septic shock. Regina ended up on a ventilator and suffered permanent lung damage. She was also paralyzed from the waist down but has since regained the ability to walk.

Now 58, Regina’s health remains fragile. She needs additional surgery for a skin graft, wound care, and an ostomy. Making matters immeasurably worse is that she is alienated from her family. She feels betrayed by her ex-husband. Forced to live on a meager disability income, Regina did the circuit of substandard housing that is the fate for many people who are poor. She lived in neighborhoods where drug deals openly took place and in houses infested with rodents and mold. She even lived in her car until it broke down in someone’s driveway. Her last stop before contacting us was a motel. It was clean and she felt safe with her two therapy cats (her beloved companions throughout her trials), but the cost was rapidly draining her money away.

The first thing we did was pay for a week at the motel to give us time to find an affordable and hygienic apartment for Regina. That was not an easy task. We contacted everyone we knew who could help us. Another week was required at the motel, and then a third. We paid the bills but we were feeling desperate, along with Regina, and we let the Lord know about it in our prayers. Finally, success! A place was found and another agency agreed to help Regina with rental assistance.

Regina later told us how grateful she was for all the help she received. She feels like it was divine intervention. She said it has been a true learning experience, both about herself and in terms of renewing her faith and trust in others. That’s really the best we can hope for when life doesn’t happen the way we planned.

Barry, 59, has had his life derailed by a bite from a brown recluse spider. He almost died, and the arm that received the bite is limp and useless. Barry thinks his livelihood as a master mechanic is gone for good. He said he just doesn’t feel right. His doctor has ordered more tests, but so far there is no conclusive diagnosis. With no income at the moment, Barry was worried about getting evicted. We sent $400 to his landlord to help cover the back rent.

Colleen, 64, is very lame with arthritis. Her house is horrible: the mold problem is getting out of hand and the windows are sealed shut. She has lived there for sixteen years. Colleen was trying to stay cool in the stifling summer heat with an electric fan, but she really needed an air conditioner. We paid her water bill ($350) to stop the impending cut-off. We also made arrangements to have an air conditioner delivered through an agency that helps seniors. Colleen will also get food from Meals on Wheels.

Audrey, 47, lives on disability. Her car (with over a quarter of a million miles on it) broke down. The repair bill was $680, which is more than her monthly disability check. Audrey has been trying to pay off this bill, but it set her back in her rent and she received an eviction notice. The Department of Social Services and another agency did not have funds to help her. We paid the amount needed to stop the eviction ($200) plus the final $80 of the car repair bill.

Leslie, 46, had to leave her job because her stomach cancer was getting worse. She has no income, although she has applied for government benefits. Since Leslie was unable to pay her rent, we sent $300 to her landlord.

Sheila, 63, is disabled and in poor health. Several weeks ago, she needed to start using an oxygen concentrator at home to help her breathe. Sheila was unprepared for the increase in her electric bill. From her $900 monthly check she already pays $600 for rent. We paid the $320 due on the electric, but Sheila will have to cut what little she can from her monthly expenses.

Delores, 39, works in health care. When she experienced flu-like symptoms she had to quarantine for two weeks. Fortunately, she did not have COVID-19, but like many working people she lives paycheck-to-paycheck. The lost pay put her behind in the rent. Delores has a young daughter. She is also a victim of domestic violence and does not receive child support. We sent $400 to her landlord. Delores is determined not to get in this situation again. She is now working a second job.

The universe may not always cooperate, but there’s no reason we can’t cooperate with each other. The pandemic is another reminder that sometimes our individual efforts are not enough—we need to work together to solve our problems and ensure the well-being of all.

The Joseph House is supremely blessed to have people like you working with us. Your prayers and support make a big difference to many people. And let us remember that, no matter what happens, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28).

We never tire of giving thanks for you and pray for you every day. As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we also pray for peace in our world. May God’s love bring an end to all division and strife.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


We pray for our benefactors and friends every day. Please send us your prayer requests using our Contact Form.


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Newsletter: August 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Living under harsh circumstances does not mean we ourselves have to be harsh. Charles de Foucauld is proof of that.

For fifteen years, from 1901 until his death in 1916, Charles made his home in Algeria, surrounded by the moonscape of the Sahara Desert. Famine, loneliness, exhaustion . . . Charles was well acquainted with every aspect of desert living. Over time his body withered like a dry stick, but his heart remained supple and fresh. His love for God gave him inner vitality, and he dedicated his life to the best way of showing that love, which is loving other people. Charles called himself a “universal brother” to everyone.

Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, considered Charles to be a spiritual role model. This passage from the first biography of Charles helps to illustrate why. It describes a time when he spent 25 days at an encampment of wounded French soldiers, ministering to their needs:

“All his time, except the few hours given to sleep—and those not every night—and the time for his Mass and rapid meals, [Charles] devoted to the wounded. He chatted with each of them, spoke to them of their country and families, and wrote their letters. When he entered one of the ambulance rooms, all the wounded called out to him with one voice: ‘Good-morning, Father,’ and each wished to be the first to receive the visit of the friend of all. They recognized one who loved the soldier and understood him. Certainly, most of these legionaries were not accustomed to speak to a priest; piety was not their dominant characteristic; but the sweetness, the affable and sprightly manner, the self-sacrifice of this priest who devoted every instant of his time to them, rapidly conquered them one after the other. The presence of this monk became indispensable to them.

“An officer of the post, whom I questioned, said to me: ‘It is beyond doubt that his influence on their morale had a great deal to do with this singular fact: of these forty-nine wounded, of whom several were seriously injured and with many wounds, only one succumbed. I remember a certain legionary, of German origin, whom we considered a not very commendable subject. At El-Mungar he had had a bullet through his chest. Father de Foucauld took him in hand as the most seriously wounded and the least sympathetic, indeed, quite the reverse. Received at first more than coolly, with his patience and sweetness he ended in conciliating this poor man to such a point that the latter called for him at every moment, and related to him the intimate history—not always edifying—of an old African soldier.’” (René Bazin, Charles de Foucauld, Hermit and Explorer)

Charles (center) with a group of French soldiers.

Charles had a simple philosophy regarding how to interact with other people: “Be loving, gentle, and humble with all human beings. This is what we have learned from Jesus, not to be aggressive towards anyone. Jesus taught us to go out like lambs among wolves.” Many eyewitnesses gave testimony that Charles practiced what he preached. They always remembered his smile and sincere friendliness.

The circumstances of our daily lives are not as extreme as those faced by Charles, so it should be easier to be Christ-like, right? Well, we know how it is. It takes practice, self-awareness, and plenty of prayer. We need God’s grace—and God is very happy to supply it.

People who come to the Joseph House Crisis Center have been beaten down by poverty and misfortune. In the spirit of Charles, we greet them with kindness, the first step in helping them find reasons to have hope.

Glenda, 52, needed the support of her walker with a built-in seat when she came to see us. She spoke with a stutter, but her words were easy to understand. Despite her many physical ailments, Glenda is helping to care for her two young grandchildren while their mother looks for work. One of the children is just a baby and is very sick; she needs to use a breathing machine and her mother is afraid to be away from her. Glenda only receives $400 monthly in SSI. She needed help paying her overdue electric bill. The Joseph House contributed $400.

Cathy, 54, has a husband who moved out, although he continues to send her $135 each week (her only income). Cathy suffers from a mental impairment and finding work is a challenge. She has her hopes on getting a job at a thrift shop. In the meantime, we sent $300 to the electric company so the power would not be cut off in her home.

Teresa, 56, has liver cancer. She is scheduled to have surgery soon. Coping with her illness has been an ordeal, but Teresa has managed to keep working. She is also raising her fourteen-year-old child. Teresa did miss some work and fell behind in the rent. She needed to pay $1,470. Refusing to give up, she was able to raise all but $320. We paid that amount to the landlord to stop the eviction.

After she lost her job, Leanne, 31, and her three children moved in with a friend. Then her friend got evicted and Leanne and her children were homeless. Fortunately, Leanne quickly found a job paying $16 per hour. With her first paycheck two weeks away, however, she needed help with housing. We agreed to pay for a motel room ($450) so Leanne and her children would not be on the street. Leanne will then use her paycheck to move into an apartment.

Kurt, 67, lives in a house infested with insects. He receives $740 in Social Security, of which $500 goes toward the rent. From what’s left he pays for utilities and food. An exterminator gave him an estimate of $500 to eradicate all the pests. There was no way Kurt could afford that, but the Joseph House pulled together and came up with the money.

In talking about our ministry, Sr. Mary Elizabeth always said “It’s not so much what we do as the way we do it.” That’s what counts for so many things in life. What helps to guide our conduct? Remembering a sense of reverence, of being aware that the sacred presence of God is all around us and within those we serve.

Thank you for your support. You allow us to reach out with love to many people. Your faithfulness touches us deeply. With our prayers,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Do you have a special need you would like us to pray for? Please let us know: Contact Form
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The following describes the spirit of service we strive to bring in our interactions with others at the Joseph House and wherever else we may be:

Those who are paid to serve on a nine-to-five basis can assume the appropriate attitudes during work hours and hang them up with their uniform when they are off duty. Real servants are on call 24/7; they live over the shop, as it were. Their needs and preferences are considered unimportant. That is probably why we no longer have many such people—effectively, they are slaves.

It is very rare to find a person who has sincerely internalized the qualities of a servant: hardworking, nonassertive, self-effacing, obliging. This is the quality that is designated in the New Testament by the words meekness or gentleness.

The best way to define this quality is by thinking of its opposites: harshness, violence, bossiness, imperiousness, assertiveness, heavy-handedness, and so on. To eschew such ways of interacting with others demands great strength of character. It means living by the fruit of the Holy Spirit, in the way set forth in the Beatitudes. It is not so easy to offer the other cheek when struck, not so easy to go the second mile, not so easy not to take offense when insulted. To be gentle means being very strong.

I can compel you by power, but I can draw you by gentleness. I can drive you by force, but I can lead you by gentleness. I can crush you by arrogance, but I can nurture you by gentleness. I can destroy you by vengeance, but I can forgive and heal you by gentleness. This is the way of Christ. This is the litmus test we can apply to ourselves, whether we be leaders or followers.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach us the way of gentleness. Help us to use whatever authority we have with the utmost respect for others, as a sincere service of the community and not as a convenience for ourselves. Help us also to respond to hostility with meekness and humility, and let us make peace before the sun goes down. For you are our Lord both now and forever. Amen.

Michael Casey, OCSO
Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations For Every Day of the Year

Those Who Give Us Our Daily Bread

When we visit the supermarket, our attention is directed to the displays and packaging and all the choices we have. We read the labels, compare prices, and put items in our cart. The countless people who worked in the fields and factories to produce the food we eat never cross our minds. Our lives depend on their labor, yet we give scant consideration of who they are, the fairness of their wages, or the safety of their working conditions. In our industrialized consumer culture, we just look at the shiny product, not the worker, forgetting we are one Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

There are approximately 2.5 to 3 million agricultural workers in the United States, serving as the backbone for the $1.1 trillion agricultural industry.

The majority (75%) of agricultural workers are foreign-born. 19% identify as migratory and 81% are seasonal. 68% of crop workers are male and 32% are female.

The average level of completed education is 8th grade.

Agricultural workers are among the most socially and economically disadvantaged people in the country: one third of agricultural worker families have income levels below the national poverty guidelines. Farm workers report an average hourly wage of $10.60.

Agriculture can be a hazardous occupation. Workers face an increased risk of lung diseases, repetitive-motion injuries, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure.

And what about our food that comes from abroad and the people who work there . . . ?

Information from The National Center for Farmworker Health, the U.S. Department of Labor, and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“Most urban shoppers would tell you that food is produced on farms. But most of them do not know what farms, or what kinds of farms, or where the farms are, or what knowledge or skills are involved in farming. They apparently have little doubt that farms will continue to produce, but they do not know how or over what obstacles. For them, then, food is pretty much an abstract idea—something they do not know or imagine—until it appears on the grocery shelf or on the table. . . . In the advertisements of the food industry . . . food wears as much makeup as the actors. If one gained one’s whole knowledge of food from these advertisements (as some presumably do), one would not know that the various edibles were ever living creatures, or that they all come from the soil, or that they were produced by work.”

Source: Wendell Berry, The Pleasures of Eating.

See also: Newsletter: July 2021.

Newsletter: July 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Like many people probably are, we are very familiar with our local grocery store. We know where everything is, and whether we are making a quick trip or shopping for a large order, we can usually find what we need. Even throughout this past year, shortages were never that bad. It’s been a real comfort knowing that our store is nearby. We are extremely grateful for the store’s employees, who, along with all front-line workers, made a sacrifice for the good of others. This gets to the heart of what makes us human, of being the kind of people God had in mind when He made us “a little less than the angels, crowned with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:6). Sometimes it takes extraordinary circumstances to understand the significance of ordinary activities.

Going to the grocery store and having a steady supply of food can easily be taken for granted. As a friend of Joseph House, you know there are many people who can’t take anything for granted, even just having enough food for themselves and their children. The fact that people in this land of abundance go hungry is beyond tragic. But with your help, our ministry works to alleviate this unnecessary suffering.

Although our Soup Kitchen has been closed as a safety precaution, our Food Pantry has remained open during the pandemic. Your donations of food allow us to serve hundreds of households each month. Your financial support covers the minimal overhead required to keep our freezers in operation and our trucks filled with gas. Maybe you know what it’s like to go to bed hungry. Maybe family members told you stories of hard times they endured. You can help people going through hard times today through your continued support of Joseph House. Because no one should have to worry about getting his or her next meal.

It is cruel and unjust that many people who work hard to produce the food we eat have to struggle to obtain their own basic necessities. Consider Selina, who came to our area from Georgia with other migrant workers to pick watermelons. She somehow got left behind when her group moved on to another state to pick potatoes. Selina gets paid about $30 at the end of each day, barely enough to cover her room rent. Two days of heavy rains meant no work and empty pockets for her. The people she knew were gone and so she had nowhere to go. We provided two nights in a motel ($112). After that, Selina was back in the fields.

Some might say her pay is justified given that it’s unskilled labor, but such a thing does not exist. Since we are not likely to grow and harvest our own crops, we would starve without people like Selina. What is the value of their work? A living wage at the very least.

As our nation—though not the whole world—emerges from the worst of the pandemic, many people feel relief that life is returning to normal. But for the poor, “normal” brings no relief at all.

Deidre, 59, is caring for her husband who has terminal cancer. She is also working full-time. She sent the electric company $200, but still received a termination notice. The Joseph House paid $350 to keep the power on in this couple’s home.

Nadine, 60, is raising her five grandchildren. Their mother is in jail and the father has disappeared. Nadine was working nights at a hospital doing cleaning. One grandchild had to go to a Baltimore hospital because of brain damage. After returning home, the child’s need for additional care meant Nadine could no longer work at her job. Her monthly income dropped to $700. The Joseph House paid $400 toward her back rent to prevent eviction proceedings. We also bought $90 worth of prescription medications for her grandchild.

Paula, 42, is rebuilding her life after spending 6½ years in prison. Her lack of transportation limits her prospects for employment. A housekeeping job at a motel seemed promising because she could also live there; it became a losing proposition, however, because the motel bill was greater than her paycheck! Another agency agreed to help Paula with affordable housing. In the meantime, we didn’t want her to be homeless so we sent $350 to the motel.

A few months ago, Melanie, 22, took unpaid leave from her job at a chicken plant when her infant son became sick. She ended up losing her job, but found a new one as a cashier. Melanie paid off her delinquent electric bill (almost $800) to stop a cut-off. Then she had no money for her rent and received an eviction notice. We sent $300 to her landlord.

Mateo, 20, also took time off from work to care for his sick child (he has custody). He lost his job and was going to lose his subsidized housing before starting new employment. We paid $320 toward the past-due rent.

After a fire destroyed their rental home, Rich and Danielle were homeless. The Red Cross paid for a few days at a motel and then referred the couple to us. Rich is disabled with an inoperable tumor on his back; Danielle is his caretaker. Their income is $800 per month. We paid for lodging ($280) until they could move into a new home.

Tasha, 26, is pregnant and has two other children. She fled an abusive relationship and moved into an apartment with her savings. Working as a babysitter brought in $450, not enough for the next rent payment. We paid the landlord $350 so this little family would not be evicted. Tasha is determined to find another job.

Thank you for your support of our mission. We must guard against taking people for granted, especially those who live and work in the margins.

Last month we wrote about the importance of prayer in our lives. It’s helpful to pray throughout the day, and a good habit is to offer a short prayer of gratitude before eating. Even if it’s just a snack, food is life, given from the goodness of creation and the work of human hands.

Every day we offer a prayer of gratitude for you. May you and your loved ones enjoy a happy and healthy summer. Thanks for reading our Newsletter. You have no idea how much we appreciate you!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

You can join us in reaching out to others by making a donation: Donate.

Please send us your special prayer requests: Contact Form.

Read a little more about food justice here: Those Who Give Us Our Daily Bread.

Newsletter: June 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Picture a swiftly-moving river, tumbling over rocks, swirling with currents and eddies. Trying to swim in such a river would be a tiring, and probably frightening, experience. You would feel buffeted and pushed around by forces stronger than you. The world would seem to be rushing by. You wouldn’t know what to expect next.

Now picture yourself sitting on the bank, quietly breathing, observing the river. You now have perspective. You see the river in context: it has boundaries, it’s not all there is, and although in some places the water is swift and choppy, in others it is smooth and calm. Meanwhile the ground you are sitting on is solid. The river is moving, but you don’t have to go along for the ride.

The river can represent several different things: our thoughts, the stress of our daily activities, the endless stream of news and images on television and the Internet. It gets exhausting if we don’t take a break from it all. Thomas Merton wrote, “The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.” He was a Trappist monk, and he wrote these words more than 50 years ago. Prayerful solitude gave Merton clarity: he saw how the frenzy of modern life destroys our capacity for inner peace and hence the fruitfulness of our lives.

We increasingly live in a manufactured world, one designed to “push our buttons” and keep us distracted. To preserve the sanctity of the human soul, an excellent and time-honored safeguard is found in contemplative silence. You’ve probably felt the need yourself for some periodic down-time. For us Little Sisters, one of the benefits of our life is that we have scheduled time every day for prayer and quiet. These times are more than simply taking a break: we let go of our restless minds and present ourselves to the Lord, being receptive to His presence.

Our model is Jesus, who, as Scripture relates, “in the morning, a great while before dawn, rose and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). You may recall that the mission of the Joseph House, which you share in through your support, is “Cry the Gospel with your life!” This is part of that, being men and women of prayer. The hidden spring of our service to the poor is our silence before God.

Centered and grounded, we can respond to someone’s crisis with peace. We can mirror to that person the reality of hope. It’s also easier to give that person our full attention, a fundamental sign of respect and affirmation of human dignity.

Fred, 60, first came to see us last summer and we wrote about him in our September Newsletter. He is disabled after being hit by a car while riding his bike. Fred was able to find a part-time job he could do and worked for a few months. His pay was not much, $196/month, but it helped a lot. Now Social Security is deducting that much from his check for the length of time that he worked since he was not allowed to do it. Fred could not pay his electric bill, so we paid $300 toward the past-due amount to keep the power on in his home.

Ross, 55, is a pleasant man. You would never guess at all the health problems he has. He is currently waiting for a heart transplant. Ross depends on doing odd jobs to pay his bills, but his health is slowing him down. He used his stimulus check to pay a very large overdue water bill and a few other necessary expenses. He did not have enough for the electric bill, so we contributed $300.

Venita, 63, supports herself by being a home health aide. Many of her clients, however, are afraid to use her services because of the pandemic. Venita is barely getting by month to month. She is afraid of losing her home where she has lived for 11 years. Her most pressing need at the moment was the electric so we made a payment of $300.

Joellen, 59, is a cancer patient and receiving chemotherapy. After losing her job she had to purchase private health insurance. The monthly premium takes half of her temporary cash benefits. Joellen fell behind in paying her rent. We mailed $300 to her landlord to stop the eviction proceedings.

Eunice, 66, is also sinking under the weight of health care expenses. Poor health is a ticket to poverty—that’s what our nation seems to accept. Eunice needs to have surgery on her back. Her out-of-pocket medical expenses eat away at her very limited fixed income. She could not pay the full amount of her last two rent payments and was worried she was going to get evicted. We contributed $300 to help her catch up.

Artie, 60, lives alone and needs his car to get to work. Unexpected vehicle expenses set him back with his other bills. Artie needed help with his electric bill, but was denied assistance at another agency because his income was slightly above the poverty threshold (which is only $12,760 annually for a single person—it’s not in touch with reality). Fortunately, there is no red tape at the Joseph House and we could help Artie with $300.

Thank you for your continued support! The Joseph House depends on you.

News about our Annual Golf Tournament Fund-Raiser: Regretfully, as a precaution against COVID-19, our loyal Golf Committee has decided to again postpone our 15th Annual Joseph House Golf Tournament. Since its inception in 2006 the event has been a source of much-needed revenue, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and participating golfers, and the untiring effort of our committee and tournament volunteers. To all, we express our sincere thanks. Our hope is that, God willing, 2022 will see the return of our Golf Tournament at beautiful Green Hill Country Club!

In this “Year of St. Joseph,” patron of fathers, we wish all men blessed with the vocation to be a father a most Happy Father’s Day. And may the abundant graces of God be with you and your loved ones, keeping you healthy and safe and in good spirits. Part of our prayer time every day is spent praying for your intentions.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Please send us your prayer requests: Contact Form.
To help us serve those in need, go here: Donate.


Our convent has a chapel, Thomas Merton had a hermitage, but every home can have a sacred space for prayer. Here are a few ideas from Fr. Edward Hays:

The typical home in the Western world has rooms for all the important activities in life. There are rooms for eating, sleeping, bathing, storage, relaxing and even a room for keeping your vehicle. While your entire home is a sacred place where you pray and journey to God in different ways, it can be invaluable to set aside a particular place for your inner exercises. . . . For a fortunate few this personal shrine could be an entire room such as an unused bedroom or a small den. But for the majority it will mean a corner of a room.

You might, for example, choose a corner of your bedroom and set it aside as your prayer place. A stone slab could serve as a small altar, or you could create one out of wood. You may also find it valuable to have a small prayer rug to sit upon only in meditation or prayer.

If you are a highly visual person, you may desire to use a variety of symbols, icons, or images to grace your personal shrine. If you are not especially visually oriented, you might want to create a space which is void of all images. The very simplicity of an empty wall can help clear your mind and heart of clutter and help open you into prayer.

Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir in our Salisbury chapel. Our founder loved this image of Mary, also known as Our Lady of Tenderness, and wanted it placed in all of our chapels.

You may also find it beneficial to vary the design of your personal shrine or change the images in it with each of the four seasons. Because our technological culture often separates us from a direct contact with the changes that occur in nature with each season, altering the environment of your shrine can help make your prayer more natural and in harmony with God’s creation.

And since we easily become blind to what is “always” there, the introduction of visual changes for various feasts, holidays and special occasions has the power to cleanse the eye and so open the heart. To make use of flowers or other images on holy days and special occasions will also assist in making your personal shrine a “living” place of prayer. An unchangeable prayer space can easily become a static one.

Understanding that personal tastes and needs will direct your choices in these suggestions, experiment with finding the kind of environment that can best open you to God in prayer.

from Prayers For A Planetary Pilgrim

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) outside his hermitage at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, Kentucky.

“The soul is made not for noise but for recollection, and life should be a preparation for heaven not only in meritorious works but also in peace and recollection in God. Man, however, is immersed in endless discussion; the lack of true joy he finds in noise should more than convince him that he has wandered far from his vocation.” – Charles de Foucauld

Newsletter: May 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

To be homeless means more than just being without shelter. It means to go without everything implied by the word “home.”

Imagine not having a bed to sleep in or a bathroom to use. Imagine not having a kitchen, with no refrigerator or freezer to store your food and no stove or oven to cook anything. Imagine no lights or heat or tap water whenever you need it. Imagine being exposed with no privacy, and yet at the same time feeling invisible because you’re ignored. A home provides many essential material things, that is true. But think of what it means to feel “at home,” to feel safe and secure and at peace. There we see the full value of having a place to call home—and the tragedy to be without one.

In responding to the issue of homelessness, there are two schools of thought: the “housing ready” approach says we need to take care of someone’s problems before he or she is ready for housing, while the “housing first” approach says we need to give someone a place to live before anything else can be done. Studies indicate that the latter is more effective. A person who is homeless has a better chance of dealing with other issues when he or she has a fixed address.

Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, had this in mind when she opened the Joseph House Village, a transitional housing facility for women and children, back in 1991. Her rationale:

“We need to give them time when they’re secure and can put their minds on developing themselves and not worrying about what they’re going to eat or where they’re going to sleep.”

It was this “nagging realization” that led to the Village (which later became independent and renamed the Village of Hope), and then the Joseph House Workshop, our residential program for homeless men.

Some people who experience homelessness need the services provided by facilities like the Village and Workshop. Some, but not all: the leading cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. This is a problem across the country. At the Joseph House Crisis Center, we see many people who pay anywhere from 50 to 90% of their income and wages on rent. Paying this much isn’t sustainable, of course. It initiates a chain reaction of difficulties, including the very real possibility of getting evicted.

For someone with a low income, a housing voucher from the federal government’s subsidized housing program offers hope. With a voucher, a tenant pays 30% of his or her income toward the rent and the government pays the remainder. This type of rental assistance can make a world of difference. A study from New York City, for example, found that only 1% of families who left a homeless shelter for subsidized housing were homeless again within a year (the rates of recurrence are typically much higher). Unfortunately, funding for this program is no match for the need. Waiting lists are measured in years.

Having a place to call home is the foundation for getting on with life. There are many circumstances that lead to homelessness, and even when someone does have a place to live it’s not always healthy, happy, and safe. Through our work at Joseph House, we meet people wherever they are on their journey and do what we can to help. Through your prayers and support, you are part of this effort too.

Byron, 36, became homeless after he lost his job. He lived in his car with his 15-year-old son. Sometimes they got a respite in the house of a friend or acquaintance. Byron found a new job and then an apartment that seemed affordable. Moving in, however, was going to cost $1,125! That was the total for the deposit and the first month’s rent. It’s hard to save up that amount on low wages. We contributed $325 so Byron and his son would not be homeless anymore.

Darius lived in an old house that had been subdivided into two apartments. The house caught on fire and was badly damaged. Darius lost most of his belongings. He has fused bones in his ankle, the result of an injury sustained from falling off a ladder. Finding work is difficult for him. Darius had $400 to spare to move into a new place, but it was not enough. We paid the remaining $350 to the landlord.

Zachary is 80. His housemate suffered a stroke and had to go to a nursing home. Zachary is now solely responsible for the rent, which takes 97% of his Social Security. He’s not sure what to do. With nothing to pay toward his overdue gas bill, we contributed $350 to prevent a disconnect.

Vivian, 40, cannot walk because of an undiagnosed medical condition that is causing a buildup of fluid around her spinal cord. She has no income at the moment and no family in the area. Although Vivian’s landlord is sympathetic to her situation, he said he’d have to evict her if he didn’t receive any payment for the rent. Vivian reached out to many organizations for help to no avail. Then she contacted us. We sent $300 to her landlord.

Antoinette is only 20 and trying to get settled on her own. Her father is in prison and her mother is a drug addict. Antoinette found a job cleaning houses. Her grandmother, who has subsidized housing, gave her a place to stay. This was in violation of the lease, and if it was discovered they would both get evicted. Antoinette was desperate to move, but the deposits were steep everywhere she looked. We contributed $300 so Antoinette could move and her grandmother’s housing would not be in jeopardy.

Marlon, 64, is living on a fixed income in a trailer park. The lot rent takes 50% of his monthly check. There was a bad water leak underneath his mobile home, which can easily happen when the pipes are not properly insulated. Paying off the repair bills plus the huge water bill left Marlon with nothing for his other expenses. We paid $300 toward his electric bill to prevent a cut-off.

No matter what the need is, we are here to help. Thank you for your continued support of Joseph House. We appreciate you very much!

Springtime and Mother’s Day always inspire us to celebrate the gift of life. This is a time of renewal, and even though the covid cloud is still over us, we feel in our hearts a sense of hope. We pray for the world and we pray for you, that God in His great love for you will bless you and keep you safe. And may special blessings rest gently upon all mothers, God’s co-creators who fashioned the first home for each one of us.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

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To Be Homeless

To be homeless means that you have no place to hang up your coat, or your skirt, or your tie.
There are no pegs to put them on. The size of a closet doesn’t matter anymore. Only paper bags.

To be homeless means that you can never “put out the dog”—or the cat, or go to the door and call them inside and have their dish of food ready by the frig, and pet them as they lie by your rocking chair and curl up by the fire.

To be homeless means that you can never put up the window to let fresh air inside, nor close it to keep out the cold. You just look through other people’s windows.

To be homeless (if you have children) means that you cannot take them out and then say to them, “Come on, honey. It’s time to go home.” Nor tuck them in their own beds and read them a bedtime story, and turn out the light and say prayers with them. You just survive.

To be homeless means that you have no medicine cabinet to search for an aspirin, no telephone
to use to dial your doctor, no health care plan to refer to if you end up in the hospital, no sense of dignity to sustain you when you faint and fall soundlessly on the sidewalk.

To be homeless means that you will not be among those who decide whether they will eat in the kitchen or the dining room or maybe on the patio, nor whether they will barbeque hamburgers or steak, or have cold Pepsi and potato salad and pickles, or who will do the dishes afterward and put them in the cupboard.

To be homeless means that you join the millions of refugees across our world who roam from place to place without shelter, who agonize because they must beg or depend on people who have to give to them, and often those who have are afraid that if they give, they will have to look you in the face, and that will hurt more than they can bear.

by Peggy Heiner

Miracles Happen

Charles de Foucauld (“Br. Charles”) is the spiritual father of the Little Sisters and the Joseph House. Although he is not well known to many people, Br. Charles had a deep influence on our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling. She considered him a saint, and now he is close to being one in fact.

On May 3, 2021, at a meeting at the Vatican called an Ordinary Public Consistory, the cardinals voted to proceed with the canonization of Br. Charles along with six other beatified men and women. The vote was confirmed by Pope Francis, who has mentioned Br. Charles several times in his encyclicals and public addresses.

This Consistory vote was the last formal step in the process of approving Br. Charles’ canonization. Ordinarily, a date for the actual canonization would have been set at this time, but the Pope is postponing that because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The process of canonization is typically long, and the one for Br. Charles is no exception (he died more than a century ago in 1916). Written documents need to compiled and the person’s life has to be examined in detail. The holiness of his or her life has to be determined (and it is important to note that this doesn’t mean being perfect and without flaws–saints are products of their time in history like everyone else). When someone is canonized, he or she is declared to be a model for living the Christian life. A saint’s life has “universal” teaching value: people from all walks of life can learn something and be inspired.

The final pieces of evidence need to be bona fide miracles, proof that the proposed saint is in heaven interceding for us on earth. This is also what it means to be a canonized saint: someone the faithful can turn to for prayers.

Br. Charles was beatified in 2005 (allowing him to be called “Blessed”) after an Italian woman was cured of bone cancer that was attributed to his intercession. In order to be canonized and be considered a saint, a second miracle was needed. This is the story of that miracle.

On November 30, 2016, the day before the 100th anniversary of the death of Br. Charles, a 21-year-old man (whose name is Charle, without the “s”), was working as a carpenter’s apprentice on the renovation of the Chapel of the Lycée Saint Louis, a church in Saumur, France. This chapel happens to be very close to the military school that Br. Charles attended in his youth.

Charle was working above the vault when he fell about 50 feet, landing on a wooden bench. It shattered, and he was impaled by a piece of wood that pierced his left side just below his heart and came out the back underneath his rib cage.

Amazingly, Charle stood up and began to walk. Help was called and a helicopter arrived to take Charle to the hospital, but the piece of wood passing through his body prevented him from safely entering the craft. So he had to wait for an ambulance.

Chapel of the Lycée Saint Louis, 32 Rue d’Alsace, Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France. From Google Maps.

Meanwhile, the manager of the company that Charle worked for was alerted. He contacted people at his parish to get them to start praying. His parish was newly established in 2012 and is named after Blessed Charles de Foucauld! In preparation for his feast day on December 1, parishioners had already been praying a novena for his canonization. With news of the accident, hundreds of people began to pray in earnest, asking Blessed Charles to intercede for the young man. The following morning, his mother called the manager: her son was alive, the operation to remove the piece of wood was successful, and no organs were damaged! The accident should have been fatal, but nothing is impossible for God.

Charle spent only a week in the hospital. He suffered no long-term effects and returned to work several weeks later. Despite not being a practicing Christian himself, he is very happy that his recovery was recognized to be due to Br. Charles’ intercession. The pastor of the church in Saumur remarked, “When you know the life of Charles de Foucauld, it’s astonishing to see that the miracle attributed to him concerns someone who has no Christian faith…This echoes his missionary desire to go and to evangelize those who are not in the Church.”

Pope Francis approved the authenticity of this miracle on May 27, 2020. Now a year later, the saint-making process is complete. When it is safe to celebrate publicly, our newest saint will make his entrance: St. Charles de Foucauld!

Stories like this miracle are not unique. It is comforting to know that we are not alone, that the love and prayers of the people who have gone before us, whether they are official saints or not, accompany us through life.

Banner from the Beatification in 2005.

Note: This post was originally included with our November 2020 Newsletter. It has been reposted with additional information. Learn more about Charles de Foucauld.

In Remembrance: Anne Cuomo

Anne Cuomo, one of our many wonderful volunteers, passed away on February 3, 2021, from COVID-19. She was a special friend of our community.

After earning her B.A. in Mathematics, Anne worked for 34 years in the field of computer and software management for the Department of Defense. Her husband Peter died in 1986, and when Anne retired in 1997 she moved back to her hometown of Salisbury.

She came by one day and asked Sr. Mary Elizabeth, “How can I help?” Sister loved hearing those words. Our Representative Payee Program was in need of a Director, so Anne jumped in and got completely involved. The program is for people who have difficulty in managing their household budgets. Under our supervision, a volunteer handles the checkbook for clients in the program, helping them to avoid financial hardships.

Anne and Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

Anne was perfect for the job. She was thorough and meticulous and her personal warmth put people at ease. Anne would meet with potential clients, and if the program was a good fit for them, she would make the necessary arrangements at the bank. She liked to visit clients in their homes and take them shopping so as to better understand their spending habits. That enabled her to match each client with the right volunteer. Anne oversaw a few clients herself, even helping them move when they needed safer and more affordable housing. She was a dedicated advocate with a deep concern for the welfare of other people.

Anne quickly proved herself invaluable to us, and Sr. Mary Elizabeth invited her to join the Advisory Committee for the Joseph House Workshop. Anne brought her enthusiasm and efficiency to the huge task that lay ahead. The Workshop was initially just a dream, but over the course of several years Anne was instrumental in making it a reality. Her project management skills were a tremendous blessing. In addition, she brought a willing spirit, a kind heart, and a joyful sense of humor, and this made everything easier for all of us.

Anne became Co-Director of the Workshop (along with Dave MacLeod) during the time of the second pilot program. She recruited teachers and volunteers, and to prepare for the final version of the program she helped Sr. Mary Elizabeth establish the Advisory Board, on which she later served. Anne also found a seat on the Board for the Little Sisters—her wisdom was always in demand!

Anne and Dave MacLeod in front of the Joseph House Workshop (before the renovations).
Anne at the graduation ceremony for the second pilot program with other members of the Workshop team.

Anne made countless donations to the Joseph House in many ways, never holding back in giving her time, talent, and resources. She was loving and friendly to all, enjoyed music, and sang in the church choir. Ever so humble, Anne loved a good laugh and spread her cheerfulness wherever she went. She also had a precious cat, Sophie, and they were totally suited for each other.

Anne was so dear and loved by everyone, especially Sr. Mary Elizabeth and the Little Sisters, plus all who knew her at the Joseph House. In her later years at an assisted living facility, Anne was appointed the Goodwill Ambassador to greet the new residents. Her smile and friendly nature made everyone feel welcome. We’re not alone in missing her, but our loss is Heaven’s gain. May she rest forever in the embrace of God’s love.

Anne with a few other very special people at a birthday party for Sr. Mary Elizabeth. So many memories…

We wish we could offer a fitting tribute to all of our volunteers. Each one makes a difference, each one enacts the mission of the Joseph House to “Cry the Gospel with your life!” We lift them all up to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving.

Newsletter: April 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

The extreme cold experienced in Texas and other parts of the south left millions of people shivering in the dark after the power grid failed. No lights, no heat, no water for days on end. Some people died. The deep freeze was a stark reminder of how easily life can be disrupted, how vulnerable we are, how quickly anyone can be in need of basic necessities.

As if anyone needed another reminder after a year of pandemic-living.

It can be sobering to realize that our infrastructure is not as rock-solid as we’d like to think it is. We’re used to not even thinking about it all, always assuming it will be there to take care of us. When brought face-to-face with its limitations and outright failure, some people feel helpless while others adopt a survivalist, go-it-alone mentality. But a closer look at recent events shows us where our strength and our hope can be found, and that is in the countless displays of neighbor helping neighbor, of people stepping up and reaching out, of doing what they can to help other people in need. Some may choose barricades and stockpiles, but solidarity is the real key to survival.

Our brothers and sisters in faith, that first generation of post-Resurrection believers (who knew a thing or two about living in hard times), offer us more inspiration:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (Acts 4:32,34-35)

Their faith was more than just words—it changed how they lived.

During these days of Easter and early spring, when life is full of promise, let us not forget that the poor always face the dangers of want and deprivation. Even when the weather is good there are mothers with hungry children, disabled people living in darkened homes, and families out in the cold. No one should have to face his or her trials alone. Your support of the Joseph House helps to strengthen the bonds of community, and through these bonds we find solutions to our problems.

Heather, 39, is starting life over after four years of an abusive marriage. She left with her young daughter, and with no money and nowhere to go, Heather’s car became their home. We paid $350 to a landlord so this mother and child could move into an apartment. Heather is looking for work. Having a place to sleep and to get ready for the day will help.

Roberto is healing from the amputation of three of his toes. He receives only $264 per month in temporary state assistance. He was homeless, and his social worker was trying to find him an affordable place to live. She called us to see if we could place him in a motel for a few days. We paid $204 for five nights.

Abigail, 62, was also homeless and sleeping behind a laundromat. She had been staying with a family member, but then something happened and Abigail had to leave. She didn’t want to talk about it. We paid for a motel, and after Abigail got settled and took a hot shower (which made her very happy), we dropped off groceries and a take-out meal from a restaurant.

Her initial three-night stay at the motel eventually became almost two weeks, but Abigail was busy the whole time trying to find an affordable rental or a shelter opening. She was also waiting for her SSI check. More groceries were delivered and then Abigail finally found a bed in a shelter. The motel bill we paid was $380.

Steven, 71, worked as a forklift operator for 25 years, but then he got laid off. He cannot find another job at his age. The opportunity came to move into an apartment where the rent is income-based. This would help Steven from becoming homeless. He could not move in, however, until he got the utilities turned on, and for that he needed to pay an old gas bill. We contributed $300.

Tricia, 29, was working at a chicken plant until she became sick with COVID-19. She subsequently developed a severe case of vertigo. Tricia has been falling behind in her rent, and although she cannot be evicted because it’s pandemic-related, she will need to make up the missed payments. We contributed $350 toward the back rent.

Dominique, 27, and her daughter had no heat in their home, a trailer that has seen better days. With a job at a convenience store, Dominique is a frontline worker during the pandemic, but yet she could not afford to buy kerosene for her trailer’s furnace. We paid $313 to get the tank filled.

Solidarity puts compassion into action—the true test of our beliefs.

Our founder said only caring communities can really help people in the long run. And communities, of course, are made up of individuals, each one priceless and unique and with a gift to share. Thank you for being a member of our community of donors and prayerful supporters. We treasure each and every one of you, and wish you have a happy and blessed Easter season.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

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