The following article is reposted with permission from La Vista Ecological Learning Center:
Nature’s fashion turns to berries in August. Sumac fruits ripen to crimson. Wild black cherries ripen, starting out red before turning black-purple. Grey dogwoods’ bluish-white berries mellow through October. Wild grapes and elderberries’ purple coloring attract wildlife as they mature.
Year after year, these bushes and trees wear the same colors, and we never tire of seeing them. Repetition in nature is not boring! In fact, there is something wonderful about knowing what to expect as each season rolls around.
Human fashion, however, does not follow nature’s lead. Each season brings “fast fashion” a term referring to cheaply produced and priced garments, most likely made in developing countries by workers (sometimes even children) at poor wages and pitiful working conditions. They copy “high fashion” styles and distribute them quickly through stores to maximize on current trends.
The next time you are tempted to purchase this kind of clothing, consider these facts:
The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, only wreaking less environmental havoc than the fossil fuel industry.
The fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions–more than all international flights and maritime shipping.
From the World Resources Institute we learn that “One garbage truck of clothes is burned or sent to landfills every second!”
The average consumer bought 60% more clothes in 2014 than in 2000 but kept each garment for half as long.
What can we do?
For a simpler, more sustainable life, imitate nature and enjoy wearing the same clothes as last season. Repeat year after year until they are worn out; then, recycle or re-purpose them.
When you do make a clothing purchase, choose natural fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk over synthetics like polyester. Pay for long-lasting clothing.
Exchange old clothing with friends or family.
Give to Good Will Industries and other organizations.
Share this information.
SOURCE: La Vista Ecological Learning Center A ministry of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate lavistaelc.org
Additional Reflection from the Catholic Climate Covenant:
“On your clothing is the life-blood of the innocent…” (Jeremiah 2:34)
“Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Israel, and now four—I will not take it back—Because they hand over the just for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals” (Amos 2:6)
The Old Testament context chiding our treatment of the poor and innocent for our clothes is at its core a chiding of how we are complicit in abuses to those who make our clothes. When we buy an inexpensive outfit, it may come at great cost to another living person created in the image of God and to God’s creation.
Think about how many pieces of clothing you have bought in the last 6 months. How much money did you spend? Where did you get it from? Where and how was it manufactured? How much clothing did you send to the landfill? Are there ways for you to be more conscious of your consumer habits when it comes to clothing? Does our clothing have the life-blood of the innocent? Does creation suffer due to our clothing choices and habits?
When we consider people in need—”the poor”—we may focus on how they’re different from us.
Do we ever consider how we’re the same? Does that change how we want to respond to them?
Our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth once shared a story from the early days of the Joseph House in Baltimore. She was interviewing a mother who had requested help paying a heating bill:
[The mother] had just explained her need for $60 to pay a gas bill. I acknowledged the importance of such a need and then very professionally began to list her expenses alongside of her welfare income. Somewhere she had $50 she could not account for and I worried her with questions.
Finally we arrived at the truth: she had spent the fifty dollars on a coat for her three-year-old, trusting she would get money for her gas from us.
I pointed out that she had made a very unwise decision. She looked at me and with a great look of pride on her face and a sense of accomplishment in her voice she said, “I guess I did, but for once in her life my little girl was the best dressed girl in Sunday School. It won’t never happen again—but for just once the best dressed girl was my little girl.”
I felt her pride, I knew it would live forever in her heart—that great memory. I paid her gas bill and was happy to do it. I felt that it was my little girl that had captured a respect she would never again know.
When we identify with people as people, as fellow human beings who have their hopes and dreams, who have inner lives that are as rich and complex and precious as our own, then our sense of compassion begins to enlarge. “I felt her pride….I felt that it was my little girl.” Sr. Mary Elizabeth had a natural ability to get close to people. She could easily place herself in the shoes of another, a consequence of an open heart not put off by appearances.
Beneath the mystery of each person there is a deeper one. In her excellent book on the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, Hidden in God, Bonnie Thurston writes:
We must learn to see beyond people’s “packaging,” for example, the accidents of birth, education, taste, and culture. We must learn to live beyond our own narrowness in those same areas, our preferences and prejudices.
Charles de Foucauld wrote: “To be able to truly see others, we must close our physical eyes and open the eyes of our souls. Let us see what they are from within, not what they appear to be. Let us look at them in the same way as God looks at them.” In so looking, Foucauld believes we see Jesus….
Writing on February 5, 1916, nearly at the end of his life, Foucauld recommends: “Be kind and compassionate, and do not be insensitive to any misery. See Jesus in all people.”
For Charles, the spiritual father of the Joseph House, it was the presence of Christ in each person that ultimately unites everyone. He looked at people “in the same way as God looks at them,” and that changed his life. Charles lived as a “universal brother” to all people—Christian, Muslim, atheist, European, African—and freely shared what he had with those in need. His was the vision of all the saints, canonized or not.
To see Christ in everyone means to treat each person with respect. It means to affirm the dignity of all people as being made in the image and likeness of God. That’s the overriding mission of the Joseph House, whether we are helping a family with a pressing financial need, washing the clothes of a homeless person, feeding empty stomachs, or accompanying a resident in our Workshop program as he builds a better future. Your support brings this mission to life.
When people have nowhere to turn, the Joseph House is here for them. Caroline, 37, worked in a restaurant for four years. She liked her job, but she started to receive unwanted and aggressive physical advances. Caroline finally left. She has four children, although their father ignores every court order for child support. With no income and no other options, Caroline asked the Joseph House for help paying her electric bill. It was the day before the electric was scheduled to be shut off. We called the power company with our commitment of $250, and the shut-off was canceled.
Sabrina, 58, can barely walk because of arthritic knees. Her income is $194 per month in temporary disability. Were it not for subsidized housing, she would be homeless. Sabrina needed help paying her electric bill—if the power was shut off she would jeopardize her housing subsidy. We paid the $200 bill immediately.
Ellen, 72, doesn’t have subsidized housing, and her rent takes 95% of her income! She is frail and not in good health. Her electric bill was overdue, but she did not qualify for assistance in her county. She came to the Joseph House and we paid $200. Ellen hopes to find a roommate to share expenses. Since affordable housing is so scarce that seems to be her only hope.
Kenny, 68, lives in one of the worst neighborhoods in the area in terms of substandard housing. We’ve been in those houses before—you can smell the decay. Kenny has cancer and is being treated with chemo and radiation. He normally works odd jobs to supplement his income, but he hasn’t been feeling up to it. He was behind in his rent and received an eviction notice. We paid $225 to stop the proceedings. We really wish there was more affordable housing, places that are clean and safe, especially for seniors and those with health problems!
Matthew, 51, worked for a food company for 21 years. His struggle with a debilitating depression required him to stop working. His wife Ann works in a nursing home. Her income doesn’t cover all of their basic expenses, and she is looking for a second job. After falling behind in their rent, the couple applied for assistance at the Department of Social Services. They qualified only for food stamps. We sent $220 to their landlord to give Matthew and Ann time to sort out their new circumstances.
To continue our work we need help. We need you. Thank you for being generous.
July is the anniversary month for the Little Sisters. On the 7th we celebrated 45 years! As the years roll by we hope to stay young at heart just like Sr. Mary Elizabeth. The example she gave us is a treasure, and we hope and pray to be faithful to her vision for our community. May God bless us with more vocations, and may God bless you with an abundance of love and peace.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Praying for people is a special—and much loved—part of our ministry. Please feel free to trouble us with your troubles and whatever is in your heart. What would you like us to pray for?
• restored health
• medical bills
• spiritual and emotional welfare of a loved one
• safe pregnancy and birth
• selling a house
• job search
• happy marriage
• freedom from anxiety and depression
• respect for all life
• safety of a loved one in the armed forces
• government leaders
• pastors and church leaders
• justice for all
• lasting peace…
The Joseph House Workshop is a residential program for homeless men that teaches life-skills needed for employment. It is not an emergency shelter, but a long-term therapeutic program that provides men a supportive place to live and opportunities to grow in all aspects of life.
Men who enter the program spend the first three months in Phase One. They do volunteer work and take skill-building and inspirational classes, including an art class with Sister Virginia. They also learn to cooperate in a small community of men—no more than eight in all—which means a lot of cooking and chores and struggling with the challenges of communal living. After three months they enter Phase Two, the period during which they find training and employment, with the ultimate goal of becoming stable and independent.
The art class is part of the holistic approach taken by the Workshop. The goal is to form well-rounded individuals. It’s important to have learning experiences that stretch the residents in ways that might be new to them.
In the fall of 2018, three newly arrived residents—Charles, Maurice and Leonard—took on a mosaic sign as their art class project. The sign would display the street number of the Workshop, which is located at 816 Boundary Street.
The men came up with the idea of setting the “816” in a scroll design. They then chose a typeface, drafted the design, and devised a color scheme using red, green, white and brown glass tiles. They completed the sign and are now in Phase Two. This spring, Karl, a graduate of the Workshop and a skilled craftsman, kindly framed and hung the new mosaic by the front door of the Workshop.
This is the second mosaic project completed by Joseph House Workshop residents. The first mosaic sign reads “Joseph House Workshop” and hangs above the Workshop entryway. A third mosaic sign is planned for the new class starting in September.
The men are proud of the finished result, and rightly so!
The month of June is the turning point of the year. As we approach the summer solstice, the days stretch out with long hours of sunlight, while the darkness of night takes a temporary retreat.
But for human beings, darkness isn’t confined to the night sky. Summer days notwithstanding, darkness can creep into our lives at any time. Although shadows pass over everyone’s life, for some people they don’t seem to move along. Whether it’s because of sudden misfortune, tragic circumstances, or being a victim of injustice, a shroud of despair can cover someone completely. It may as well be the dead of winter.
We know it’s tempting to focus only on our own happiness. Especially during the summer, when our thoughts turn to vacations and pleasant living, we don’t want to dwell on those who are suffering. But in the end, that’s not a very satisfying way to live.
The happiest people tend to be those who are a ray of sunshine for someone else. This is crystal clear to us from our work at the Joseph House. We meet many people who are determined to brighten someone’s day. For example, the owner of a thrift shop felt inspired to fill bags and purses from her shop with supplies for people who are homeless. She delivered these unique care packages to us so we can give them away in our Hospitality Room. Another person comes to our convent each week to lead us in an exercise class. She helps to keep us limber and energized so we’re able to face the demands of our ministry.
There is a common denominator in each act of giving and that is joy.
No matter what we can do, let us not remain passive and neutral when faced with our neighbor in distress. Let us make the light of the Gospel shine brightly on these situations. As Mother Teresa always said, “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”
And remember: society gets better when people look beyond self-interest and are committed to the good of their neighbor.
That’s a test of how well we are living the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves: by our commitment in seeking for them the good things we desire.
Commitment is so important. It is the special ingredient that makes generosity more generous and service more effective. It’s what gives love a strong and sure foundation. Thanks to your ongoing support, the Joseph House is here week after week to help people in their times of crisis.
Sharon, 36, is well acquainted with dark days. She used to live with her father until their house went into foreclosure. They parted ways and Sharon ended up being homeless. In the past, heroin had been her escape from any problems or pain. Now it took control over her life. She started to prostitute herself to feed her addiction.
Six months ago, Sharon used drugs for the last time. She has been working hard to stay clean, all the while moving in and out of homeless shelters. Another agency has been helping her find a permanent place to live. Since Sharon had used up all of her time in the shelters, we paid $300 so she could stay in a motel, away from the danger of the streets.
Estelle, 49, is grieving the sudden loss of her son. He was only 20 years old when he died in his sleep from cardiac arrest. Her eyes glistening, Estelle beamed with pride when she spoke about him. He had volunteered at a homeless shelter and did such a good job that he was hired for a paying position. Estelle shared with us her memories of her son, the music and activities he liked and his favorite foods; chocolate cake was at the top of the list. She is still paying his burial costs and needed help with her gas bill. We contributed $300 and one of our volunteers added another $50 on the spot.
Lillian, 70, lives alone in the country. Ordinarily she manages to get by on her income, but a few months ago she had major problems with her home’s water system. A new well had to be dug, and that set her back considerably. Lillian has been putting off getting some badly needed dental work done. When she reached the point of not being able to ignore it any longer, she asked if we could help. We gladly contributed $200.
Donna, 31, is the mother of four children. Her husband left one day without warning, leaving Donna with no income and many unpaid bills. She was very worried about the electric. It was due to be cut off, and Donna was in anguish thinking of her children living in the dark with no hot water or hot meals. We sent $260 to the electric company to keep the power on.
Aaron and Sandy have four children plus custody of a nephew. Aaron works for a private contractor doing road construction and repair. His job is weather-dependent, and after one rainy month his pay was only $640. That was ten dollars less than the rent alone. Aaron needed to buy food and other necessities for his family, putting his budget even deeper in the red. When his landlord filed an eviction notice, we paid $200 to stop it.
Ashley, 39, works as a delivery driver. While recovering from major surgery she collected temporary disability. The benefits ran out before she was medically cleared to return to her job. Ashley had nothing to pay toward her overdue gas bill. We sent $275 to the utility company on her behalf.
And on behalf of everyone served by the Joseph House, thank you for caring.
May our love for others be seen in what we do. It is a real privilege for us to see up close the love so many people have for their brothers and sisters in need. In fact, it’s almost overwhelming at times. Our founder knew exactly what she was doing when she placed us under the care of Divine Providence. We are extremely grateful for every act of generosity, every word of encouragement, and every prayer. Good things are happening—and it’s because of you!
May God’s tender love keep you in peace during these summer days. With our promise of prayers,
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
We love to pray for people. Send us your prayer requests: Contact Form
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We were talking not that long ago about what it means to be in charge. We laughed because being the “head honcho” is not always glamorous. In our line of work, it usually means you’re the one pushing a broom, cleaning up after everyone has left.
This shouldn’t be too surprising, given what Jesus did at the Last Supper. It was His last chance to tell His disciples what it’s all about, and He opted for a visual sermon. Jesus did something that caught His disciples off guard and left an image they would never forget: He washed their feet, the most humble and lowliest job imaginable.
This needs to be burned into our minds, too.
As the founder of the Joseph House and the Little Sisters, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling was always the one in charge. In many ways it came naturally to her. But her abilities never blinded her to the teachings of Jesus. She would tell us over and over again to avoid anything resembling a “professional” attitude. By that she meant being attached to power and the trappings and privileges of power. All the things that place someone over and above someone else.
She left no shortage of examples to get her point across. Sr. Connie fondly remembers when she first came to work at the Crisis Center and needed a desk. Sr. Mary Elizabeth promptly turned over a trash can and voila! — there was her desk.
Yes, those were the days!
But there was a reason for what she did. Sr. Mary Elizabeth knew the value of humility. It guards against sinful pride and it helps us become approachable and non-threatening. Sister wanted us to embrace our “littleness.” She wanted us to be present to those in need face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to listen. We should be willing to wash another’s feet without hesitation, and have that willingness apparent in our demeanor. We can’t hide behind job titles.
If she gave us a high standard to live up to, well, so did Jesus.
This spirit of loving service unites us with you, and together with your support we translate love for others into concrete action. Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “We are free to do for the poor what the poor need.” She had in mind a freedom from red tape and overbearing regulations, and also a freedom of the heart, a freedom to love without reserve. A freedom to do whatever is needed.
Eloise was surprisingly calm given her situation. Her strength and intelligence were serving her well. Eloise is married, but her husband was locked up awaiting trial on a DUI charge. She said he is a good and responsible person, except when he is drinking. Then, she said, he is terrible.
Eloise and her husband have six children. They live in a one-room apartment. After her husband was arrested, Eloise suddenly became the provider for the family. She found a job at a nursery, but it wasn’t going to start for a little while. Her badly needed paycheck was weeks away. Eloise came to the Crisis Center, where we listened to the sad tale of her struggle. Behind in the rent and electric, no food for her children, she didn’t know what to do. Thanks to the generosity of people like you, we were able to act immediately: $300 for the rent, $100 for the electric, and more groceries than she could carry.
Many senior folks come to our Crisis Center. Veronica is 86 and a widow. For the past year her home has been infested with bed bugs and others pests. Living on a very small income, she didn’t have the funds to do anything about it. She came to see us and we paid $350 to an exterminator… Floyd, 69, lives alone out in the country. He tries to find work cutting grass for extra money, but it’s often not enough. We paid $200 to stop an electric cut-off.
Another common occurrence is people unable to work because of health problems. For Patty, 56, cancer took away her house. Medical bills and loss of work forced her to let go of just about everything. She now rents a room but still needs help sometimes. We sent $225 to the electric company on her behalf… Laurel, 50, takes care of her adult son who is learning disabled. She suffered a series of strokes and is now trying to get by on a very limited income. We sent $160 to her landlord to stop an eviction… Jason, 58, cannot work because of a seizure disorder. He fell behind in paying his bills and was dropped from the payment plan with the electric company. He could only pay $63; our contribution of $170 helped to bring his account up to date and prevent a cut-off.
Thank you for your support. We can do what needs to be done because of you!
“There are as many ways to serve God as there are people.” That was another guiding principle from Sr. Mary Elizabeth, and it certainly applies to all the people who work “behind the scenes” at the Joseph House. We need to give recognition to one such individual, Ella Duma, who retired as our bookkeeper on May 1 after 23 years of service. Ella came to work in our convent office in 1995. So much has changed since then, but Ella has been a constant presence, putting up with us, keeping our records in order, and so much more. Quite simply, her work kept the lifeblood flowing that enabled our service to those in need. We will miss her, and wish her all the best as she spends more time with her delightful grandchildren. Niech cię Bóg błogosławi!
We didn’t have to look far for a new bookkeeper. Heidi Price, who was our secretary, moved over to Ella’s desk, and a new addition to our staff, Tina Schrider has taken over Heidi’s responsibilities. In other personnel news, Nicole Soder has joined our community as a Postulant. Nicole comes to us from Ohio, and she is here to discern more closely her vocation as a Little Sister of Jesus and Mary.
It’s been a season of change and transition. We pray that God will bless everyone who is beginning a new journey, and may God’s love for you be your constant strength.
Charles de Foucauld composed this prayer as he meditated on the death of Jesus on the Cross:
This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved. May it also be ours. And may it be not only that of our last moment, but also of our every moment:
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.
Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, made this prayer central to our spirituality:
The first prayer we say every day is the Abandonment Prayer of Brother Charles, which is a very beautiful prayer in which we give ourselves totally to God.
Abandonment simply means that you give yourself completely to God in such a way that you trust Him with everything that He has in mind for you, and that each morning you just give yourself to Him completely, and you’re at ease and at rest because you know that He is going to take care of you. Maybe He’s not going to do it your way, but He’s going to do it His way, which is a lot better.
Sometimes you’re a little afraid of what is He going to want to do. You don’t always feel like you’re ready for it, but that’s what takes faith. It just takes faith. We like to make our own plans….
I can assure you there were many times when I thought that I could not go on with some of the things that I had to bear. It’s just trust. And if you can trust, God will certainly take care of this matter, but give yourself to Him. That’s what we mean by abandonment. It’s when you don’t believe, believe anyhow.
When the tomb of Christ opened on that first Easter Sunday, a new reality for all people also opened up: resurrection is just as real as the cross.
Although rooted in history and the bodily nature of existence, the Resurrection of Jesus reveals an entirely new horizon for the whole world. The disciples could speak with the Risen Christ, could touch Him, yet they were encountering a mystery that transcended their senses. These encounters changed them—fundamentally—and their lives were radically different afterwards, marked by a fearlessness in proclaiming the Good News of God’s love.
But in the quiet hours of that Easter morning, there was only silence and the gentle rays of the rising sun. People waking up that day had no idea the world was changed forever. God is like that. Divinity is typically revealed with little fanfare.
Reminders of the hope held in store for us are always present, but they can be easy to overlook. We often need to slow down and pay attention. With that in mind, we would love to share a little “resurrection” story that was written by a Little Sister years ago for this Newsletter:
A friend presented me with a jar containing a twig with brown and green bumps on it. I’d never seen anything like this before. She said she had found two caterpillars and fed them parsley for a week. Shortly thereafter they evolved into chrysalises. These cases were attached to the twig by two clear strands. My friend told me to observe the jar closely as these chrysalises would emerge into butterflies. I had never done this before but I put my trust in my friend.
For more than a week I became an observer and watched my jar. I was late going to the Joseph House Center one day. I was hurrying about when I noticed something wonderful had occurred in that jar. A big, beautiful butterfly with shades of blue, red, black, and orange on its wings had taken the place of one of the cocoons. I took it outside to release it into the air. It had a difficult time adjusting to its freedom. Soon it started stretching its wings and then flew off. I took the feeling of the chrysalis and butterfly to the Joseph House Center that morning. My hope and prayer is to give new life to the poor.
The new life ushered in by Christ is communicated to each one of us personally. In unexpected moments we can catch a glimpse of it, and it can inspire us to share it with those who need it the most. Person to person—that is how Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples, how the Gospel was spread, and how it is lived out today.
St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” That’s the approach taken at the Joseph House Crisis Center, where for 35 years we have welcomed families struggling with the burdens of poverty. We assist dozens of people every week because of your faithful support.
Charlie, 64, is an Army veteran who lives alone. He’s had several strokes and is in poor condition, both physically and financially. To make matters worse, a family member cheated him out of some money. The electricity was turned off in Charlie’s trailer. Our payment of $225 restored the power.
Eveline, 55, also lives alone. A broken furnace required her to depend on electric heaters in her home. This doubled her electric bill and she needed help paying it. We contributed $225.
Pam, 51, lost her managerial position at a food store. She found part-time work (with a net pay of $300 monthly), but finding another full-time job was taking longer than she expected. Pam never thought she would be in a desperate situation. We paid $225 toward her rent.
After going through a difficult time, Kaitlin, 41, and her husband had their home go into foreclosure. They ended up losing everything and were homeless. When Kaitlin’s husband found a job as a cook, they felt hopeful for the first time in a long while. The couple still faced an upward climb: a landlord let them move into an apartment, but they needed to pay the rent as soon as possible. We sent over $170.
Haywood, 70, and his wife have a combined Social Security income of $661 monthly. They’ve been frugal their entire lives and live in a home the size of a matchbox. The water was going to be cut off because of delinquent bills. We paid $275 to get their account up to date.
Carmella, 60, has worked as a de-boner in a chicken plant for years. She injured her arm and needed to have surgery. Fortunately, Carmella qualified for Workers’ Compensation, but snafus led to a delay in receiving her first check. Carmella was very worried about losing her housing. A few months ago, she moved into a newly-built apartment complex for people with low incomes. It’s the nicest place she’s ever lived. We sent $300 to the landlord so Carmella would not be evicted.
Shayne is a young man of 20. For the past year he’s been living by himself in a very old house. Shayne walks to work at a fast-food restaurant and is doing the best he can. Despite his determination, he had to contend with living in a home without electricity. We paid $225 toward the past-due bills to get the power back on again.
“Come, have breakfast.” This is what Jesus said to the disciples when He appeared to them for the third time after the Resurrection (John 21:12). Caring for people in down-to-earth ways is truly divine. Thank you for helping the Joseph House do the same for so many of our brothers and sisters in need.
We wish you and your loved ones a Happy Easter and all the joy this springtime season brings!
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Use our Contact Form to send us your prayer requests. We will remember your intentions in our daily prayers.
The Joseph House depends on your support. Learn how you can help: Donate.
We read with interest about a series of meetings that started at Harvard Divinity School between Nuns and Nones, “nones” referring to young adults, or millennials, who profess no religious affiliation (about 25% of the population).
Apart from the obvious differences—such as the age gap—the two groups discovered they share some common aspirations. For example, they’re united in wanting to make the world a better place, and both groups have a preference for community-based decision making. Both groups also realized they can learn from each other. The nuns were amazed at how adept millennials are with technology. The millennials, in turn, commented on how comfortable the nuns were with silence. They marveled at how Catholic religious sisters can sustain themselves over years, even decades, of ministry and social activism.
Could it be that the things that impressed the millennials are related? From our perspective as Little Sisters, we believe they are. They point to a common denominator: a life of prayer.
Prayer takes root in silence and as it grows it touches everything in a person’s life. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, made sure that prayer was an essential part of our daily routine. She included in our Constitutions and Rule:
Times of encounter with the Lord in prayer are indispensable in our religious life. Only in union with Him will our work be fruitful, for without Him we can do nothing. As our prayer and action become a single response of love, our life gradually achieves unity and peace.
Sr. Mary Elizabeth described herself as an active-contemplative, and she wished the same for the members of her community. One way of being an active-contemplative is to develop a contemplative way of seeing. That means to look beneath the surface, to see the potential— to behold the oak tree in the acorn, so to speak. When Jesus saw Simon, a self-confessed sinful man, He also saw Peter, the rock of the Church—and that is the person Jesus spoke to, all the while accepting who Simon was at the moment.
Prayer isn’t “useful,” we don’t do it to get something out of it, but it does change who we are. For us, this certainly carries over into our ministry at the Joseph House. Anyone who is different or struggling or on the margins of society can get written off so easily. But approaching someone prayerfully helps us to see deeply, with compassion, and we create a space for his or her potential to grow and develop. In contrast, presenting someone with judgment and condemnation creates a barrier: that person will feel fenced in.
A prayerful life helps us to see the seed of grace within each person, to honor it, and to remember that every person has a destiny in eternity.
By his own account, Jack was a very mean person. People would take one look at him and keep their distance. Jack was homeless for years. He said he would sleep in the woods, far into the bushes so even the wind couldn’t touch him.
One day Jack came to our Hospitality Room at the Crisis Center. We asked if he was hungry. Jack said yes, and we gave him coffee, “Oodles of Noodles,” and two slices of bread. Jack later told us it was the best meal he ever had. He was so hungry for something more.
We asked Jack if we would be interested in the Joseph House Workshop, our residential program for homeless men. He said yes again, so he was interviewed, where it was explained to him that he would have to follow some rules. That won’t be a problem, he said.
Jack was in disbelief when he entered the Workshop. A bed just for him! A kitchen and dining room! Hot meals! A living room! A community! For Jack, it was heaven on earth.
Well, that was over seven years ago. Jack is now a successful graduate of the Workshop and loves to be the first person at his job in the morning. He’s had setbacks with his health, but he’s doing much better. Whereas once he drove people away, now he attracts them. His network of friends is always growing. They look after him, and Jack is no longer on the outside of anywhere.
And to think it all started with opening the door and saying hello….
Many poor people are hiding in plain sight. They get ignored, yet modern society depends on the work they do. Gail, 52, is a bathroom attendant in Ocean City. She makes sure the facility on the boardwalk is clean and safe so the people enjoying the beach don’t have to worry about it. Gail had a roommate who moved out suddenly. The rent was too much for Gail to pay by herself and so she received an eviction notice. The Joseph House paid $170 to the landlord so Gail wouldn’t become homeless.
Patricia, 60, drives a school bus. She is single and has the care of her grandson; the parents have no involvement with their child. Patricia is a good, responsible person. Paying her basic expenses is a real struggle. She came to the Joseph House after giving $200 (all the money she had) to her landlord. It was not enough. Fortunately, we were able to pay $325 to keep Patricia and her grandson in their home.
Leila, 24, washes dishes in a restaurant and does other odd jobs. She has a young son but the father does not pay child support. Leila and her son did not have a fixed address. Even after giving up her car she never had the funds for the security deposit for an apartment. The Joseph House provided $225, plus a warm coat for her son who needed one. Now this family has a place to live.
Late winter, early spring. This is the time of year when appearances are deceptive. Everything looks dead and the trees are bare, but then we notice the red buds on the branch tips. Nature is so resilient—it reminds us to live as a sign of hope. Thank you for all the ways you support the Joseph House, including your generosity. You give hope to people who are desperately searching for it. May God bless you!
When you meditate, be like a mountain
immovably set in silence.
Its thoughts are rooted in eternity.
Do not do anything, just sit, be—
and you will reap the fruit flowing from your prayer.
When you meditate, be like a flower
always directed towards the sun.
Its stalk, like a spine, is always straight.
Be open, ready to accept everything without fear,
and you will not lack light on your way.
When you meditate, be like an ocean
always immovable in its depth.
Its waves come and go.
Be calm in your heart,
and evil thoughts will go away by themselves.
When you meditate, remember your breath:
Thanks to it we have come alive.
It comes from God and returns to God.
Unite the word of prayer with the stream of life,
and nothing will separate you from the Giver of life.
When you meditate, be like a bird
singing without a rest in front of the Creator.
Its song rises like the smoke of incense.
Let your prayer be like the coo of a dove,
and you will never succumb to discouragement.
When you meditate, be like Abraham
giving his son as an offering.
It was a sign that he was ready to sacrifice everything.
You too, leave everything,
and in your loneliness God will be with you.
When you meditate, it is Jesus
praying in you to the Father in the Spirit.
You are carried by the flame of His love.
Be like a river, serving all,
and the time will come when you will change into Love.
Every mountain teaches us the sense of eternity,
every flower, when it fades,
teaches us the sense of fleetingness.
The ocean teaches us how to retain peace during adversities,
and love always teaches us to love.
Fr. Seraphion of Mount Athos (adapted by Fr. Jan Bereza, OSB)
One of the most familiar passages in Scripture is the story of the Good Samaritan. Even people who say they don’t know much about the Bible know how the story goes: a man was attacked by robbers and left beaten and bloodied by the side of the road. Two others came along, a priest and a Levite, and left without stopping to help.
Then a Samaritan arrived and gave assistance that went above and beyond the call of duty. He dressed the injured man’s wounds, took him to an inn, and gave the innkeeper money to provide for him until he recovered (see Luke 10: 29-37).
We might wonder how the first two men could just leave the beaten man alone in his suffering. Maybe his presence alerted them to the fact that it was a dangerous road. If they stopped to help, they might get assaulted, too. Maybe they were on their way to an important engagement and didn’t want to be late. Helping at the moment was not convenient. Or maybe if they helped him today he might ask for something else tomorrow. They knew they could only do so much. The priest and Levite probably felt justified in not getting involved.
These excuses sound familiar. What made the Samaritan act so differently? A fundamental change in attitude. Whereas the first two men thought, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” the Samaritan thought, “If I don’t stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
The Samaritan had made a change on the inside. He walked the same road as the other two, but through his conversion of heart he overcame fear and united the injured man’s pain with God’s healing.
For most of us, putting others first and ourselves last is an uphill climb. Old habits and self-centeredness keep pulling us in the opposite direction. But the grace of God is stronger and will help us triumph in the end.
If the Good Samaritan’s care of the injured man seems extravagant, even more so is God’s care for us. We won’t fully realize how many good things He sent our way until this life is over. One of His best gifts is the desire to love and serve the poor. What could be better than to have a heart that is like God’s own?
The season of Lent is upon us. Let us keep in mind the type of fasting that the Lord finds acceptable: to release those held captive by injustice, to break the yoke of oppression, to share our bread with the hungry, our shelter with the homeless, and our clothing with the naked (Isaiah 58:6-7).
As we journey toward Easter, may our eyes be opened to see our neighbor in distress, and may we let go of whatever keeps us from loving others as a Good Samaritan.
We rarely get the chance to do great things for other people. Our days are filled, however, with moments to do little things. These are precious and not to be squandered—they are capable of doing so much good. Sometimes the moment occurs unexpectedly. The key is to be ready at all times. We must make it the intention of our hearts to be kind and considerate of others.
Brother Charles, the spiritual father of the Joseph House, built his life around this. He wrote:
Have the tender care that expresses itself in little things that are like a balm for the heart. With our neighbors, go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest attention.
Be tender and attentive towards those whom God puts in your path, as a brother towards a brother, as a mother towards a child. As much as possible, be an element of consolation for those around us, as a soothing balm, as our Lord was to those who drew near Him.
Every great saint has seen the truth and beauty of living this way. Here are words from Mother Teresa, for example:
Thoughtfulness is the beginning of sanctity. If you learn this art of being thoughtful, you will become more and more Christ-like, for He was always meek and He always thought of the needs of others. Our life to be beautiful must be full of the thought of others.
The thoughtfulness of Jesus and Mary and Joseph was so great that it made Nazareth the abode of the Most High God. If we also have that kind of thoughtfulness for each other, our homes would really become the abode of God Most High.
The little things we do for each other are so important. They make a big impact for their size. As Little Sisters, we remember this every day in our convent, our place of daily living, and also in our home away from home, the Joseph House. The sentiments expressed above speak to the essence of our ministry with the poor. What we do is nothing less than the careful, polite attention to the needs of others. And you—our friends, volunteers, and benefactors—participate in this, too. The Joseph House exists because of your thoughtful consideration of other people, especially those undergoing hardship.
Our founder wanted the Joseph House to reflect the warmth and love of the Holy Family in Nazareth. She wanted it to be a place where people receive help not just in the form of material goods and services, but in a lifting up of their spirits. The Joseph House is a place of encounter and personal contact, where people are welcomed and their dignity respected. The world is so harsh at times; people who are worried about going hungry or being evicted should be met with kindness.
Thank you for your support and for allowing us to channel your generosity. We added up the figures from 2018 and they show that the “wolf of want” is at the door of many people.
At the Joseph House Crisis Center, we issued 1,581 checks to help individuals and families pay for housing, utilities, health care, transportation, and other critical needs. Our Food Pantry gave out 12,514 bags of groceries; an average of 565 households, representing 1,275 people, received food each month. Our Soup Kitchen served 11,572 hot meals. Our Hospitality Room for homeless men and women responded 6,299 times to the needs of visitors. We provided showers, laundry, food, coats, blankets, and personal care products; on average we welcomed about 25 people per day, five days a week.
At Christmas, 793 children received a bag of gifts, which included a large toy, a smaller one, a book, a puzzle or activity book, assorted stocking stuffers, plus a hat, scarf, or mittens.
The Joseph House Workshop, next door to the Crisis Center, also had an eventful year. The Workshop is a long-term residential program for homeless men. It provides them with a supportive place to live where they engage in a process that (a) moves them from homelessness to stable living; (b) trains them to find and maintain employment; and (c) empowers them to reach their full potential.
There are currently four men in the program. One is getting ready to enter Phase 1 (classroom-based) and three are in Phase 2 (employment). All of the men came directly from drug and alcohol treatment centers or were referred to us from the Health Department.
In-house classes focus on relapse prevention as well as personal growth based on popular devotional books. To give the men a creative outlet we offer classes on various arts and crafts. Being well-rounded individuals is extremely important to living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to involvement in 12-Step activities, several of the men participate in Celebrate Recovery and weekly Sunday Services at SonRise Church. The residents are also active in community service on an “as needed” basis.
Of the men in the employment phase, one is working as a cook, another is a floor technician at the hospital with the third getting ready to work there, too. The Workshop helps the men every step of the way in finding a job and provides transportation to and from their job sites. A percentage of each resident’s paycheck goes into a savings account for when they leave the program—a great boost for the next stage of their lives.
Many of our graduates live in the area, supporting themselves and reconnecting with family members. Dramatic, life-changing transformations have occurred. A highlight of this past year was a visit from a graduate who is now in the armed forces. He wanted to spend time at the Workshop before his deployment to Hawaii. Meeting our graduates is the best way to inspire those in the program!
Numbers tell just part of the story. Behind every figure is the work of a volunteer and the generosity of a donor. We don’t have space to mention every individual, business, and organization that contributes, although we thank them personally. Also, “Your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:4). All of this generosity helps people in a deep and meaningful way. We are overjoyed and sometimes overwhelmed by it. Thank you.
There is never time to rest in serving the poor. One year ends, another begins, and “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). Next month we will continue with stories about the people we help. With our gratitude and never-ending prayers,
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Stay in touch with the Joseph House
Founder: Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling Year of Foundation: 1965 Mission Statement: To promote social justice and stable family life through direct assistance to the poor, whatever their needs may be. Administrators: The Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary Superior General: Sr. Marilyn Bouchard
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The Joseph House is a non-profit and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. All gifts are tax-deductible.
At Joseph House, we help the poor with their immediate needs and also look for ways to address the underlying problems. I am open to everything, whatever it takes to help people, especially to help them know their own value.