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

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.

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