Newsletter: September 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

“We’re all in this together.”

We’ve heard this over and over again during these past few months. And it’s true: we are not alone in dealing with the pain, hardship, and anxiety that this year has brought.

The normal course of our lives has been disrupted, not only by the pandemic and its fallout but also by civil unrest across our land. Things are not the same. But in feeling tossed about, what comes to mind is the image of Noah’s Ark, a powerful symbol of being in the same boat together while the familiar world disappears. Perhaps this story has something to say to us.

The story of Noah is a creation story, or rather, a re-creation story. The old is washed away and Noah, his family, and the animals are taken to someplace new. We should make note of what God said to Noah before the rain began: “Of all living creatures you shall bring two of every kind into the ark” (Gen 6:19). God didn’t tell Noah to bring only the creatures he liked, but all of them, because diversity is needed for life to continue. Here we can see how the ark prefigures the Body of Christ, referenced in our August Newsletter.

Noah did his part and listened to God and prepared for the flood, but then it became a matter of trust. Scripture scholars say the ark has a linguistic connection with the floating basket in which the baby Moses was placed: set adrift with no rudder or sail, the ark likewise was a surrender into the hands of God. After the rains, Noah released a dove. The first time it came back with nothing, but then it brought back an olive leaf. With the ark surrounded by water, can you imagine the excitement and relief of everyone on board?

We, too, must be looking for signs of hope. For us today, it’s been raining, so to speak, for more than 40 days and 40 nights—and it’s still coming down. But in this storm we are going through, our compassion and care for each other creates an ark of safety. It’s up to us to keep this vessel strong and secure. Life goes on, and one day (hopefully soon) our deliverance will come.

When the flood receded, Noah had the chance to make a fresh start. So will we, to some degree at least. What will we leave behind? What will we embrace? The decisions we make define us.

We’re all in this together, but not everyone is having the same experience or facing the same consequences. The losses are not equal. Some people are paying a higher price than others.

Our mission at the Joseph House is to assist the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. We, and they, are grateful that you share the same concern. Although our Soup Kitchen at the Joseph House Crisis Center remains closed, the Food Pantry, Hospitality Room, and Financial Assistance program are very much active, as is the Joseph House Workshop, our residential program for homeless men.

Corey and Laurie, both in their late thirties, have an infant daughter. Corey was laid off from his job as a construction laborer because of COVID-19. His car, a 1997 model, broke down and he used his savings to get it fixed. It broke down again, and with no money to get it repaired, it was towed away. Corey and his family became homeless, and with the last of their money they moved into a motel. When their funds ran out they contacted the Joseph House. Corey had some promising news: he found a new job but his first paycheck was a week away. We paid for another week at the motel ($350) and gave them plenty of food that they could cook in a microwave. We also gave them a supply of diapers for their daughter.

Juanita, 27, has a young son. She lost her job at a chicken processing plant when production was halted because of the pandemic. She and her son live in a tiny matchbox of a house. Juanita is very hardworking and readily agreed to meet with our excellent job counselor. She is not used to asking for help. We committed $300 to her overdue electric bill.

Janine, 30, and her husband also work at a chicken plant. Hours at the plant were reduced, and Janine’s husband was laid off. They have five children. This family is struggling, but Janine has come a long way through many difficulties. Her composure is edifying. We paid $197 to keep the electricity on in her family’s home.

Suzanne, 36, is married and has three children. Her husband was diagnosed with COVID-19 and is out of work. This family is receiving temporary state benefits of $600 per month. They are behind in all of their bills and the water was shut off. Their old car is ready to fall apart. We paid $422 to get the water back on. Suzanne said her husband is recovering and feels he should be ready to start working again soon.

Carrie, 34, started her own child-care business shortly before the pandemic shut everything down. She has a lot of positive energy and was excited about being self-employed. She is still hopeful about the future, but with two children of her own and no income, she had to ask for help. Carrie used her stimulus check to pay for the rent. She applied for Food Stamps for the first time in her life, and came to the Joseph House about her electric bill. We called the utility company and learned that a payment of $250 was required to get Carrie’s account placed on a budget plan. So we paid that amount.

Fred is 60, and when he came to the Joseph House at the end of July he was still waiting for his stimulus check. It would be a big help. Fred is disabled (a car hit him while he was riding his bicycle) and back pain is part of his daily life. With his bike-riding days over, Fred spent what little money he had to get his aging car working again. He was hoping to use his stimulus check to pay his other bills, but so far it hasn’t materialized. Fred has spent many hours on the phone trying to find out what happened. He’s been told it was deposited in his checking account, but he showed us his bank statements and there’s no evidence of it. We could feel his frustration. In the meantime, the gas was scheduled to be turned off in his home because of a past-due bill. We sent $304 to prevent that from happening.

It’s the water that gets inside the boat that sinks it, not the ocean around it. Keep in mind that God, the source of all hope, makes this journey with us: “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Mt 8:26). Our place of encounter with God is in the present moment. Returning there can help calm our worries. We must do what we can do, and then leave to God what only God can do.

Let us continue to support each other through our prayers and good example. May God bless all who are patiently working, praying, and sacrificing for the sake of others. May God’s mercy be with all who are suffering, and all who have passed on. As always, we are so grateful for you.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


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