Dear Friends of Joseph House:
To the world, he was John Paul I, a pope known primarily for the shortness of his term (33 days). To Pia Luciani, however, he was Uncle Albino, and in a recent interview she shared her memories of him:
Pia: He told stories, sometimes even jokes with a moral ending, exhorting us always to practice eutrapelia.
Reporter: Excuse me, what does that mean?
Pia: It is a Greek word, it means showing happiness to others, finding the joyful and playful side in all things, because, he told us, “When things go wrong, they never go completely wrong. There is always a solution.”
Eutrapelia. There, we’ve learned a new word for the new year and a good one to keep in mind. 2017 had a heaviness to it, and we need to look for the light, for the solutions to our problems, because they exist.
Dorothy Day, the writer and social activist, had a similar philosophy she called the “duty of delight.” She made it her response to suffering:
I was thinking how, as one gets older, we are tempted to sadness, knowing life as it is here on earth, the suffering, the Cross. And how we must overcome it daily, growing in love, and the joy which goes with loving.
It’s easy to look at the world today and sigh. The problems can seem overwhelming. Unthinkable violence is becoming commonplace. The common good is sacrificed because of greed and the lust for power. Life is devalued and creation is just a commodity and trash dump. But reacting with fear and despair leaves us cold. That turns the human heart into stone, and makes us mean and self-centered and prone to scapegoating.
As Dorothy said, despair is a temptation, and overcoming it requires making a decision, every day, to move in the other direction with action, effort, and focus. She was ready for her critics:
People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.
To that we say, “Amen!” We know we’re not alone in believing this because so many steadfast people keep the Joseph House Crisis Center in operation. How wonderful it is to be united in working for the good of others, to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.
Your support makes a difference. Here are a few people who can tell you how much:
Charlene, 31, is the mother of four children. A few months ago she had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed as bipolar. The process of recovery is not easy — Charlene is working hard to incorporate it into her journey through life. After finding the right medication level she is starting to feel more settled. She would have been lost without her mother’s help in taking care of the children.
Charlene came to the Joseph House a week before she was scheduled to return to work as a nursing assistant. A notice had been taped to her door by the sheriff’s office, stating that she was going to be evicted because of non-payment of rent. We called her landlord and received disheartening news: the entire amount of $1,400 needed to be paid to stop the eviction, not a penny less. That was way beyond our budget. We told Charlene we could hold $225 for her in case she found another source of funds.
Then the unexpected happened. An anonymous donor came to the door with a check for $1,400 to be used for Charlene’s rent. What? Angels exist! Charlene was overjoyed and so grateful as she took the check to her landlord.
Hilda, 40, lost everything when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. She and her young son made their way to the States and the Eastern Shore, living in a car for over a month. A childhood friend in the area helped Hilda find a place to live. After we paid $200 toward the security deposit, Hilda and her son were able to make the move before winter arrived. Her new landlord gave them some furniture and clothing. Hilda and her son have little, but it is more than what they left behind.
Jack is in his sixties and going through some major life events. He was recently widowed and just lost his job as a bail bondsman (after 20 years). Before that he was a police officer. Jack lives with his son who has kidney problems and may or may not be able to go back to work. Jack himself has a large tumor attached to his spine. In the midst of this he is looking for a job. Jack came to the Joseph House after the water was shut off in his home. He never thought he would have to ask for help. We sent $250 to the water utility.
Don, 60, went on disability after suffering a series of mini strokes. He can no longer work as a truck driver. He lives very frugally but is still having a hard time paying his basic expenses. We paid $250 toward his electric bill so the power would not be cut off in his home.
Mavis, 67, is working as a home health aide to support herself. She had back surgery not that long ago and is slowly recovering. The loss of work put her behind in her rent. Even though Mavis must walk with a cane, she feels she is almost ready to return to her job. She has no choice. We sent $200 to her landlord.
Antonia was homeless with her three children. Fortunately, a shelter had a family room available, and once Antonia knew her children were off the streets she could piece her life together. Before their time was up she found a housekeeping job. We paid $225 toward the security deposit for an apartment so she and her children could escape the cycle of homelessness.
It is very gratifying when we can help families in crisis take a step toward stable living. Thank you for your generosity in supporting the Joseph House. As we begin a new year, we hope you will continue to join us in our service to those in need. We will have a report on our activities during 2017 next month.
Every night when we go to sleep we place ourselves in the hands of God. He is the reason we can rise with joy and look forward to the day, knowing that whatever happens we will get through it together. May His abiding love grant you peace and much happiness.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
With the unanimous consent of her community, Sr. Marilyn Bouchard has been named Superior General of the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary. She replaces Sr. Connie Ladd, who served faithfully for 15 years.
Sr. Marilyn hails from Wisconsin and entered our community in 1990. She supervised our Baltimore mission for several years and then was the “right-hand woman” of Sr. Mary Elizabeth. Sr. Marilyn has been active in all aspects of the Joseph House and maintains close ties with the Village of Hope. She is an excellent promoter of our ministry to the community at large.
Sr. Connie will assist Sr. Marilyn as Vicar General. We pray that God will bless these two dedicated servants as they guide our community and direct our ministry with the poor. In His kindness, may He send wisdom and strength to help Sr. Marilyn carry out her new responsibilities of leadership. We know with her gentle spirit and loving heart she will be a good steward of the mission entrusted to us by our founder.