Important Note: This Newsletter was written long before protests and riots swept across our country following the killing of Mr. George Floyd. All of us need to be fearless in confronting every instance of racial hatred—whether in our hearts or in society—and use peaceful means to create a world that reflects our highest ideals of equality. We stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters, and all people who struggle against the injustice of racism and prejudice. Our guiding principle remains: “Cry the Gospel with your life!”
Dear Friends of Joseph House:
As we approach the midpoint of this disquieting year, it is comforting to see nature carrying on as usual. Our lives may have changed, but the trees are green once again and it looks and feels like summer is on its way. New life is sprouting, blooming, and growing, just like it does every June, a month always filled with promise.
It’s a growing season for us, too, although probably not in the way we expected or ever wanted. There’s a curious phrase from Meister Eckhart, a German mystic from the Middle Ages, that comes to mind. He said, “We grow by subtraction,” which seems paradoxical, but recent events may help us to see it in a new light.
Sometimes we grow by getting bigger, by adding on, by achieving more…and sometimes we grow by cutting and removing and letting things recede. Sometimes we have to let go.
This pandemic is forcing us to let go of many things: our plans and expectations, our sense of security, and perhaps even our health and livelihood. Times we spent with other people are now spent alone. We are being confronted with new limits in our lives. It’s easy to feel confined and powerless.
In other words, we are experiencing different forms of poverty, and as the poor will tell us, poverty is the seedbed of true hope.
When, like the poor, our days are shaded by uncertainty, when the mirage of our self-sufficiency is dispersed, then hope has a chance to take root in our spirit. “Hard times” are its ideal growing conditions. Maybe by letting go and creating an empty space in our lives, we are giving hope a chance to flourish. Maybe we are clearing a path for new possibilities.
Our work at the Joseph House has made one facet of hope crystal clear to us: it has a relational quality. Hope spreads through compassion and solidarity. What restores the hope of a mother who has nothing to give her hungry children? Is it not the kindness of people who share food with her? By looking out for each other, we keep hope alive and well. We make it believable.
Thank you for your continued support of our ministry. During this time of widespread need, we are grateful that you remember the Joseph House. Your donations and prayers give us the means to serve the vulnerable members of our community. Although our Soup Kitchen is still closed at the Crisis Center, our Food Pantry, Hospitality Room for the Homeless, and Financial Assistance program are all active. The Joseph House Workshop is also in operation 24/7, preparing homeless men to reach their potential in life.
Life is a hardship for many people right now. By pulling together and drawing on the wellspring of God’s grace, we can do something to make the situation better. We can each do our part. If you are personally going through a rough time, please hang in there! You are not alone.
Pamela was in a tight spot even before COVID-19 hit. To support her family she was driving a cab, but that was too dangerous. Her next job at a fast-food place did not pay enough to meet her basic expenses. Pamela found a better job in Ocean City, but then everything was shut down because of the virus. We paid $220 toward Pamela’s rent to help secure her housing.
Reuben, 69, lives alone and is often sick. His past-due electric bill overwhelmed his limited income. The Joseph House helped with $225.
Christen, 40, has two children and lives on a small monthly disability check. She did not have the money for her water bill, so we paid it ($149).
Madeline, 38, has three children and lost her job as a waitress because of the shutdown. She had no heat in her home, and drove an hour to our Crisis Center because there was no place to go for help. We paid for heating oil ($180) and gave her a voucher for 12 gallons of gasoline.
Phyllis, 23, and her three young children have been homeless for two years. They have stayed in shelters and the homes of various friends. Her minivan has often been her only refuge. Phyllis finally found a subsidized apartment, but in order to move in she needed to pay her old electric bill. We contacted the utility company and paid $250.
Harry and his wife were both out of work, but then Harry got a job at a poultry house. They and their two sons were living in a motel until it closed because of the coronavirus. Harry came to the Joseph House because he hadn’t received his first paycheck yet and didn’t know where to go. We found a motel that was still open and paid for a week for this homeless family ($280). We also gave them groceries.
Irma, is a 65-year-old widow. She has been cleaning bathrooms to supplement her Social Security. Irma was hoping to find more work in Ocean City, but those plans are on hold. To add to her troubles, Social Security told her they had overpaid her and will be reducing the amount of her check. We helped Irma with $250 for her rent.
Please pray for Sr. Patricia Lennon, who fell and broke her arm. She was walking back from the chapel at our residence in Princess Anne, MD when she lost her balance. Sr. Pat is dedicated to prayer, and now she could use one from all of us.
As you know, this is really a time of deep prayer for the whole world. We pray for everyone who is fearful, for the sick and suffering, for those who have died, and for all the people who are making a sacrifice for the good of others. May we be delivered soon from the scourge of this virus. And may God, the source of all hope, who is with us every step of this journey, shelter you from harm and keep your heart in peace.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
COVID-19 has far-reaching consequences that will be with us for a while. “Hope Practices,” healthy habits that will serve us in the long run, can help us cope. We found some good ideas from Richard Hendrick, a Franciscan friar in Ireland. Here are a few:
Look at the sky; to do so draws you up and out of your thoughts.
Live seasonally; enter fully the joy and the beauty of each one as it arises and then do not cling to them as they bid you farewell.
Living plants are better than cut flowers, but always try and have a little of nature near you.
Plant seeds. Grow a garden, and, if possible eat from it. It will teach you your dependence on the earth for bodily sustenance.
Sing, hum, whistle; let music be part of you, especially the music that arises unbidden and seems to come from deep within.
Spend time with the very young and the very old, both will help you be yourself again.
Speak less. Listen more. Pause before you post anything online.
Be polite and thankful towards those who have the job of serving you—waiting staff, shop assistants, cleaners—and remember that everyone you meet has a story at least as complicated as yours.
Bend, stretch, move, dance; do not become confined in or separated from your body, honor it with respect and kindness. Tell it you love it until you do. Rest.
Draw, paint, doodle, play with color and shapes, and as you do so watch what emerges. Do not characterize it as good or bad.
Compare yourself with no one. There is no universal map for a human life, but there is a universal destiny: to become love.
Watch the dawn and the dusk often, both are great teachers in their own way.
Seek truth always. Be open to the fact that you could always be wrong.
Teach yourself the value of unstimulated solitude.
Let your eyes rest on books more than screens. Read the older stories. If they are still with us it is because they have much to teach us still.
Finally, before all else and above all else: act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God.