Newsletter: September 2018

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Last month we mentioned Catherine Doherty, the founder of Madonna House. She lived an extraordinary life and in many ways was a kindred spirit of our own founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth. We’d like to bring up another aspect of Catherine’s spirituality for this month.

When asked about her philosophy of life, Catherine replied, “To always do the will of God as revealed by people, things, and events… to do it as expressed in the duty of my state, and of the moment. For the will of God is my sanctification.”

“The duty of the moment” was one of her favorite expressions. She often expounded on it, as in this example from her writings:

The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you. You may not have Christ in a hobo at your door, but you may have a little child. If you have a child your duty of the moment may be to change a dirty diaper. So you do it. But you don’t just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and that child. Do you do it like that? You can see Christ in that child.

Or your duty of the moment may be to scrub your floors. Do you scrub your floors well? With great love for God? If not, do it. If you see to it that your house is well-swept, your food is on the table, and there is peace during the meal, then there is this slow order that is established, and the immense tranquility of God’s order falls upon you and your family. Yes, there is order, because while we keep thinking of others, things get clear in our hearts. Then we can forget ourselves….

There are plenty of good things you can go out and do, programs and such, but whatever they are, you have to realize that there is always the duty of the moment to be done. And it must be done, because the duty of the moment is the duty of God. Tired, untired, sick, well, whatever your state, do the duty of the moment. It’s what God calls us to do. And if we do it, people follow us. We don’t have to preach by word of mouth. We preach by living. We preach by doing. We preach by being….

When you do the duty of the moment, you do something for Christ. You make a home for Him in the place where your family dwells. You feed Him when you feed your family. You wash His clothes when you do their laundry. You help Him in a hundred ways as a parent. Then, when the time comes and you appear before Christ to be judged, He will say to you, “I was hungry and you gave Me food. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was sick and you looked after Me.” (Mt 25:35-36)

A long quote, but one worth sharing. We were reminded of “the duty of the moment” a few weeks ago when the doorbell rang at our convent as we were about to say grace before dinner. A haggard-looking woman was on our front porch with her daughter and two young grandchildren. They were homeless and had been outside all day in the blistering heat.

Our meal was paused as we attended to the needs of this family. We listened to their story, made some phone calls, found a place for them to stay, called a taxi, offered them cold drinks and packed sandwiches for later. The little granddaughter came into our kitchen with her grandmother and told us about the “light-up” shoes she wanted to get for school. Smiles and laughter ensued. A really bad day was turning into a much more hopeful one. Attending to the duty of the moment with love and patience can do wonders.

As Catherine Doherty said, not everyone has a needy person knocking at the door. We do, if not at the convent then certainly at the Joseph House Crisis Center. We can invite people in and care for them because of you. Your prayers, donations, and financial support bear fruit every day.

So many people are desperate for help. Alan and Cecily walked several miles to the Crisis Center in the hopes of receiving rental assistance. When they arrived, Alan was ready to pass out—he had pneumonia and was very short of breath. Our dedicated volunteers made sure he was OK and did everything they could to make him comfortable.

We learned that Alan’s health has been impeding his ability to work as a machine operator. Cecily’s income is not enough to cover their basic expenses. We sent $170 to their landlord to give Alan time to recover and return to work. No one should be homeless, especially the sick. We also sent Alan and Cecily home via taxi.

A veteran of the Navy, Merle, age 80, is used to taking care of himself. That’s not the case anymore. He is being treated for lung cancer and his medical co-pays have been high recently. His electric bill became delinquent and a cut-off was forthcoming. We were able to pay the bill in full ($303), enabling Merle to be enrolled in the utility’s budget plan.

Francesca, age 72, is recovering from a stroke. She has difficulty with her speech and gait and seems to be a little mentally confused. The electricity in her home was turned off, but fortunately a neighbor took her in—we don’t know if Francesca would have survived the heat and humidity without air conditioning. She’s home now with the power back on, thanks to your support which allowed us to pay $300 toward the bill.

Natalie, 42, had to leave her job as a motel housekeeper because of shoulder pain; it appears to be a rotator cuff issue. She’s looking for another job where she won’t have to move her shoulder, but that’s not an easy task. In the meantime, Natalie is falling behind in her bills, including the rent, and she received an eviction notice. Natalie did not want to become homeless with her three children. She appealed to the Joseph House for help. We offered the landlord a payment of $200, which was accepted.

When we choose not to be passive and neutral in the face of another’s pain, we feel energized. It’s the power of love. Thank you for everything you do to keep the Joseph House going forward. Your love for the less fortunate is the boost we need!

After a hot and sticky summer, we are ready for some cooler autumn air. We hope pleasant days are in store for you. And may God’s love be near to you always.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


As Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary, we profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, united as a community in the love of Jesus, ready to cry the Gospel with our lives.

Please join us in praying for an increase of vocations to our community:

Loving and gracious God,

Look kindly on the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary, whom You have blessed with the mission of serving the poor in all their many needs and cries for help.

As a sign of Your favor, send them new Little Sisters, to join them in being a witness to Your goodness and provident care.

Open the hearts of those You are calling to this life of faith, love, and simplicity, so they may respond with courage and generosity.

With a humble and trusting spirit, we ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

Newsletter: August 2018

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

How many times a day do we look in the mirror? Some people more than others perhaps, but we all need to check our appearance now and then. Catherine Doherty, the founder of Madonna House, realized these are opportunities to help people see so much more:

At Madonna House, we paint these words onto all our mirrors—”God’s image”—so that when anyone looks in the mirror, they see that they are God’s image. I think the greatest work that we have to do in this civilization, this country, is to accept ourselves as lovable.

Catherine’s idea stems from the fact that we need to accept we are loved by God, and worthy of receiving love, before we can authentically show love to others. She understood that many people don’t always feel lovable. Her creativity found a way to help them gently change their self-understanding.

There’s an easy way we can share Catherine’s example with those around us, and it doesn’t involve any painting: we can be the mirror for other people by how we treat them. We can show them that they are made in God’s image and affirm their dignity by treating them with kindness and respect.

You may remember the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” It meant you could buy a consumer product with confidence. Well, every human person has something far greater than that. As the image of God, we have God’s pledge that every human life is sacred, unrepeatable, the possessor of equal dignity, and destined for eternity. Remembering that should change how we view ourselves—and each other.

Sometimes life is hard. People feel beaten by their circumstances. That’s when it’s important for us to be a reflection of hope. This happens all the time at the Joseph House with the men and women we greet. We look at the world from their perspective, and we look at them from God’s. Our response is love, a love made manifest in the simple, concrete actions of welcome and acceptance. And through your support of our ministry, we show them that hope is real and not in vain.

On a sweltering day a few weeks ago, Trisha walked to the Crisis Center seeking help for her family. She and her husband and their three children (ages 2, 4, and 6) were living in a tent in the woods. Trisha was desperate for housing, and she had a note from a landlord stating that Trisha and her family could move into an efficiency apartment as soon as they paid $250.

In our busy Crisis Center we found a quiet space to talk. Trisha said she works at a fast food restaurant; at times, she has held jobs at two of them, trying hard to support her family. Her husband has had cancer for more than a year. He has good days and bad days. Trisha thought his health was improving at the moment. Their six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a developmental disorder that impedes a person’s ability to communicate. So Trisha was not only the family breadwinner, but the caregiver as well.

This was not her family’s first time being homeless. They had to leave a previous rental because it was infested with bugs. A motel room provided a temporary refuge, but that became too expensive. Trisha would love to have a clean, safe, affordable place to live with her family. It is a simple dream shared by many, many poor people. We contacted the landlord and agreed to pay the $250. Hopefully the dream will come true for Trisha and her family.

Patti and Justin were also homeless and living in a tent (there are more people doing this than we realize). They came to our area from another part of the state. The house they were living in was over-crowded, and then a shooting occurred in the neighborhood. Patti and Justin saw the writing on the wall and knew it was time to leave. After making their way to Salisbury, they set up camp behind a shopping center. They were invisible, just a stone’s throw from shoppers and traffic. Displaced and hungry for food and work, like characters from The Grapes of Wrath.

Patti heard about the Joseph House and contacted us. We helped her and Justin with their immediate needs: showers, food, and cab fare. Justin was the first to find a job. When he and Patti found an affordable rental, we agreed to pay $200 (half of the first month’s rent) so they could move in after weeks of being homeless.

Doreen, 57, is disabled and has stomach cancer. Her monthly SNAP benefits (“Food Stamps”) amount to $15, but fortunately she lives close to our Food Pantry. Another thing in her favor is that she has subsidized housing. Without it, she could not afford to live anywhere on her disability check.

Recently, Doreen was distressed because she could only make a partial rent payment one month and no payment the following month. Other necessary expenses consumed her check. Before the month was over, she received an eviction notice. The Joseph House paid $200 and Doreen the remaining $24 that was due. She was extremely grateful not to lose her place to live.

Nathan, 44, is devoted to his children, both his own and two step-sons he took in to protect them from an abusive environment. Eager to provide for his family, Nathan has a temporary job harvesting watermelons. When the season is over he hopes to work in a chicken factory. His summertime electric bill was too high for him to pay all of it. We sent $150 to the power company to help prevent a shut-off.


We remember you daily in our prayers. Send us your prayer requests.

We depend on your generous hearts and loving concern for God’s poor to serve those in need. Every donation, no matter the size, is gratefully received and makes a difference. You can make a donation here.

Please let us know if you prefer not to receive a written acknowledgement through the mail for your donation. Of course, we will gladly send a receipt at the end of the year for tax purposes.


Every mirror needs to be cleaned periodically. Dust and smudges can cloud what we see. We need to polish ourselves, too, and an excellent way of doing so is by spending a little time with the Gospels. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), and by looking at what He said and did we learn the truth about what it means to be made in God’s image.

Thank you for your prayers and support! Life becomes so pleasing when we give in to our instincts for being good. May God bless you.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

The Madonna House Apostolate is a family of Christian lay men, women, and priests, striving to incarnate the teachings of Jesus Christ by forming a community of love.

Someone once asked Catherine Doherty, “What is Madonna House?” She answered:

What is Madonna House? Madonna House is a very simple thing. It is an open door. It is a cup of tea or coffee, good and hot. It is an invitation to work for the common good.

Madonna House is a house of hospitality. It is a place where people are received, not on their education, not on how wonderful they are as painters, or whatever they have to do; they are received simply as people. They are loved.

www.madonnahouse.org