Newsletter: November 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Paul Mast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

 

A Thanksgiving Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

Receive what we are, and make our lives whole.

Bless our world, and bring all your children peace.

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

Amen.

Author unknown

Newsletter: October 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

She was born in Philadelphia and raised in Baltimore.

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

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

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

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

She never married but was a mother to many.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With our love and prayers,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

This Hermitage Speaks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then . . .

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

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

Assisi, the city of St. Francis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Poor Are Just Like Us

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

Helping the poor is not always a pleasant experience.

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

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

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

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

Newsletter: September 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Character Traits of Givers

In light of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, people are rising to the challenge of helping their neighbors. They are giving what they can: food, water, money, boats, shelter. It is not the time to hold back.

Opportunities to give happen every day, not just during natural disasters. What are the characteristics of people who give? Here is a list for reflection and for taking a personal inventory. It comes from the book, 5001 Simple Things to Do For Others (and Yourself), from Liguori Publications, 2010. Would you add or change anything?

Character Traits of Givers

  • Promote adaptability
  • Support an appreciation for people
  • Stay attentive
  • Are available
  • Reinforce their commitment daily
  • Keep their compassion
  • Place their concern where it will do the most good
  • Show confidence
  • Are always considerate
  • Understand that consistency wins the game
  • Find contentment in what they can accomplish
  • Promote cooperation
  • Fortify their courage
  • Keep creativity flowing
  • Stay decisive
  • Encourage deference
  • Are known for their dependability
  • Stay determined
  • Show they are always diligent
  • Exercise discernment and discretion
  • Know that efficiency allows you to accomplish more
  • Understand that equality keeps the balance
  • Are always fair
  • Are faithful
  • Practice fearlessness
  • Remain flexible
  • Understand forgiveness
  • Know that winners are friendly
  • Realize that generosity with time and resources will make them rich
  • Are known for their gentleness
  • Express their gratitude
  • Remain honest
  • Are humble before God
  • Know the worth of their integrity
  • Celebrate joyfulness
  • Practice kindness
  • Indulge in love
  • Are loyal to their values
  • Understand we are all meek on the inside
  • Believe God is merciful—we just try to follow His example
  • Observe what is truth
  • Keep their optimism
  • Are patient
  • Practice prudence
  • Are known for their punctuality
  • Promote their purpose
  • Are always resourceful
  • Respect those around them and those who seek their help
  • Know we are all responsible for humankind
  • Practice self-control
  • Don’t let their sincerity overrule logic
  • Are submissive before God
  • Remain tactful
  • Are thorough
  • Believe thriftiness will pay off
  • Know the world is in need of tolerance
  • Are trustworthy
  • Always promote the truth
  • Understand that we can’t live on virtue alone, but we can’t live without it

Newsletter: August 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Every organization and institution, whether it is civic, business, religious, or charitable, has its own style of operation. It’s not just what they do, but how they do it that sets them apart. This is true of the Joseph House, and our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth looked to a particular person for inspiration: Charles de Foucauld, who also went by Br. Charles of Jesus.

Given that he was a hermit in the Sahara Desert more than 100 years ago, it’s not surprising that Charles is a mystery to many people. René Bazin, his first biographer, didn’t think Charles was important enough to warrant a book. He had to be convinced otherwise, and fortunately he was. Bazin’s Charles de Foucauld: Hermit and Explorer, published in 1923 in English, kept alive the memory of this fascinating and saintly figure. This passage from the book shows why the life of Charles found a home in the heart and mind of Sr. Mary Elizabeth:

“Charles was one who gave a fraternal welcome to the poorest and most unknown and undeserving of neighbors, who never let it be suspected that he was put out, and was willing to waste his time for talking with God upon unreliable nomads, corrupt slaves, beggars and bores.

“Every minute somebody would come and open the door, and Brother Charles appeared with his beautiful eyes full of serenity, his head bent forward a little, and his hand already held out. . . .

“He wrote : ‘I wish to accustom all the inhabitants, Christians, Muslims, Jews and idolaters, to look upon me as their brother, the universal brother. . . . They begin to call the house the Fraternity (the Khaua, in Arabic), and I am delighted.’

“This beautiful word suits our missionary and might describe him: he was truly the universal brother, not in words, but in deeds; he did not scatter political formulae, or promises which only add to the weight of wretchedness, but he forgot himself for the sake of his nearest neighbors, he spent beyond his means to feed them and to ransom them if ransomed they could be. His way was the silent way.”

Being available to the poor is at the heart of our ministry. Many people have good intentions for helping the poor, but far fewer have the inclination to “waste time” with them.

Charles did everything he could to address the material needs of the poor, but he gave them something else too: the fruit of his time spent in prayer and recollection. People have deep hungers that go beyond an empty stomach. Charles offered them the peace of Christ. The poor could see it in his face, they could know it by his actions and his unhurried sense of time, and in the way he made his home a home for everyone. He preached by example, letting charity be God’s ambassador.

Br. Charles distributing bread. Illustration by René Follet.

If the Joseph House is to have a corporate culture, we hope it resembles this. We want people in need to receive your generosity with love and respect. Along with our many volunteers, we do our best to make sure our ministry welcomes everyone. Hearts need to be open as much as the front door.

On a typical day, Charles might have received 70 poor people, plus 15 sick, 50 children, and 20 frail and elderly. We can sympathize. One will never be lonely working with the less fortunate.

Valencia, 63, was not in a good mood when she came to the Joseph House Crisis Center. We could understand why. Pain radiated from her hip that was healing from a fracture. Anyone of us in a similar situation would have wanted to be home resting, but an eviction notice from her landlord required Val to get up and look for help. She was angry and distraught and it took a little time to find out what was going on. Val regained her composure and explained that she lives alone and her monthly income of $756 doesn’t always cover her basic expenses. We agreed to send $200 to her landlord, alleviating one of the burdens Val is carrying.

Dominic, in his fifties, recently had two serious surgeries as part of his treatment for liver cancer. His doctor has ordered him not to work for several months. In the meantime, Dominic is trying to get by on a temporary disability payment of $640 monthly. It is not enough for his rent and utilities. A firm job offer for the fall and the promise of better health give him hope. We sent $225 to Dominic’s landlord. The Joseph House depends on Divine Providence, but the poor know what that really means.

Amber, 44, is another cancer patient. She’s been hospitalized and has received several rounds of chemotherapy. She believes the worst is behind her. Amber missed a lot of work during her illness and also a rent payment. This is a new experience for her since she has been a stable renter at her place for well over a decade. Her wages make it nearly impossible for her to catch up. Amber asked us for help; she especially didn’t want her son to undergo the trial of being homeless. We sent $225 to her landlord.

Ingrid and her three children were homeless. A shelter had beds for them and Ingrid found a job in a chicken factory. Unfortunately, they had to leave the shelter before Ingrid received a paycheck. To break the cycle of homelessness, we paid $170 toward the security deposit for an apartment for Ingrid and her family.

Jerrod, 32, works for a landscaper. He and his wife must both work to support their family of four, soon to be five. Jerrod came to the Joseph House shortly before his wife was due to give birth. She had stopped working temporarily, but this interruption for a natural and beautiful part of family life was wreaking havoc on their budget. Jerrod had an eviction notice with him and no means of paying the back rent by himself. Wanting Jerrod and his wife to welcome their new baby in an atmosphere of peaceful security, we mailed a check for $225 to their landlord.

Thank you for supporting the Joseph House. You’re the answer to someone’s prayer! Working together, the little that each of us can do adds up to something great. You can make a donation here.

May God smile upon you and guard you as the apple of His eye.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, is also a time to honor the Blessed Mother under her title, Our Lady of the Fields.

From The Rural Life Prayerbook:
“When this great feast of the Mother of God is celebrated, nature is still arrayed in her summer glories, although the harvest has already begun. At this time, the Church blesses the finest grain, fruits, herbs, vegetables, and flowers.”

Psalm 65
Lord, you care for the earth, give it water,
you fill it with riches.
Your river in heaven brims over
to provide its grain.

And thus you provide for the earth;
you drench its furrows,
you level it, soften it with showers,
you bless its growth.

You crown the year with your goodness.
Abundance flows in your steps,
in the pastures of the wilderness it flows.

The hills are girded with joy,
the meadows covered with flocks,
the valleys are decked with wheat.
They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

Helping Face to Face

In an online world, there is still a place for personal contact.

Our help at the Joseph House is given person to person, in the flesh. This way we get a grasp of the details that cannot be conveyed in an e-mail, details that help to express the uniqueness of each person and the many sides to his or her circumstances.

Person to person, we see the missing teeth and the shoes held together with duct tape. We see the mismatched clothes that came from the donation bin. We see arthritic hands and swollen ankles and feeble legs that need the assistance of a cane. We see calloused skin rough as sandpaper from years of hard work in the sun. We hear words slurred in a haze of alcohol. We hear broken English and uncouth grammar and slang. We hear wisdom and sobbing, whispering and yelling.

Person to person, we see faces, and the windows of the soul, the eyes: blood-shot eyes, eyes filled with tears, eyes flaring in anger, nervous eyes that flit about, eyes clear and bright, and eyes that refuse to make contact with our own. Up close, we also detect the tang of unwashed skin that comes from living outside in beastly hot weather, the sharp mustiness that clothes pick up from decaying houses, and the acrid odor that comes from looking in garbage cans for food.

Most importantly, person to person, we experience the person, and not just the eviction notice or the overdue electric bill or the other bits of fallout from poverty. We can reach out and touch someone, and not just figuratively. Simple human contact shoulders many a burden.

The greatest poverty is to feel alone, unloved, and unwanted. Face to face, person to person, we give and receive the gift of each other’s presence. We can meet Christ waiting for us to love Him in the poor, waiting for us to wake up from our indifference, waiting for us to overcome our fear and prejudice, waiting for us to open our heart to the person in front of us.

Newsletter: July 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

The middle of summer, when everything is lush and full, brings to mind the Book of Genesis and the story of Creation.

At this time of year, the earth, the trees, and even the air seem heavy with life. Every little corner and niche is occupied. Our backyard becomes a miniature Eden, with all manner of vegetation and seed-bearing plants, crawling living creatures and winged birds. A close inspection of a square foot reveals a universe under our feet. Author Annie Dillard writes,

“This, then, is the extravagant landscape of the world, given, given with pizzazz, given in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek).

One thing is clear: God doesn’t hold back. His creative power is super-abundant and endless.

A statue of St. Francis amidst the foliage of the convent yard.

What does a deeper reading of Genesis reveal? In the beginning, God created order out of chaos. “The earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters” (Gen 1:2). The mighty wind was the Spirit of God, and God commanded into being a world of harmony and coherence. This is the bedrock of existence.

God created a world that lets life flourish, a world that has so much to offer each person. It’s a gift for everyone. God gave humanity dominion over creation, but that means we have a responsibility to be good stewards — and good neighbors. Everyone has a chance to share in the fruits of the earth when there is concern for the common good and for what each person is due, that is, when there is concern for justice.

Without justice, everything falls back into chaos.

Some people look at the world and ask, “Where’s my share?” But our rights and responsibilities go hand-in-hand in a well-ordered society.

“Justice focuses on how we treat people, how we share benefits and responsibilities, and how we ensure everyone sits at the table. Justice, then, is about community life. Individuals and the community are complementary” (Alison Benders, Just Prayer).

Creating just communities is a mission for all of us. Many people today lack food, housing, medicine, and other necessary goods. The Joseph House works to fill these needs and address the underlying reasons they exist. Thank you for joining us in this mission through your prayers and generous giving. We can’t do it without you.

Sam, 52, is in poor health. Due to kidney failure, he is on a home dialysis machine seven days a week. His wife is also disabled. Their combined monthly income is $1,120. Of that, $750 goes toward the rent. Sam has medication that he needs to take but doesn’t because he can’t afford it. Like a growing number of people, he started a GoFundMe page on the Internet to help with his health care costs; it hasn’t been successful so far.

Sam came to the Joseph House Crisis Center with his many needs. We were able to assist him with $175 for his electric bill, a few days before the cut-off date.

Terri, 29, is a single mother of two. She works full-time as a housekeeper but brings home only $250 weekly. Terri is also going to school and studying to become a corrections officer. She is working very hard to get ahead through education. Terri fell behind in her rent because her tight budget leaves no room for even the smallest unplanned expense. The Joseph House sent $180 to her landlord.

Claudette is 81. She lives alone, enjoys good health, and volunteers at a local school (spending time with children is a secret for staying young). Her monthly Social Security check is $954 and $850 goes toward her housing, a tiny bungalow. Sometimes a family member helps Claudette with her basic expenses. A leftover heating bill was too much, so Claudette turned to the Joseph House. We sent $168 to the gas company.


We depend solely on private donations to help people in need. Click here to make a donation online.


Kenny, 64, is a disabled Army veteran. A few months ago, he was living in another state and suffered two heart attacks. After he recovered, he decided to return to Maryland to be closer to his brother. Kenny was in an accident on the way home, and the trailer he was towing, filled with his belongings, was demolished. He lost everything.

When Kenny finally arrived in Maryland, he was turned away by his brother. There seems to be a history of religious and political differences between them. With nowhere to go, Kenny started living in his car. He found his way to the Joseph House, and thankfully we had the funds ($225) to get him moved into an apartment.

Athena, 70, and her husband are on a fixed income. Athena’s life is controlled by COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s had a debilitating effect on her. She has reached the point where she needs an electric wheelchair in addition to bottled oxygen.

Athena also has massive ulcers in her mouth. She must take medication to treat these, but her monthly medical bills are already high.

Athena came to the Joseph House in desperate need of help. We contacted the pharmacy and agreed to purchase the $152 in prescriptions waiting for Athena. We also paid the $93 she needed to acquire an electric wheelchair. Looking over Athena’s budget, there was little room for economizing. She and her husband receive Food Stamps, but only $16 per month.

The lack of affordable housing and health care in our country is troubling. How much longer can this go on? The poor suffer first and suffer the most.

On the first full day of summer, the air conditioner at the Crisis Center quit working. Maybe it was protesting the coming workload. Fortunately, the repairman got it going again, but this expense underscores the fact that our ministry needs your support year-round, even during vacation season. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

The mighty wind of God still sweeps across the earth. The Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness to help us become the people we were created to be. May we surrender to His power and be renewed in His strength. May each of us be a real presence of brotherly and sisterly love in the world.

With our promise to pray for you every day,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Called to Love, Called to Serve

The life of a Catholic nun or religious sister is a mystery to many people. Stereotypes abound, but as usual the reality is quite different. Even though some things change over time, the essentials do not: all that is good, true, and beautiful continues to exist.

If you are considering a religious vocation, or you would just like to know more about Catholic nuns today, check out some of these resources:

Light of Love gives viewers a look into the lives, suffering, and joys of religious life captured in a way like never before.”
www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIwJacw_Z3Y

Imagine Sisters is an organization that exists to expose the beauty of the religious life to a world desperately in need. We are so glad that you’re here, and we can’t wait to share stories of discernment, transformation, and faith.”
imaginesisters.org

Vision Vocation Network presents information on religious communities for both men and women. The site helps people considering a religious vocation to get in touch with the communities that best match their personal interests.
vocationnetwork.org/en/main

Catholics on Call supports Catholic young adults (ages 18-35) as they strive to discover God’s call in their lives, and explore the possibility of a life of service in the Church. A national vocation discovery program of the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union, Catholics on Call is dedicated to helping young adults from diverse backgrounds explore a call to ministry in the Church and to learn about leadership roles as lay ecclesial ministers, men or women religious, or ministry as ordained deacons or priests.”
www.catholicsoncall.org

A Nun’s Life provides information about figuring out God’s call in your life. You’ll find articles, videos, and other resources on popular topics.
anunslife.org

Catholic Nuns Today: “What is your image of a Catholic Nun? We invite you to learn more about our active, faith-filled lives by reading our stories and frequently asked questions.”
catholicnunstoday.org

Giving Voice is a peer led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life.”
giving-voice.org

Beloved is a film about the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. “This joyful, holy community radiates their love for Christ and neighbor, revealing in this compelling film what it means to live the consecrated life as both a contemplative and a teacher. They manifest to the world that religious life is all about love and joy, but a love that is different and unique. It is a love that is eternal.”
www.ignatius.com/Products/BND-M/beloved.aspx

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