Newsletter: July 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

When we consider people in need—”the poor”—we may focus on how they’re different from us.

Do we ever consider how we’re the same? Does that change how we want to respond to them?

Our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth once shared a story from the early days of the Joseph House in Baltimore. She was interviewing a mother who had requested help paying a heating bill:

[The mother] had just explained her need for $60 to pay a gas bill. I acknowledged the importance of such a need and then very professionally began to list her expenses alongside of her welfare income. Somewhere she had $50 she could not account for and I worried her with questions.

Finally we arrived at the truth: she had spent the fifty dollars on a coat for her three-year-old, trusting she would get money for her gas from us.

I pointed out that she had made a very unwise decision. She looked at me and with a great look of pride on her face and a sense of accomplishment in her voice she said, “I guess I did, but for once in her life my little girl was the best dressed girl in Sunday School. It won’t never happen again—but for just once the best dressed girl was my little girl.”

I felt her pride, I knew it would live forever in her heart—that great memory. I paid her gas bill and was happy to do it. I felt that it was my little girl that had captured a respect she would never again know.

When we identify with people as people, as fellow human beings who have their hopes and dreams, who have inner lives that are as rich and complex and precious as our own, then our sense of compassion begins to enlarge. “I felt her pride….I felt that it was my little girl.” Sr. Mary Elizabeth had a natural ability to get close to people. She could easily place herself in the shoes of another, a consequence of an open heart not put off by appearances.

Beneath the mystery of each person there is a deeper one. In her excellent book on the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, Hidden in God, Bonnie Thurston writes:

We must learn to see beyond people’s “packaging,” for example, the accidents of birth, education, taste, and culture. We must learn to live beyond our own narrowness in those same areas, our preferences and prejudices.

Charles de Foucauld wrote: “To be able to truly see others, we must close our physical eyes and open the eyes of our souls. Let us see what they are from within, not what they appear to be. Let us look at them in the same way as God looks at them.” In so looking, Foucauld believes we see Jesus….

Writing on February 5, 1916, nearly at the end of his life, Foucauld recommends: “Be kind and compassionate, and do not be insensitive to any misery. See Jesus in all people.”

For Charles, the spiritual father of the Joseph House, it was the presence of Christ in each person that ultimately unites everyone. He looked at people “in the same way as God looks at them,” and that changed his life. Charles lived as a “universal brother” to all people—Christian, Muslim, atheist, European, African—and freely shared what he had with those in need. His was the vision of all the saints, canonized or not.

To see Christ in everyone means to treat each person with respect. It means to affirm the dignity of all people as being made in the image and likeness of God. That’s the overriding mission of the Joseph House, whether we are helping a family with a pressing financial need, washing the clothes of a homeless person, feeding empty stomachs, or accompanying a resident in our Workshop program as he builds a better future. Your support brings this mission to life.

When people have nowhere to turn, the Joseph House is here for them. Caroline, 37, worked in a restaurant for four years. She liked her job, but she started to receive unwanted and aggressive physical advances. Caroline finally left. She has four children, although their father ignores every court order for child support. With no income and no other options, Caroline asked the Joseph House for help paying her electric bill. It was the day before the electric was scheduled to be shut off. We called the power company with our commitment of $250, and the shut-off was canceled.

Sabrina, 58, can barely walk because of arthritic knees. Her income is $194 per month in temporary disability. Were it not for subsidized housing, she would be homeless. Sabrina needed help paying her electric bill—if the power was shut off she would jeopardize her housing subsidy. We paid the $200 bill immediately.

Ellen, 72, doesn’t have subsidized housing, and her rent takes 95% of her income! She is frail and not in good health. Her electric bill was overdue, but she did not qualify for assistance in her county. She came to the Joseph House and we paid $200. Ellen hopes to find a roommate to share expenses. Since affordable housing is so scarce that seems to be her only hope.

Kenny, 68, lives in one of the worst neighborhoods in the area in terms of substandard housing. We’ve been in those houses before—you can smell the decay. Kenny has cancer and is being treated with chemo and radiation. He normally works odd jobs to supplement his income, but he hasn’t been feeling up to it. He was behind in his rent and received an eviction notice. We paid $225 to stop the proceedings. We really wish there was more affordable housing, places that are clean and safe, especially for seniors and those with health problems!

Matthew, 51, worked for a food company for 21 years. His struggle with a debilitating depression required him to stop working. His wife Ann works in a nursing home. Her income doesn’t cover all of their basic expenses, and she is looking for a second job. After falling behind in their rent, the couple applied for assistance at the Department of Social Services. They qualified only for food stamps. We sent $220 to their landlord to give Matthew and Ann time to sort out their new circumstances.

To continue our work we need help. We need you. Thank you for being generous.

July is the anniversary month for the Little Sisters. On the 7th we celebrated 45 years! As the years roll by we hope to stay young at heart just like Sr. Mary Elizabeth. The example she gave us is a treasure, and we hope and pray to be faithful to her vision for our community. May God bless us with more vocations, and may God bless you with an abundance of love and peace.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Praying for people is a special—and much loved—part of our ministry. Please feel free to trouble us with your troubles and whatever is in your heart. What would you like us to pray for?

• restored health
• medical bills
• spiritual and emotional welfare of a loved one
• safe pregnancy and birth
• selling a house
• job search
• happy marriage
• freedom from anxiety and depression
• respect for all life
• safety of a loved one in the armed forces
• government leaders
• pastors and church leaders
• justice for all
• lasting peace…

Please use our Contact Form to send your prayer request.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:16


Please let us know if the images in this post are not visible. We have been having some technical difficulties.

When you don’t believe, believe anyhow

Charles de Foucauld composed this prayer as he meditated on the death of Jesus on the Cross:

This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved. May it also be ours. And may it be not only that of our last moment, but also of our every moment:

Father,

I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into Your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.

Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, made this prayer central to our spirituality:

The first prayer we say every day is the Abandonment Prayer of Brother Charles, which is a very beautiful prayer in which we give ourselves totally to God.

Abandonment simply means that you give yourself completely to God in such a way that you trust Him with everything that He has in mind for you, and that each morning you just give yourself to Him completely, and you’re at ease and at rest because you know that He is going to take care of you. Maybe He’s not going to do it your way, but He’s going to do it His way, which is a lot better.

Sometimes you’re a little afraid of what is He going to want to do. You don’t always feel like you’re ready for it, but that’s what takes faith. It just takes faith. We like to make our own plans….

I can assure you there were many times when I thought that I could not go on with some of the things that I had to bear. It’s just trust. And if you can trust, God will certainly take care of this matter, but give yourself to Him. That’s what we mean by abandonment. It’s when you don’t believe, believe anyhow.

Newsletter: February 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

We rarely get the chance to do great things for other people. Our days are filled, however, with moments to do little things. These are precious and not to be squandered—they are capable of doing so much good. Sometimes the moment occurs unexpectedly. The key is to be ready at all times. We must make it the intention of our hearts to be kind and considerate of others.

Brother Charles, the spiritual father of the Joseph House, built his life around this. He wrote:

Have the tender care that expresses itself in little things that are like a balm for the heart. With our neighbors, go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest attention.

Be tender and attentive towards those whom God puts in your path, as a brother towards a brother, as a mother towards a child. As much as possible, be an element of consolation for those around us, as a soothing balm, as our Lord was to those who drew near Him.

Every great saint has seen the truth and beauty of living this way. Here are words from Mother Teresa, for example:

Thoughtfulness is the beginning of sanctity. If you learn this art of being thoughtful, you will become more and more Christ-like, for He was always meek and He always thought of the needs of others. Our life to be beautiful must be full of the thought of others.

The thoughtfulness of Jesus and Mary and Joseph was so great that it made Nazareth the abode of the Most High God. If we also have that kind of thoughtfulness for each other, our homes would really become the abode of God Most High.

The little things we do for each other are so important. They make a big impact for their size. As Little Sisters, we remember this every day in our convent, our place of daily living, and also in our home away from home, the Joseph House. The sentiments expressed above speak to the essence of our ministry with the poor. What we do is nothing less than the careful, polite attention to the needs of others. And you—our friends, volunteers, and benefactors—participate in this, too. The Joseph House exists because of your thoughtful consideration of other people, especially those undergoing hardship.

Our founder wanted the Joseph House to reflect the warmth and love of the Holy Family in Nazareth. She wanted it to be a place where people receive help not just in the form of material goods and services, but in a lifting up of their spirits. The Joseph House is a place of encounter and personal contact, where people are welcomed and their dignity respected. The world is so harsh at times; people who are worried about going hungry or being evicted should be met with kindness.

Thank you for your support and for allowing us to channel your generosity. We added up the figures from 2018 and they show that the “wolf of want” is at the door of many people.

The Joseph House Crisis Center.

At the Joseph House Crisis Center, we issued 1,581 checks to help individuals and families pay for housing, utilities, health care, transportation, and other critical needs. Our Food Pantry gave out 12,514 bags of groceries; an average of 565 households, representing 1,275 people, received food each month. Our Soup Kitchen served 11,572 hot meals. Our Hospitality Room for homeless men and women responded 6,299 times to the needs of visitors. We provided showers, laundry, food, coats, blankets, and personal care products; on average we welcomed about 25 people per day, five days a week.

At Christmas, 793 children received a bag of gifts, which included a large toy, a smaller one, a book, a puzzle or activity book, assorted stocking stuffers, plus a hat, scarf, or mittens.

The Joseph House Workshop.

The Joseph House Workshop, next door to the Crisis Center, also had an eventful year. The Workshop is a long-term residential program for homeless men. It provides them with a supportive place to live where they engage in a process that (a) moves them from homelessness to stable living; (b) trains them to find and maintain employment; and (c) empowers them to reach their full potential.

There are currently four men in the program. One is getting ready to enter Phase 1 (classroom-based) and three are in Phase 2 (employment). All of the men came directly from drug and alcohol treatment centers or were referred to us from the Health Department.

In-house classes focus on relapse prevention as well as personal growth based on popular devotional books. To give the men a creative outlet we offer classes on various arts and crafts. Being well-rounded individuals is extremely important to living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to involvement in 12-Step activities, several of the men participate in Celebrate Recovery and weekly Sunday Services at SonRise Church. The residents are also active in community service on an “as needed” basis.

Of the men in the employment phase, one is working as a cook, another is a floor technician at the hospital with the third getting ready to work there, too. The Workshop helps the men every step of the way in finding a job and provides transportation to and from their job sites. A percentage of each resident’s paycheck goes into a savings account for when they leave the program—a great boost for the next stage of their lives.

Feed the body, feed the soul. Becoming confident in the kitchen is part of life at the Workshop.

Many of our graduates live in the area, supporting themselves and reconnecting with family members. Dramatic, life-changing transformations have occurred. A highlight of this past year was a visit from a graduate who is now in the armed forces. He wanted to spend time at the Workshop before his deployment to Hawaii. Meeting our graduates is the best way to inspire those in the program!

Numbers tell just part of the story. Behind every figure is the work of a volunteer and the generosity of a donor. We don’t have space to mention every individual, business, and organization that contributes, although we thank them personally. Also, “Your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:4). All of this generosity helps people in a deep and meaningful way. We are overjoyed and sometimes overwhelmed by it. Thank you.

There is never time to rest in serving the poor. One year ends, another begins, and “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). Next month we will continue with stories about the people we help. With our gratitude and never-ending prayers,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Stay in touch with the Joseph House

Founder: Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling
Year of Foundation: 1965
Mission Statement: To promote social justice and stable family life through direct assistance to the poor, whatever their needs may be.
Administrators: The Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Superior General: Sr. Marilyn Bouchard

Website: thejosephhouse.org
Email: LSJM[at]comcast[dot]net
Facebook: facebook.com/thejosephhousesalisbury
Instagram: instagram.com/thejosephhousesalisbury

Visit our website to donate online and subscribe to our Newsletter with your email to have it delivered electronically to your inbox.

The Joseph House is a non-profit and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. All gifts are tax-deductible.

At Joseph House, we help the poor with their immediate needs and also look for ways to address the underlying problems. I am open to everything, whatever it takes to help people, especially to help them know their own value.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling

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.

Neighborhoods

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Our convent in Salisbury, Maryland is in a neighborhood called Newtown. It’s named this because many of the houses were built in the aftermath of two devastating fires that swept through the community, one in 1860 and the other in 1886. We’ve seen photographs of our street after one of the infernos: only the chimneys and blackened tree trunks were left standing. Today, mature leafy trees and vibrant flower gardens frame the Victorian homes. Nature and time have erased the wounds.

We like the historical character of our neighborhood. Up the street from us is the Poplar Hill Mansion; completed in 1805, it is the oldest home in Salisbury. Down the street is the Chipman Cultural Center, the oldest African-American church building on the Delmarva Peninsula. Historians believe that before the church was built in 1838, local slaves congregated on that patch of land for Sunday morning worship services. We can only imagine the cries to Heaven that once filled the air. They were only a few blocks away from the mansion, but separated by a great divide.

The house we call our convent also holds some history. We once discovered, behind our basement wall, receipts from a hardware store going back to 1891. Other traces of past ownership were clear from the beginning. When Sr. Mary Elizabeth purchased the property in 1978, the previous residents had been a group of young people. They left behind walls painted black adorned with rock and roll posters! But nothing, least of all that, could ever faze Sister. The house was big enough for the community of sisters she envisioned and that was the most important consideration.

All in all, what we like best about our neighborhood are the people who live there. Our friendships with some of our neighbors can now be measured in decades. It’s like living on the same street with members of our extended family. There are bonds of trust and support that keep us going, which in turn help to keep the Joseph House going. The variety of people living in Newtown makes it a real patchwork quilt, and we feel very blessed to hold down our square on the corner of North Poplar Hill Avenue and Isabella Street.

Nevertheless, the sad fact remains: a city of neighborhoods is often a city of barriers. The situation is true no matter where in the country one may live, or what country one may live in. There’s always a part of town that is on the “wrong side of the tracks,” places that aren’t safe after dark, or where the people are different or have different ways. Unwritten laws inform people not to mix. Some localities may just as well have walls built around them. In fact, some of them do.

Whether real or imaginary, these walls can do more than separate people. They’re also good at hiding things, especially things we don’t want to see, such as poverty and injustice. And the invisible walls are just as effective at doing this as any other.

Our local paper once published a front page story, complete with a map, that highlighted the section of Salisbury burdened with high levels of prostitution, drug dealing, and gun violence. Only the busy commercial strip of Route 13 divides that neighborhood from ours.

Fault lines like this are common throughout America. Our faith tells us to cross them, not avoid them.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus from the gospel of Luke, the rich man lives contentedly behind a gate, unaware that poor Lazarus is starving on the other side. The rich man never deliberately harms Lazarus, he simply ignores him. He lives his life as if Lazarus did not exist. He could have shared something with Lazarus and never even missed it.

What would have happened if the rich man had stepped outside his gate and opened his eyes? A little kindness on his part would have meant everything to Lazarus.

Borders, boundaries, walls, fences, gates… they have their place. But they limit our horizon and it is easy to get used to the view.

One must be especially careful about building them around the human heart. What was built out of fear, anger, hurt, or ignorance can have unintended consequences. C.S. Lewis wrote these memorable lines in his book, The Four Loves:

If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

Crossing boundaries can expand our world in more ways than one. During a period when he was searching for answers, the spiritual father of the Joseph House, Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), made a trek deep into the Sahara desert. He later wrote about his impressions:

Islam really shook me to the core. The sight of such faith, of these people living in the continual presence of God, made me glimpse something greater, truer, than worldly concerns. I started studying Islam, then the Bible.

If only we could inspire one another this way all the time. Each encounter with the “other” can be a gift. There is so much to learn, so much to gain, as we journey together to the place prepared for everyone, the place Jesus called “My Father’s house.” (John 14:2)

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Poplar Hill Mansion

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Chipman Cultural Center

Hail the Cross

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Msgr. Thomas Craven, who was a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was known to some of us at the Joseph House. When he died in 2004, he was buried in a handmade wooden casket. As per his wishes, a Latin phrased was inscribed on the casket lid: Ave Crux Spes Unica. In translation, “Hail the Cross, our only hope.”

How can we begin to make sense of this phrase?

Charles de Foucauld meditated frequently on the cross. In a letter to his sister, he wrote:

“Through the cross we are united to Him, who was nailed on it, our heavenly spouse. Every instant of our lives must be accepted as a favor, with all that it brings of happiness and suffering. But we must accept the cross with more gratitude than anything else. Our crosses detach us from earth and therefore draw us closer to God.”

The cross has meaning only in its relationship to Jesus. It is a mystery of faith, but to share in the cross is to share in the love of Jesus, who is our hope — for this life and the one to come.

Holy Week is a special time to consider the cross, the one that Jesus carried and the one fashioned for each one of us.