Dear Friends of Joseph House:
One of our customs during Advent is to set up a Jesse Tree in our dining room. The Jesse Tree is sort of a cross between a Christmas Tree and an Advent Calendar. It depicts the family tree of Christ and the events of salvation history; the name comes from Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” In years past, our dear Sr. Joan would be the one to put a new ornament on the tree each day before dinner. This year someone else will do it because Sr. Joan is no longer with us, having gone to her eternal reward last March. Her absence is just one reminder of how much has changed this year.
In her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day recalled an event that “threw us out of our complacent happiness into a world of catastrophe.” It was the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Dorothy was a child at the time living with her family in Oakland. The two minutes and twenty seconds of the earthquake terrified her. Her family’s bungalow rocked like a boat on the ocean, but they all managed to escape.
In the days that followed, something equally unforgettable happened. Refugees poured in from across the bay and began to set up camps in a nearby park. The home of Dorothy’s family was in shambles, and so were the homes of her neighbors. Yet Dorothy observed how they all “joined my mother in serving the homeless. Every stitch of available clothing was given away.”
This experience of the “joy of doing good” stayed with Dorothy. It gave her a glimpse of what truly satisfies the human heart. As she entered adulthood, it set a goal for what she wanted:
“I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too. I did not want just the few, the missionary-minded people like the Salvation Army, to be kind to the poor…I wanted everyone to be kind. I wanted every home to be open to the lame, the halt and the blind, the way it had been after the San Francisco earthquake. Only then did people really live, really love their brothers. In such love was the abundant life.”
Today, it feels like we’re in a slow-motion earthquake as the world in which we live continues to be disrupted and cracked wide open. In the midst of the turmoil there is only one response that gives hope and healing to those who are hurting. It’s the same response Dorothy saw in 1906: to love your neighbor as yourself, even if it involves personal sacrifice.
Thank you for all that you do to support the Joseph House. Every donation and prayer is a reflection of the “abundant life” we all desire so much. No one has been unaffected by the events of this year. To be able to see beyond your own needs, to show concern for the welfare of others, is such a tremendous grace. Let us praise God for this gift!
We gave out turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas toys are next. You can drop off donations at our convent. For more information, please call us at 410-742-9590 or visit our website: Holiday Giving.
Our Financial Assistance program is year-round. We’ve seen a number of people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Lucas and Valerie, in their early forties, were living on a chicken farm, which closed down due to COVID-19. The couple were forced to leave and became homeless. With no car, they walked everywhere. Valerie needs to use a cane because of her weight and health problems. She and Lucas came to the Joseph House asking for shelter and food. We gave them bags of groceries and paid for a motel stay ($265). A forthcoming SSI check will be used to get an apartment.
Arlene, 53, lost her job when she fled the violence of her abusive husband and ended up living in her car. She went through a really bad time. Now she has found a job and is trying to save money to move into an apartment. We paid $300 toward the cost to make it happen. Arlene felt renewed when she left the Crisis Center and very happy.
Richie, 27, is a recovering drug addict. He has been sober for three months and has started working as a cashier at a fast-food place. He needed $150 in rent money to stay at a halfway house. We paid the amount so Richie can live in a safe and supportive environment. In talking about life and the possibilities of his future, Richie said he never graduated from high school and would like to get his GED. A laptop would help. We are looking into getting him one.
JOSEPH HOUSE WORKSHOP NEWS
The Workshop is a long-term residential program for men who were homeless. Here is an interview with Nick, Assistant Director, who is also a Workshop graduate:
How many men are in the program? We have 4 men here now; one is in the employment phase and three have just started taking classes.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the program? The only changes here at the Workshop because of COVID-19 are that we do temperature checks and the residents do not go to outside meetings as they would have before the pandemic.
What part of the program are the men especially grateful for? The men are especially grateful for the chance to receive the tools to see things in a different way. They appreciate the kindness and love that they receive from the Workshop and all associated with Joseph House. They love the opportunity to “give back” to the community by way of community service over at the Crisis Center and helping the Sisters at the convent.
What are some of their goals? Their goals are gaining the ability to be self-sufficient, to stay off drugs and alcohol, rebuilding family relationships, obtaining a job and learning how to keep it, learning about building credit, getting a car and house. The resident in the employment phase is reaching every goal he has set here, he even says that he surprises himself on how much he has turned his life around with the help of Joseph House Workshop—he has held a job, started college, and is doing great in rebuilding his relationship with his wife and kids. Those who are starting classes are setting short-term goals to work on.
How are their lives different today compared to how they were before entering the Workshop? The biggest difference is that they have HOPE now, they have a PURPOSE.
Do you hear from former residents and graduates? Yes, we like to stay in touch. We believe everyone benefits from the program in different ways. They hold jobs and some have even started their own business. It’s heartening to see people rebuild their lives. The Workshop is a turning point for them.
Learn more about the Joseph House Workshop.
We pray that the light of Christ may lead us to a place of hope and peace at Christmastime. Please send us you prayer requests and we will pray for you during this holy season: Contact Form.
Our ministry depends on free-will offerings. We can assist the homeless, the hungry, and families in distress because of the support of caring individuals. If you would like to help, please visit our donation page: Donate.
You are always close to us in prayer. In quiet moments we like to gather all the memories of this year, the people and places, our worries and hopes, our trials and joys, and place them into the hands of God. We’re on a real journey, and in reaching for the light, for what is good and true, there is hope. We pray for you and your loved ones, that you may enjoy a happy celebration of Christmas and the many blessings of the yuletide season. May God’s providence guide and protect us all in the New Year.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
by Archbishop José H. Gomez
Christmas tells us that the things of this world are “sacraments,” signs that point us to our Creator. If we have the right attitude toward material things, they can be instruments that open our hearts and lead us into his presence…
My prayer is that we will also rediscover the profound biblical spirit that lies behind all of our “material” Christmas traditions.
We decorate trees because Scripture tells us that when the Lord comes, every tree will sing for joy (Ps 96:12). We carol and sing hymns because when the Lord comes all the earth will sing a new song (Is 42:10) and angels in heaven will praise him (Lk 2:13).
Christmas lights remind us that he is the morning star (Rv 22:16), the great light given to those walking in darkness (Is 9:1), to lead us on the journey of life (Mt 2:9). Even the tradition of holiday baking can be traced to our Lord’s invitation to taste and see that his promises are sweeter than any honey (Ps 34:9; Ps 119:103).
We give gifts to our loved ones at Christmas because in his tender love God has given us the precious gift of himself (Rm 6:23).