Newsletter: September 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

“We’re all in this together.”

We’ve heard this over and over again during these past few months. And it’s true: we are not alone in dealing with the pain, hardship, and anxiety that this year has brought.

The normal course of our lives has been disrupted, not only by the pandemic and its fallout but also by civil unrest across our land. Things are not the same. But in feeling tossed about, what comes to mind is the image of Noah’s Ark, a powerful symbol of being in the same boat together while the familiar world disappears. Perhaps this story has something to say to us.

The story of Noah is a creation story, or rather, a re-creation story. The old is washed away and Noah, his family, and the animals are taken to someplace new. We should make note of what God said to Noah before the rain began: “Of all living creatures you shall bring two of every kind into the ark” (Gen 6:19). God didn’t tell Noah to bring only the creatures he liked, but all of them, because diversity is needed for life to continue. Here we can see how the ark prefigures the Body of Christ, referenced in our August Newsletter.

Noah did his part and listened to God and prepared for the flood, but then it became a matter of trust. Scripture scholars say the ark has a linguistic connection with the floating basket in which the baby Moses was placed: set adrift with no rudder or sail, the ark likewise was a surrender into the hands of God. After the rains, Noah released a dove. The first time it came back with nothing, but then it brought back an olive leaf. With the ark surrounded by water, can you imagine the excitement and relief of everyone on board?

We, too, must be looking for signs of hope. For us today, it’s been raining, so to speak, for more than 40 days and 40 nights—and it’s still coming down. But in this storm we are going through, our compassion and care for each other creates an ark of safety. It’s up to us to keep this vessel strong and secure. Life goes on, and one day (hopefully soon) our deliverance will come.

When the flood receded, Noah had the chance to make a fresh start. So will we, to some degree at least. What will we leave behind? What will we embrace? The decisions we make define us.

We’re all in this together, but not everyone is having the same experience or facing the same consequences. The losses are not equal. Some people are paying a higher price than others.

Our mission at the Joseph House is to assist the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. We, and they, are grateful that you share the same concern. Although our Soup Kitchen at the Joseph House Crisis Center remains closed, the Food Pantry, Hospitality Room, and Financial Assistance program are very much active, as is the Joseph House Workshop, our residential program for homeless men.

Corey and Laurie, both in their late thirties, have an infant daughter. Corey was laid off from his job as a construction laborer because of COVID-19. His car, a 1997 model, broke down and he used his savings to get it fixed. It broke down again, and with no money to get it repaired, it was towed away. Corey and his family became homeless, and with the last of their money they moved into a motel. When their funds ran out they contacted the Joseph House. Corey had some promising news: he found a new job but his first paycheck was a week away. We paid for another week at the motel ($350) and gave them plenty of food that they could cook in a microwave. We also gave them a supply of diapers for their daughter.

Juanita, 27, has a young son. She lost her job at a chicken processing plant when production was halted because of the pandemic. She and her son live in a tiny matchbox of a house. Juanita is very hardworking and readily agreed to meet with our excellent job counselor. She is not used to asking for help. We committed $300 to her overdue electric bill.

Janine, 30, and her husband also work at a chicken plant. Hours at the plant were reduced, and Janine’s husband was laid off. They have five children. This family is struggling, but Janine has come a long way through many difficulties. Her composure is edifying. We paid $197 to keep the electricity on in her family’s home.

Suzanne, 36, is married and has three children. Her husband was diagnosed with COVID-19 and is out of work. This family is receiving temporary state benefits of $600 per month. They are behind in all of their bills and the water was shut off. Their old car is ready to fall apart. We paid $422 to get the water back on. Suzanne said her husband is recovering and feels he should be ready to start working again soon.

Carrie, 34, started her own child-care business shortly before the pandemic shut everything down. She has a lot of positive energy and was excited about being self-employed. She is still hopeful about the future, but with two children of her own and no income, she had to ask for help. Carrie used her stimulus check to pay for the rent. She applied for Food Stamps for the first time in her life, and came to the Joseph House about her electric bill. We called the utility company and learned that a payment of $250 was required to get Carrie’s account placed on a budget plan. So we paid that amount.

Fred is 60, and when he came to the Joseph House at the end of July he was still waiting for his stimulus check. It would be a big help. Fred is disabled (a car hit him while he was riding his bicycle) and back pain is part of his daily life. With his bike-riding days over, Fred spent what little money he had to get his aging car working again. He was hoping to use his stimulus check to pay his other bills, but so far it hasn’t materialized. Fred has spent many hours on the phone trying to find out what happened. He’s been told it was deposited in his checking account, but he showed us his bank statements and there’s no evidence of it. We could feel his frustration. In the meantime, the gas was scheduled to be turned off in his home because of a past-due bill. We sent $304 to prevent that from happening.

It’s the water that gets inside the boat that sinks it, not the ocean around it. Keep in mind that God, the source of all hope, makes this journey with us: “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Mt 8:26). Our place of encounter with God is in the present moment. Returning there can help calm our worries. We must do what we can do, and then leave to God what only God can do.

Let us continue to support each other through our prayers and good example. May God bless all who are patiently working, praying, and sacrificing for the sake of others. May God’s mercy be with all who are suffering, and all who have passed on. As always, we are so grateful for you.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


We are praying for healing and justice around the world. Please send us your special prayer intentions: Contact Form

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Newsletter: August 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

According to an article we read, a historian has postulated that periods of civil unrest in our country follow a 50-year cycle. That’s about how long it takes for society’s unresolved issues to reach a boiling point. The last time our nation saw widespread protests and demonstrations—some peaceful, some not—was during the late 1960s and early ’70s. That makes what’s happening now in 2020 right on schedule.

We don’t know if this theory is true or not, but we were thinking about what happened 50 years ago for another reason. In 1968, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sparked protests in cities across the country, including Baltimore. These protests unfortunately led to arson, looting, and confrontations between crowds of people and the police. The National Guard had to be summoned. At the time, the Joseph House was headquartered in Baltimore on McCulloh Street, only a few blocks from where buildings were being burned to the ground. Our founder and other staff members were on the front lines of these frightening events. They assisted 500 families that were directly impacted by the violence.

Our founder wasn’t known as Sr. Mary Elizabeth back then—she was simply Mae Gintling. At the height of the riots, she received a telegram from Governor Spiro Agnew requesting her presence at a meeting to discuss the crisis. More than 100 people attended: legislators, city council members, judges, ministers, and civic leaders. Reporting on the meeting, The Baltimore Sun noted that Mae was one of only a handful of white people present.

The meeting did not go well. Many of the participants walked out because they felt the Governor did not understand the frustration and despair of the African American community. Mae decided to stay and was given an opportunity to address the Governor. The article in the Sun closed with her words: “You’re listening, but you’re not hearing.”

Fifty-two years later, this is a message for all of us to consider. Ironically, listening is a lost art in our media-saturated world, but it’s essential to creating a just and peaceful society. There are voices that have been suppressed, stories that haven’t been told. Do we hear them? Are we so sure of ourselves that we can’t find room for them in our hearts and minds?

Our founder can guide us in another way. She had a strong attraction to the Mystical Body of Christ, which St. Paul expounded on in his epistles:

There are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”. . . But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

(1 Corinthians, chapter 12)

For Sr. Mary Elizabeth, this awareness never failed to show her the right thing to do. It can also help us as we move forward. It tells us the truth, that our nation can be a “more perfect union,” one with “liberty and justice for all.”

Will you permit us one more item about our founder? This year marks the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Joseph House Workshop, our program that helps homeless men advance toward gainful employment and healthy new lives. It was the final program that came into being through the vision and leadership of Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

To celebrate the anniversary, three of the current residents of the Workshop wrote letters of appreciation addressed to Sister. Although they never met her, the men nonetheless are reaping the benefits of her lifetime of service:

“Dear Sr. Mary Elizabeth, My name is Andrew, a resident at the Joseph House Workshop. I am very grateful for all that you have done. The program has given me my life back. I owe everything to this program, from my relationship with Christ, family, and learning what it means to love and serve others. Thank you with all my heart.”

“Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, I first want to thank God for your love of wanting to help those who are less fortunate than others. What a blessing you are. I thank you for the Joseph House—it was not only a blessing for me, it saved my life in so many ways. Words cannot express my thank you. But now I know you are in God’s loving arms, grace, and hope for all you did while here. Thank you. – Thomas”

“The Joseph House Workshop has been one of the best decisions I have made in my whole 55 years in life. It was an experience that I grew closer to God like I have never been before. A group of guys trying to do the right thing and also accepting God in our lives. It has not been easy or hard, just trying to follow God’s will. Thank you Sis Mary Elizabeth for a place that made me a man fit for society. Love you for giving me a chance. Amen. – Maurice”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth and Ron Alessi, general contractor, with the floor plan of the Workshop. Photo ca. 2004.

Can you get a sense of how valuable the Workshop is? Of how life-changing the program can be for the residents? Your support makes it all possible. You also give us the means to continue our work at the Joseph House Crisis Center. Families facing the threat of destitution or the pain of hunger receive the assistance they need. By joining together, we make a difference.

Carole, 61, and her husband have lived in a run-down RV for twenty years. The roof leaks, and that is the only running water they have. Carole buys water for all their needs, including the bathroom. Dish water is used for the toilet. Her husband, suffering from cancer, can occasionally do odd jobs such as cutting lawns. Carole and her husband were behind in their electric bill and received a cut-off notice. They Joseph House sent $300 to the utility company. Carole said she was denied assistance at another agency because of her “assets.”

Dora, 73, is a widow and lives alone. She would like to get dentures, but she can’t afford them. Her house needs plumbing work, but she can’t afford that either. The past-due mortgage payments were her most pressing concern: Dora was afraid she was going to lose her home of thirty years. We mailed $400 to the bank on her behalf. We are also trying to help with the dentures.

Rachelle, 48, lives with her young adult son. He was in a serious car accident and will not be able to work for an extended period of time. Rachelle is grateful that he is alive, but she is worried about the loss of his income. She doesn’t earn enough by herself to pay for all their basic necessities. Rachelle and her son have lived in their apartment for fifteen years. Now without warning, their housing was in jeopardy. We were happy that we could give $250 for the rent.

With each passing day, we take our place in history. Let LOVE be our response to the challenges of our time, love in our actions and in our words. “There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians, chapter 13)

Thank you for your continued support of our ministry. We hold you close to our hearts in prayer. May God bless you and keep you healthy and safe.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

“In order to listen, it is necessary to keep quiet. I do not mean merely a sort of constraint to be physically silent and not to interrupt what someone else is saying, but rather an interior silence; in other words, a silence that not only is directed toward receiving the other person’s words but also reflects a heart overflowing with a humble love, capable of full attention, friendly welcome and voluntary self-denial, and strong with the awareness of our poverty.

“The silence of listening is a form of attention, a gift of self to the other, and a mark of moral generosity. It should manifest an awareness of our humility so as to agree to receive from another person a gift that God is giving us. For the other person is always a treasure and a precious gift that God offers to help us grow in humility, humanity, and nobility.

“I think that the most defective human relationship is precisely one in which the silence of attention is absent.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Newsletter: July 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

The stay-at-home orders we’ve experienced may have brought a renewed emphasis on your home life and its attendant joys—and tensions. Surprisingly enough, helpful guidance can be found in the tradition of monastic spirituality, which might sound otherworldly but is actually very practical and down to earth. After all, monks have spent a long time learning how to live and work together in a way that is peaceful and harmonious.

Here’s one example. During his first week-long visit to an abbey, Wil Derkse, a lay Benedictine oblate, learned the importance of “simple but effective care for little things in your environment.” In his book, The Rule of Benedict for Beginners, he shares this anecdote about one of the monks, Father Schretlen:

“One of his functions was the care of the flowers in the chapel and elsewhere in the monastery. He was often seen paying attention to aspects of this task: removing a few wilted leaves, cleaning up some fallen leaves of trees, rearranging a bouquet, replacing a candle, straightening out a few chairs. This was not at all an obsession or a sign of obsessive-compulsive neurosis. Father Schretlen simply was careful in noting little things in his area which needed a bit of attention.

“Since I try to keep my own (strongly modified) version of a daily order which I have copied from the abbey, my daily scheme also contains an FSE, that means the ‘Father Schretlen effect.’ That simply means that every day I at least keep in mind how I might follow his example, at home, at work, and wherever I am: replacing a broken light bulb, filling the water containers of the radiators, turning off the reading light when I leave the train compartment. I know that this hardly represents anything, yet I am ashamed at nighttime when I notice that I did not mark off my FSE.”

Outside the monastery, Catherine Doherty, founder of the Madonna House lay apostolate, also extolled the virtues of a household in wholesome order:

“Have we experienced the utter joy of scrubbing a floor? Do we know how to make it a prayer, a song of love and gladness? Have we recited the litany of dusting and sweeping whose goal is a home bedecked with cleanliness? Or are these humble tasks irritatingly monotonous to us? Have we experienced the creativeness in cooking a meal or making a loaf of bread to eat? Do we understand the sublimity of service—humble, daily, constantly repeated? . . . The desire to straighten things up, not to leave a mess behind—these are tokens of love. When the house is in order, it’s at peace, and charity blossoms in that order (Nazareth Family Spirituality).”

This attitude of applying careful attention to things has roots in the Rule of St. Benedict, in a directive addressed to the cellarer of the monastery (the facilities manager), but which is applicable to everyone: “Let him regard all the utensils of the monastery and its whole property as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.”

Taken to heart, this will transform how we live. A spirit of reverence is not just for Church on Sundays: daily life is also the abode of God. The spaces we live in, the common, ordinary things we use, the hours that make up our days . . . grace can be hidden anywhere. A reverential touch is never out of place.

As St. Teresa of Avila told the nuns in her convent, “Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.”

There’s another step to take: can we regard other people as bearers of the divine image, temples of the Holy Spirit, and heirs to the kingdom of heaven? Not “as if” they are, but in truth?

Lining up our behavior with our beliefs is the key to integrity. Actions speak louder than words, and through our work at the Joseph House we let people know about their dignity.

Your support gives life to this mission. Thank you for your fidelity.

This is a dangerous time for people working to provide essential goods and services for the rest of us! Maribeth, 38, and her husband both worked at a chicken plant. He contracted COVID-19 and died from it. Maribeth is on temporary leave from her job. She has two children, ages 5 and 2, and doesn’t know what to do regarding child care when she goes back to work. She and her husband had taken different shifts so someone was always home. We helped Maribeth with $250 for her electric bill. Her electricity won’t be cut off—for now—but overdue bills will have to be paid.

Ivy, 27, has two young children. There were outbreaks of COVID-19 at the chicken plant where she worked, so Ivy quit her job—she was afraid of spreading the disease to her children. Ivy is worried that she will lose the used car she recently purchased. Her stimulus check helped but it didn’t last long. We paid $300 toward her electric bill.

Shelley, 20, lives with her parents and four younger siblings. She works at a restaurant that started doing only carry-out because of COVID-19, so her hours were cut to part-time. Her father does yard work, but people have been hesitant to hire him. With their income drying up, this family was in a financial squeeze. We paid $300 toward their back rent and supplied an abundance of food.

Judith, 84, came to see us on behalf of her 60-year-old brother, who was being discharged from a long-term care facility. The electricity in his home had been turned off because of unpaid bills. His health is not good and Judith is concerned about him. We contributed $350 to get the power back on.


On May 27 the Vatican advanced the cause of Charles de Foucauld for canonization. The spiritual father of the Joseph House and the Little Sisters is going to be an official saint! We hope more people will be inspired by Br. Charles: the example of his life has many points of relevance to our times.

We pray that our bonds of sister- and brotherhood may prevail to bring an end to racism, hatred, and violence. Creating a truly just society, one that fosters peace in our communities, requires determination and our best efforts. This is soul-searching work. May God be with us all.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


The Joseph House depends on free-will offerings. Learn how you can help: Donate.

Please send us your prayer requests and we will lift them up to the Lord: Contact Form.


“I have not forgotten you and the people that you serve…Please take care of yourselves and stay well.”

“I have just received one of those stimulus checks that are being distributed to help people cope with the coronavirus shutdown…I would like to donate my check to the Joseph House so that those that really need help will benefit.”

“God has really blessed us with such good friends. They buy us groceries and make us homemade food all the time! We, therefore, need to be generous to others.”

“We are in difficult times with the COVID-19, it has also come with a renewed spiritual strength in God for our precious lives and hope.”

“Today I pondered about the lives of my and my husband’s parents. They too went through uncertainty…the Depression, wars. My grandmother gave birth to an uncle during the 1918 flu. She survived as no nurse on the floor would let the baby die…I am so blessed that I am making this donation to ‘their memories.’ They survived and we will too!”

“Dad contributed small amounts to many charities, and was sympathetic to the needs and hurts of many who were unfortunate, whether by birth or circumstance. But he always had a special draw to your work…It is an ethic that has been handed down to me and which I faithfully undertake.”

“I can sympathize with your efforts to help those in need. As I child I was raised in a Children’s Home after my father died at a young age…My expenses have fallen having to stay home so I’m using the enclosed funds to help Joseph House during these very trying times.”

“The world has certainly changed in the last few weeks and we realize that the church collections and donations that you rely on may been impacted by our current pandemic ‘shelter in place’ recommendations. Please accept the enclosed donation to use in your social ministry to help the underserved and vulnerable.”

We appreciate your letters very much. Every show of support and word of encouragement means a great deal to us, especially now when the struggles people are facing have been turned up a notch. You help us to believe that positive change is possible for our world—and is in fact occurring.

A Good Book about a New Saint

By definition, a desert is an empty, arid wasteland. Some would say there is nothing to see. But the desert also brings clarity of vision, and with this clarity Charles de Foucauld saw deep into the mystery of Jesus.

In her book, Hidden in God: Discovering the Desert Vision of Charles de Foucauld, Bonnie Thurston describes the contours of this vision in way that will be meaningful to the spiritual journey of a wide variety of readers.

This vision has a geography: the heart of the book is a discussion of the three locations Foucauld understood to be central in the life of Jesus, namely, Nazareth, the desert, and public ministry. Thurston shows how these locations can serve as metaphors for aspects of the spiritual life. Indicative of spiritual realities, each location has its own graces and dangers, which Thurston illustrates with examples from the Bible and the life of Foucauld.

Thurston then helps the reader see how these locations can be a source of personal insight since they are places everyone will experience in one form or another. The modern seeker may never travel through an actual desert, for example, but may be intimately familiar with the harsh terrain of an internal desert existence. Using the journey and writings of Foucauld, Thurston guides the reader in connecting the concrete realities of life to the imitation of Christ.

The final chapter of the book is a consideration of the cross. As Foucauld knew, that is where everyone who follows Jesus will be led. No matter where we are, everyone has a cross to take up.

Thurston has lived with the mystery of Foucauld’s life for a long time. It has been so long she admits she can’t remember her first introduction to him.

Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) is considered to be an influential person in Church history, yet likely unknown to many people today. Thurston covers his life story to give context for his spiritual development. In some ways, it is a common story: Foucauld lost his faith as a young man, but after finding inspiration in an unexpected place he began a process of conversion that drew him to God. What is uncommon about his story is how his conversion was truly the beginning of a new way of life, both inside and out. Born into a life of privileged French nobility, Foucauld ended his earthly journey deep in the Sahara Desert, a poor hermit totally abandoned to the Will of God, his heart open to everyone as a “universal brother.”

As Thurston notes in the Introduction, her book can be used as a self-directed retreat, if one so chooses. Each chapter closes with questions to ponder and Scripture passages for further reflection. The book lends itself to meditative reading. The reader will probably want to pause and reflect even before reaching the end-of-chapter questions.

Foucauld remained a man of his time, and yet he also transcended his time in a way that was prophetic. He is “one of those seekers who periodically manage to reinvent the imitation of Christ” (Ellsberg). Hidden in God is a map for exploring how Foucauld speaks to us today. His life seems far removed from ours, but Thurston reveals how he is relevant and can teach us.

On May 27, 2020, the Vatican advanced the cause of Charles de Foucauld for canonization. He will be an official saint and hopefully become more widely known. For anyone looking for an introduction to Focauld, Thurston provides an excellent starting point. Even those who are familiar with Foucauld will find valuable insights into what moved the soul of this saintly man.

This book is also a helpful resource for the reader’s further study of Foucauld. Thurston includes ample endnotes and a list of additional books that may be of interest.

Foucauld never fulfilled his dream of starting a new religious community based on the life of Nazareth. His life planted a seed, however, and like the grain of wheat that must die to bear fruit (John 12:24), he has inspired the formation of communities and fraternities around the world in the years following his death. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, was greatly influenced by Foucauld, and his spirituality runs deep through our life and the ministry of the Joseph House. We are happy to recommend Bonnie Thurston’s book about our beloved Brother Charles.

Endorsements:
“The is spiritual reading at its best.”Lawrence S. Cunningham, University of Notre Dame

“Thurston offers fresh and honest insights into the spirituality of Blessed Charles…even for a longtime member of the spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld.”Rev. Jerry Ragan, National Responsible of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests

“I felt as if I was on a retreat with Blessed Charles as I journeyed with him through Jesus’ hidden years, desert life, and public ministry.”Dana Greene, author of Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life

Publishing Details:
Hidden in God: Discovering the Desert Vision of Charles de Foucauld
Ave Maria Press (2016), 141 pages

Bonnie Thurston is an ordained minister, New Testament scholar, author, poet, and teacher. She is a founding member and past president of the International Thomas Merton Society.

Works Cited:
Robert Ellsberg, “Who was Charles de Foucauld?” America: The Jesuit Review, 14 November 2005.

Available online, this article is a concise and informative overview of Foucauld’s life: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2005/11/14/who-was-charles-de-foucauld

Newsletter: June 2020

Important Note: This Newsletter was written long before protests and riots swept across our country following the killing of Mr. George Floyd. All of us need to be fearless in confronting every instance of racial hatred—whether in our hearts or in society—and use peaceful means to create a world that reflects our highest ideals of equality. We stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters, and all people who struggle against the injustice of racism and prejudice. Our guiding principle remains: “Cry the Gospel with your life!”


Dear Friends of Joseph House:

As we approach the midpoint of this disquieting year, it is comforting to see nature carrying on as usual. Our lives may have changed, but the trees are green once again and it looks and feels like summer is on its way. New life is sprouting, blooming, and growing, just like it does every June, a month always filled with promise.

It’s a growing season for us, too, although probably not in the way we expected or ever wanted. There’s a curious phrase from Meister Eckhart, a German mystic from the Middle Ages, that comes to mind. He said, “We grow by subtraction,” which seems paradoxical, but recent events may help us to see it in a new light.

Sometimes we grow by getting bigger, by adding on, by achieving more…and sometimes we grow by cutting and removing and letting things recede. Sometimes we have to let go.

This pandemic is forcing us to let go of many things: our plans and expectations, our sense of security, and perhaps even our health and livelihood. Times we spent with other people are now spent alone. We are being confronted with new limits in our lives. It’s easy to feel confined and powerless.

In other words, we are experiencing different forms of poverty, and as the poor will tell us, poverty is the seedbed of true hope.

When, like the poor, our days are shaded by uncertainty, when the mirage of our self-sufficiency is dispersed, then hope has a chance to take root in our spirit. “Hard times” are its ideal growing conditions. Maybe by letting go and creating an empty space in our lives, we are giving hope a chance to flourish. Maybe we are clearing a path for new possibilities.

Our work at the Joseph House has made one facet of hope crystal clear to us: it has a relational quality. Hope spreads through compassion and solidarity. What restores the hope of a mother who has nothing to give her hungry children? Is it not the kindness of people who share food with her? By looking out for each other, we keep hope alive and well. We make it believable.

Thank you for your continued support of our ministry. During this time of widespread need, we are grateful that you remember the Joseph House. Your donations and prayers give us the means to serve the vulnerable members of our community. Although our Soup Kitchen is still closed at the Crisis Center, our Food Pantry, Hospitality Room for the Homeless, and Financial Assistance program are all active. The Joseph House Workshop is also in operation 24/7, preparing homeless men to reach their potential in life.

Life is a hardship for many people right now. By pulling together and drawing on the wellspring of God’s grace, we can do something to make the situation better. We can each do our part. If you are personally going through a rough time, please hang in there! You are not alone.

Pamela was in a tight spot even before COVID-19 hit. To support her family she was driving a cab, but that was too dangerous. Her next job at a fast-food place did not pay enough to meet her basic expenses. Pamela found a better job in Ocean City, but then everything was shut down because of the virus. We paid $220 toward Pamela’s rent to help secure her housing.

Reuben, 69, lives alone and is often sick. His past-due electric bill overwhelmed his limited income. The Joseph House helped with $225.

Christen, 40, has two children and lives on a small monthly disability check. She did not have the money for her water bill, so we paid it ($149).

Madeline, 38, has three children and lost her job as a waitress because of the shutdown. She had no heat in her home, and drove an hour to our Crisis Center because there was no place to go for help. We paid for heating oil ($180) and gave her a voucher for 12 gallons of gasoline.

Phyllis, 23, and her three young children have been homeless for two years. They have stayed in shelters and the homes of various friends. Her minivan has often been her only refuge. Phyllis finally found a subsidized apartment, but in order to move in she needed to pay her old electric bill. We contacted the utility company and paid $250.

Harry and his wife were both out of work, but then Harry got a job at a poultry house. They and their two sons were living in a motel until it closed because of the coronavirus. Harry came to the Joseph House because he hadn’t received his first paycheck yet and didn’t know where to go. We found a motel that was still open and paid for a week for this homeless family ($280). We also gave them groceries.

Irma, is a 65-year-old widow. She has been cleaning bathrooms to supplement her Social Security. Irma was hoping to find more work in Ocean City, but those plans are on hold. To add to her troubles, Social Security told her they had overpaid her and will be reducing the amount of her check. We helped Irma with $250 for her rent.


Please pray for Sr. Patricia Lennon, who fell and broke her arm. She was walking back from the chapel at our residence in Princess Anne, MD when she lost her balance. Sr. Pat is dedicated to prayer, and now she could use one from all of us.

As you know, this is really a time of deep prayer for the whole world. We pray for everyone who is fearful, for the sick and suffering, for those who have died, and for all the people who are making a sacrifice for the good of others. May we be delivered soon from the scourge of this virus. And may God, the source of all hope, who is with us every step of this journey, shelter you from harm and keep your heart in peace.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

COVID-19 has far-reaching consequences that will be with us for a while. “Hope Practices,” healthy habits that will serve us in the long run, can help us cope. We found some good ideas from Richard Hendrick, a Franciscan friar in Ireland. Here are a few:

Look at the sky; to do so draws you up and out of your thoughts.

Live seasonally; enter fully the joy and the beauty of each one as it arises and then do not cling to them as they bid you farewell.

Living plants are better than cut flowers, but always try and have a little of nature near you.

Plant seeds. Grow a garden, and, if possible eat from it. It will teach you your dependence on the earth for bodily sustenance.

Sing, hum, whistle; let music be part of you, especially the music that arises unbidden and seems to come from deep within.

Spend time with the very young and the very old, both will help you be yourself again.

Speak less. Listen more. Pause before you post anything online.

Be polite and thankful towards those who have the job of serving you—waiting staff, shop assistants, cleaners—and remember that everyone you meet has a story at least as complicated as yours.

Bend, stretch, move, dance; do not become confined in or separated from your body, honor it with respect and kindness. Tell it you love it until you do. Rest.

Draw, paint, doodle, play with color and shapes, and as you do so watch what emerges. Do not characterize it as good or bad.

Compare yourself with no one. There is no universal map for a human life, but there is a universal destiny: to become love.

Watch the dawn and the dusk often, both are great teachers in their own way.

Seek truth always. Be open to the fact that you could always be wrong.

Teach yourself the value of unstimulated solitude.

Let your eyes rest on books more than screens. Read the older stories. If they are still with us it is because they have much to teach us still.

Finally, before all else and above all else: act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.

Newsletter: May 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Even after a couple of weeks we are still not used to this new way of living.

We are writing this Newsletter in the middle of April, a critical time for the spread of COVID-19. From morning till night we are on guard against an invisible enemy, a virus that will not leave anyone unscathed, whether or not we get infected.

We keep a watchful eye on soap and disinfectants, always mindful of how physically close we are to another person. It’s a balancing act. We must take care of ourselves so we can care for the people God sends to us at the Joseph House.

Our ministry continues, despite some substantial modifications to how we normally conduct it. At the Joseph House Crisis Center, we closed our Soup Kitchen in March because we don’t have the space to allow patrons to practice social distancing. The dining room is empty, the kitchen is quiet— the sight creates a sense of loss, although we know the situation is temporary. It’s quieter in general at the Crisis Center. Many of our volunteers have made the wise decision to take a break because of age or other circumstances.

The Hospitality Room, our outreach to men and women who are homeless, is still active. We strictly limit the number of people who occupy the room at a given time. Our visitors have been very understanding and cooperative. Thankfully, we can provide them with a place to receive food, wash up, and get some clean clothes. Some of the churches and organizations that provide meals for the Soup Kitchen are now giving us bagged lunches so our visitors have something to take with them.

Our Food Pantry is open, too. People in need present their information at the front door of the Crisis Center and then go around to a side door to pick up their bags of groceries. We are also doing Financial Assistance for emergencies. This is being done with social distancing measures in place.

The Joseph House Workshop is near full capacity: we have eight residents and another man is planning to enter the program soon. All are staying healthy. The Workshop helps homeless men develop life skills needed for employment and independent living. COVID-19 is keeping our teachers away so classes have been suspended temporarily. A few of the residents are in the employment phase of the program and their jobs are continuing. One of the residents is working in environmental services at the local hospital. Two other residents have been hired there as well, but we don’t know yet in which department they’ll be working.

During these weeks of “staying at home,” the residents occupy their time with in-house meetings, group discussions, and recreational activities such as playing various games and watching television. They are keeping the building clean and in good order and recently finished a major painting project. A fresh coat of paint does wonders and we are proud of the work they did (visit our website for photos).

At both the Crisis Center and the Workshop, we are operating with a skeleton crew of staff members and volunteers. They are doing an outstanding job. We treasure them. Their dedication will never be forgotten.

The overriding mission of the Joseph House is to “Cry the Gospel with your life!” We often view that in terms of providing charitable service to people in need. But the Gospel has many other aspects that we are called to enact in our lives. We are called to be witnesses to our faith, to be people of prayer, trusting in God’s never-failing providence. In recent weeks we have felt close to Mary, who pondered the events of life in her heart, and who kept the faith during the silence of Holy Saturday when her Son lay in the tomb. The busyness of life can drown out the whispers of the heart. Now we have more time to listen.

Our collective pilgrimage into the unknown is a time of trial. It may not seem like it at the moment, but going through a crisis is a time of learning and developing new strengths. We can all agree that we have taken so many things for granted (to begin with, we miss hugs and just going to the grocery store without a second thought). We are re-learning what our priorities are and what is most important in life.

We are also being reminded of how much we depend on one another. This is especially true when we consider all the people who work at jobs considered essential during this pandemic. Where would we be without retail workers who make sure we have food and other necessary items? And doctors, nurses and health care workers! There is a long list of people who are making sacrifices to preserve our lives. Ordinary people, rising to the challenge of extraordinary circumstances, doing nothing less than safeguarding our civilization.

May 1st is a special day for us, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. In his document on our patron saint, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the family of Nazareth.” That’s what we see all around us: daily expressions of love.

Waiting is a sign of hope, and every day that passes we are growing stronger in that virtue (and to live in virtue means “to be set right within”). Grave concerns loom large for everyone, like heavy clouds that won’t go away. The health and safety of so many people. The dire economic impact of layoffs and shutdowns. Who can fathom it all? When the world seems out of control, it’s helpful to focus on the things we can control. Little things that spread hope and joy make a big difference, in the same way a single candle shines brightly in a pitch black room.

Our ministry is a saving grace: we can do something for someone else. Erica, 45, left her abusive husband just before the pandemic started. She is struggling to provide for herself and her son. Her job pays about $1,100 per month. Erica has many serious financial woes. We paid $400 toward her rent so she would at least have a place to live….Jolene and her two children were living in a car. She found a place to live but could not move in until she got the electric in her name, and that required paying off an old bill. We paid the $200 that was due. There are many more people having their own crisis in the midst of what’s happening in the world. Thank you for helping us to help them.

Viruses don’t respect boundaries. They don’t care about wealth, religion, race, politics or any of the ways we separate people. We must take care of everyone for each one of us to survive—that is a lesson from these times to be burned in our memory.

There’s a long road ahead. Being connected to people—though physically separated—makes the journey easier. Please visit our website for our latest news: thejosephhouse.org. And thank you for being part of the Joseph House family. You always have an honored place in our hearts. May our loving God, who holds the whole world in His hands, look with mercy and kindness on the needs of His children everywhere.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


During this stressful time, please send us your special intentions so we can remember them in our prayers: Contact Form.

If you would like to support our work, you can learn how here: Donate.


On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic crashed into an iceberg and four hours later sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. Survivors spoke of a woman who left the relative safety of the upper decks to return to her cabin. She hurried along the corridors already tilting at a dangerous angle. She crossed the gambling room where money and costly gems littered the floor. Reaching her stateroom she saw her own treasures waiting to be picked up. But she paid no heed to them. Instead she took as many oranges as she could hold and hurried back to the life boats.

An hour earlier it would have seemed incredible to her that she could have preferred oranges to her own diamonds, but Death boarded the Titanic and all values were transformed. Precious things became worthless, and common things became precious. Oranges became more important than diamonds.

Today the coronavirus has boarded our spaceship, and toilet paper has become more important than stocks and bonds. But what is really important?

Fr. Stephen Verbest, OCSO
New Melleray Abbey

A United Family

From its beginning more than 50 years ago, the Joseph House has relied on volunteers in its mission to serve people in need. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, believed that just as important as helping people, was giving to others the opportunity to get personally involved in providing that help.

April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, and to mark the occasion we’d like to say: We love our volunteers! Over the years so many people have shared their gifts and brought the aspirations of the Joseph House to life. Each volunteer has enriched the Joseph House and been part of its story, making their own unique and special contributions. The current situation with the coronavirus is a new chapter, but the story continues and we are grateful for everyone helping to write it.

We look forward to the day when our full complement is able to safely return to service, once stay-at-home orders are behind us. Until then we remain a united family, devoted to loving our neighbors.

To all of our volunteers, those with us and those of happy memory, we lift you up in a joyful prayer of thanksgiving. May God bless you!

“We do not have professional staff workers, we just have people who love people, people who love people who are disadvantaged and who want to do everything they can, and as well as they can, to bring these people to a point at which they can live and love in peace.” – Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling. The quotes that follow are from her, too.

“Without you, we would close up. We depend on you to do the one thing that is most important in volunteer service—to be available.”

“Whenever I get the least bit discouraged about the state of the world I only have to think of our volunteers and I am filled with hope. Joseph House could not exist without our volunteers. It’s that simple. The entire Joseph House organization runs almost exclusively on volunteers. That’s the way it’s always been. People need the opportunity to give back to the community and to help their fellow man.”

“We have some of the most extraordinary, gifted, and dedicated people I have ever met. They give me a concrete example of the love God has for the poor, because He sends the most wonderful people to help them.”

“We need people who can look beyond their own lives and open their hearts to those who are struggling with a burden. The problems of poverty cannot be solved overnight. Caring for the poor requires vision and patience. We need to walk with them toward a solution, even if they can move only an inch at a time. We depend on people who are willing to do this with the poor.”

“I never worry. I am always amazed at the goodwill of people. I feel gratitude for what God and the people have done to help. It gives me hope to see so many people willing to give and help others.”

“I am trying to teach the lay people who are working with us that God doesn’t always make things smooth, that He wants us to wait on Him; He wants us to do it the way He wants and somehow He is bringing that about in this wonderful group of working people.”

Newsletter: April 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Our hearts are heavy as we begin this Newsletter. On Sunday, March 8, 2020, Our Lord came to call Sr. Joan Marie Albanese home. Sr. Joan died at Wicomico Nursing Home here in Salisbury. She had previously been under the care of Coastal Hospice in our convent, and the wonderful nurses continued their loving attention until the end. We are so grateful for everyone who helped us care for Sr. Joan as she made her final pilgrimage to God.

One of three children, Sr. Joan was born April 7, 1942 in Stamford, Connecticut to Harriet (Horton) Jacobson and James Jacobson. Following high school, she later met and married Matthew Albanese. Joan worked at Armel Electronics in Union City, NJ for 20 years.

In 2003, Joan followed a call to religious life. She entered our community on May 28, 2003, and professed final vows on October 31, 2011.

Sr. Joan found her niche and ministry in the Hospitality Room at the Joseph House Crisis Center. It was to her that the homeless and countless persons would come for prayer or to fill a special need—be it a bar of soap, clothing, or any one of the little things she knew they needed—or for one of her famous hugs (her nickname was “Sister Hug-a-lotta”). She now sends her hugs from a glorious distance.

Sr. Joan was preceded in death by her parents and her brother John. She is survived by her sister, Catherine Jacobson, and her nephew, Justin Jacobson. In addition to her sisters in community, Sr. Joan had many friends at Joseph House and St. Francis de Sales Church. Her funeral was at St. Francis on March 13, and she was laid to rest in our community’s burial space in Parsons Cemetery.

At the end of Evening Prayer each day we sing a song that begins, “Sister, let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you.” During the last several months the words took on a special meaning as Sr. Joan struggled with memory loss and declining health. She needed help with everyday activities, such as fixing a plate of food at meal times. As she slowly faded away the list of things got longer. But her gentle and soft-spoken nature never faltered. As her body failed her beautiful spirit remained intact and shone all the brighter. We give thanks for the gift of her life. May our merciful God in Heaven grant our dear Sr. Joan eternal rest.


One of our customs in the convent is to have table reading during the latter part of dinner. The book we are currently reading is The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of stories about the beloved saint and the first members of his community. The tales are charming and sometimes humorous but they all convey a spiritual truth. Our well-worn copy of the book bears witness to holy poverty: it is falling apart and the cover price is 95 cents!

Some of the stories have a more serious tone. The ones involving the imposition of the stigmata on St. Francis, that is, when the wounds of the crucifixion appeared in his flesh, seem appropriate at this time of year.

St. Francis received the stigmata in the twilight of his life. He had always felt immense compassion for the suffering of Jesus, and in his later years Francis heard the call to withdraw deeper into silence and solitude, to be alone with the mystery of Christ’s Passion. In the year 1224 Francis spent time in a simple hut among the trees and rocky cliffs of Mount Alvernia. A prayer filled his heart: “O Lord, I beg of You two graces before I die: to experience in myself in all possible fullness the pains of Your cruel Passion, and to feel for You the same love that made You sacrifice Yourself for us.”

Early one morning, before sunrise, a mysterious seraphic angel came to visit Francis. It bore the image of the Crucified Christ, who gazed upon Francis with immense love. For Francis, it was a moment of overwhelming communion and a flood of divine charity filled his soul. The vision departed, but it left its mark, literally, on Francis: he was imprinted with nail marks on his hands and feet and a wound in his side.

Francis kept the stigmata hidden at first, only revealing his wounds with hesitation to a few of his brother friars. It was as hard for Francis to make sense of these marks as it is for us. Perhaps we can begin to understand by remembering that God desires to share His life with each person in a special way. It is up to God to decide what will be for our own good, what will bring us to the perfected reality of our creation.

Very few people will ever have a profound mystical experience like St. Francis. All we have are the ordinary experiences of being human—something we share with Jesus—and that is all we really need. The demands of daily living will show us what it means to love and to sacrifice for the sake of love.

The wounds of the crucifixion pierced the soul of Francis long before they touched his flesh. Can we be just as vulnerable to our suffering Lord, present today in the poor, hungry, marginalized, and homeless?

Gus came to us cold and hungry. We could tell that he had a slight degree of mental impairment. It was February, and Gus had been sleeping in a cemetery. He asked us if we could help him get back to Baltimore where he had family. We purchased a bus ticket and some of our volunteers contributed an extra $55 for his miscellaneous expenses. Gus started crying and had to give everyone a hug.

Bennie, 63, had no fixed address. He either slept outside or if he was lucky someone would take him in for a few days. Bennie stopped working last year because of health problems. For most of his life he got paid “under the table,” off the books, hence his Social Security is only $143 per month. Bennie did get approved for subsidized housing, but before moving into an apartment he needed to pay a security deposit. He had absolutely nothing. We paid the $250.

Tamara, 29, has three young children. When she lost her job she fell behind in her bills and the water was shut off in her home. She started to clean houses for money and then she found a second job, too. Her combined income is $1,600 per month, but the rent takes a big portion of that. She was worried that she would never be able to save enough money to get the water back on for her children. Tamara came to the Joseph House and we paid the outstanding bill of $250.

Rebecca, 61, lives alone on a fixed income. She keeps her bills very low. Rebecca needed to have cataract surgery, but she could not afford the $200 co-pay. We sent a check for the amount to her eye doctor.

Sean, 76, and his disabled wife lost their home and had to move in with a friend. There was finally an opening in an affordable housing complex for senior citizens, but before Sean and his wife could move in they had to settle an unpaid bill with the electric company. We helped them find the funds with a $200 contribution.


The spread of the coronavirus has brought sudden changes to our world. We are writing this mid-March and we don’t know what’s in store. We hope you are well and staying healthy. Let us continue to look out for each other because that is how we stay strong. And thank you for your faithful support. Even when times are “good” life is hard for the poor. Regarding our health and everything else, we must do what we can and trust in God’s providence. Visit our website for the latest updates on our ministry.

Our prayers are with you and the whole world. May you have a Happy and Blessed Easter. We will be clinging a little tighter to the promise of the Resurrection this year.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Our ministry to the poor continues during this pandemic and depends on your support. Learn how you can help: Donate.

We would love to include your special intentions in our daily prayers. Please send us a message: Contact Form.

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“What does a truly human life look like, in such times as we are enduring? In answering, I reach a point at once dazzling and darksome. The point being the consequences of the cross of Jesus. It is a point of sacrifice. The cross, (which is to say, the Crucified One) invites the living to the heart of reality, in an embrace as guileless and self-giving as it is indifferent of consequence.” – Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ


Header artwork: “Stigmata of St Francis” by Domenico Ghirlandaio, circa 1485. Public domain.

A New Look at the Workshop

The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring many people to stay at home to help curb the spread of the virus. Some are taking advantage of this time to tackle do-it-yourself projects around the house. The men residing at the Joseph House Workshop had a head start on this idea. They recently finished a major painting project that was previously planned. Their work has really freshened up their living space.

The Joseph House Workshop is a long-term residential program for formerly homeless men that helps them develop the skills needed for employment and independent living. The Workshop building itself where the men live is very comfortable and homey, but it wasn’t always like that.

The first time we walked inside it was a cavernous empty warehouse. The year was 1998, and Mountaire Farms was offering to donate the building to the Joseph House. Sr. Mary Elizabeth, our founder, said yes, excited by the possibilities of a blank canvas. After numerous planning sessions, two pilot programs, and some impressive construction work, the Workshop as we know it today opened in 2005.

First visit to the future Joseph House Workshop, November 1998.

The Workshop has a dormitory for ten, a kitchen and dining room, living room, offices, classroom, and computer room. To this list can be added a dedicated art room, thanks to the recent efforts of the residents. A room that was not being used has been converted into a space for art classes, since engaging in creative work is an important part of the Workshop program.

The men did a fine job and we are pleased that they have such pride in their home. A contractor installed new carpeting and tile flooring, and now the Workshop really shines, a reflection of the transformations taking place in the lives of its residents. Take a look at the photos below.

For comparison, this is how the Workshop looked when it was donated to the Joseph House. It’s amazing what vision combined with hard work and determination can do!

A Message from the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Light of COVID-19

Dear Friends,

We would like to begin by saying that we are in prayerful solidarity with everyone being impacted by the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, now a global pandemic. This virus has brought sickness and even death to a growing number of people. It has also brought worry, fear, shortages of medical supplies and food, economic hardship, and an unprecedented upheaval of our daily lives. Our prayers are with everyone who is suffering. We are also praying for our leaders who are making gravely important decisions about our health and well being.

For us personally, the foundation of our spirituality is the Abandonment Prayer of Charles de Foucauld. It begins: “Father, I abandon myself into Your hands, do with me what You will.” We start each day with this prayer. Under normal circumstances it can be hard to say these words, and now it feels like our faith is really being put to the test. We believe the policy with God is “come as you are.” Our faith may be great or little or somewhere in-between, but no matter what we take time during the day to remember God’s presence, who is always with us as a loving parent. Through every joy and sorrow in the past God was there, and God is here with us now in this present state of trial. Sometimes people say that prayer changes things, but more importantly prayer changes people, it makes us more attentive to the movement of grace in our lives. Every prayer also touches God’s heart. What we need for our greatest good will be given to us. (We have provided the full text of the Abandonment Prayer below.)

The next thing we would like to say is that the mission of the Joseph House continues. We are here to serve people who are poor, hungry, and homeless and to uphold their dignity and worth. Of course, we have had to adapt our operations because of the coronavirus. We are taking the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of exposure for our volunteers, staff, and clients at the convent, the Joseph House Crisis Center, and the Joseph House Workshop.

Here are specific measures from each department at the Joseph House Crisis Center:

Soup Kitchen: This outreach is closed until further notice. Some of the churches and organizations that normally provide meals are now bringing bagged lunches that we distribute to homeless individuals.

Food Pantry: This continues with social distancing measures in place. People in need present their information at one door and receive their food at another.

Financial Assistance for Emergency Needs: This also continues with social distancing measures in place.

Hospitality Room: This outreach to homeless men and women also continues. We strictly limit the number of people who occupy the room at a given time.

The Crisis Center on Boundary Street.

We value to the utmost degree our volunteers and staff for their dedication and courage. They are just a few of the heroes we see all around us. Some of our volunteers have needed to take a temporary break because of their age or other circumstances. We understand and know that their hearts are with us.

In addition, we cannot express enough how much we value our benefactors. We depend on free-will offerings in order to serve the poorest members of our community. The generosity of people is the life blood of the Joseph House and is a sign to us every single day of the goodness that keeps our world from falling apart.

We are deeply grateful for everyone who gives. Whether it is the gift of service, material goods, a monetary contribution, prayer, or any other expression of support, it all makes a difference. The size of the gift is irrelevant–it is all a treasure in our eyes.

Every day we read the news with some trepidation. But underlying any passing fearful emotion is the confidence that we will get through this crisis by working together and caring for one another.

Thank you for reading this message. We will keep you updated on any changes we may need to implement in our ministry. Please stay in touch and let us know how you are doing. Send us your prayer requests and we will lift them up to the Lord.

May God bless all doctors, nurses, and health care workers. May all who work at essential jobs be kept safe. May everyone be sustained by good health in body, mind, and spirit.

All across the globe we see acts of generosity and self-sacrifice. The Holy Spirit is bringing out the best in people. Better days are coming. May we all have a safe passage to that time.

United with you in hope,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


The Abandonment Prayer of Charles de Foucauld

Father,

I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into Your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.

Amen.

Flowers blooming next to our front steps.