The Most Meaningful Gift

This reflection was written by Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, our founder, in 1979:

When we prepare for the mystery of Christmas, what are our days of preparation filled with? Most of us have thousands of things to do and for many it is the busiest time of the year. What we really should be doing is taking a little “quiet” time in anticipation of Him for whom we are waiting. With all the distractions and problems that present themselves during the course of the day we thought we’d offer a few reflections.

Around this time we usually consider what gift we could give someone to show our love and our gratitude. When you come right down to it, it is the giving of one’s time and self that is the most meaningful, the most beautiful and appreciated.

When I put myself out and do for someone else–instead of, what shall I get for him or her, or which wrapping paper or ribbon should I use to enhance my gift–then I can really experience how Our Lady felt when she gave her “Yes” to God. Can you imagine the struggles Joseph experienced when traveling during the most inconvenient time and then having to put up for the night in a miserable stable and with his wife due to deliver at any moment? How poor can you get? Mary experienced the pain and discomfort of bearing a child from the beginning, and His birth was her greatest gift to God, His Father. Joseph’s quiet and uncomplaining acceptance of a situation which he did not quite understand was indeed his gift to God.

Jesus is still being born each day. He is born in our hearts over and over, so that we can be the gift that we should be to God, His Father. While we are waiting for Him to come, He is really waiting for us to respond by letting Him into our hearts and our lives. Are we ready to welcome Him? Can you not see Him in the ordinary, everyday events, in those who plead for assistance, or our love, or just our caring?

It is Christ that we see in those whose cries we answer, and only through your kind and constant assistance have we been able to do this. May the Lord Jesus bless you and your loved ones at Christmas and all through the year.


“Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). We were not there 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem to offer assistance to the Christ Child, but we can still do something today. If you would like to join the Joseph House in our mission to help the less fortunate, you can learn how at this link: Donate.

May your heart be filled with the hope and joy of this holy season.

Newsletter: December 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

We’re all familiar with Christmas carols but some of our favorite songs of the season are Advent hymns.

They tend to get drowned out because Christmas music starts playing on the radio at Thanksgiving and stops on Christmas Day. This doesn’t make a lot of sense unless Christmas is just about shopping—but of course the birth of Christ means something else.

Anyway, a favorite hymn for Advent is one you might know, “People, Look East.” It has a lilting, French melody.

People, look east, the time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

We like the part about getting your house ready as you are able. It’s a busy time of year and we can only do so much. But there’s an inner preparation that needs to be done, a “house” to set in order, and that kind of work deserves our extra effort.

Christmas today often means getting stressed out, but it’s worth it to slow down and prepare ourselves to welcome our infant Savior. The Child of Bethlehem, a baby, is so gentle—and to hold a baby we must be gentle, too. Tenderness and care are needed.

As we make our lives more hospitable to receive Christ, as we make room for Him in our hearts, we must ask ourselves the question: should we not do the same for our neighbors who are poor and vulnerable? Is Christ, who was born in a stable for lack of room elsewhere, not also present with them?

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” will be playing on repeat at the shopping malls, but it’s not wonderful for everyone. Some folks wish for better days. They wish for basic things like shelter, heat, and food. They wish their children didn’t have to suffer. They wish they didn’t feel alone.

The Joseph House is here for them. Your support, prayers, and donations are essential to who we are and what we do. We share with you the belief that the true joy of the season is found in giving. And we all have something to give, no matter how humble, for the good of another.

The simplest things can bring someone to tears: for Tracy, it was a box of diapers. She needed them for the youngest of her four children. Feeling scared and worn out, Tracy told us that she has a restraining order against her husband. He has physically abused her and their children. We had already paid her overdue water bill of $236. When she asked for the diapers we said of course, and her tears showed just how heavy this young mother’s heart was.

Spencer also needed a basic necessity. He is 56 and disabled because of a back injury. A lack of heat brought him to the Joseph House, and so we paid his gas bill ($100). Then we found out that he didn’t have a bed, and despite recent back surgery, he was sleeping on the floor. We quickly got him a mattress and box spring.

Lucinda, age 80, was on the verge of losing everything. The city had declared her residence uninhabitable and was ready to condemn it because the electricity was turned off. Her house is very humble, but it is her home and precious to her. Lucinda’s trouble began when her son, who had access to her bank account, stole money from her. He left her with nothing to pay her bills. We called the utility company, and digging deep in our pockets because so much was at stake, promised to send in $400. That was enough to get the power back on.

And now here is an update from the Joseph House Workshop, our residential program for homeless men:

We currently have three residents in the program, one in Phase 1, one in Phase 2.5, and one in Phase 3.0. The focus in Phase 1 is on job readiness where a resident learns life skills. Phase 2.5 is a level where the resident has added freedoms and responsibilities both personally and employment-wise. Phase 3.0 is for residents who are ready to leave the Workshop in the near future; they have an even broader range of benefits.

Our Phase 1 resident is currently working on a one-to-one basis with several volunteer teachers learning computer skills, relapse prevention, spiritual practices, and employment readiness. Our Phase 2.5 resident is currently working at Peninsula Regional Medical Center and is about to obtain a vehicle. Our Phase 3.0 resident has full-time employment, a vehicle, and is seeking housing at this time.

One of our greatest successes in 2019 involved a 26-year-old male who suffered from schizophrenia which had never before been identified or treated. On proper medication this individual became a fully-functioning member of society with a full-time job, his own vehicle, and his own place to live. He has revisited the Workshop on various occasions to update us on his ongoing success. This is an example where a resident who trusted in the program had a success that enabled him to be very proud of his accomplishments.

For the residents, one of the most important and favorite parts of the program is the morning prayer and meditation time. It gets the day off to a great start.

We are looking forward to having a new Phase 1 resident enter the program soon.

Christmas is the glorious crown of the year. It’s the “day of grand memories,” Washington Irving wrote.”Gift-bearing, heart-touching, joy-bringing Christmas.” We hope your heart is filled with peace this holiday season and that many moments of joy brighten your days. Thank you for making your love for the less fortunate so visible.

May God’s blessing rest upon you and your loved ones this Christmas and throughout the New Year!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


During this holy season, we offer you the gift of prayer. Please send us your prayer requests so we can lift them up to the Lord: Contact Form.

Do you feel drawn to helping those in need? By supporting the Joseph House, you give assistance to the homeless, the hungry, and families in distress. Learn about the different ways you can lend a hand: Donate.

You can also help by sharing this Newsletter and encouraging your friends to subscribe.

Newsletter: December 2018

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

In 1944, a letter was printed in the Stars and Stripes newspaper that contained the following:

It is 0200 hours and I have been lying awake for an hour listening to the steady even breathing of the other three nurses in the tent, thinking about some of the things we had discussed during the day. The fire was burning low, and just a few live coals are on the bottom. With the slow feeding of wood and finally coal, a roaring fire is started. I couldn’t help thinking how similar to a human being a fire is. If it is not allowed to run down too low, and if there is a spark of life left in it, it can be nursed back. So can a human being. It is slow. It is gradual. It is done all the time in these field hospitals and other hospitals in the ETO [European Theater of Operations].

The letter writer was Lt. Frances Slanger, an Army nurse, whose family arrived in the United States as Jewish immigrants from Poland when she was a child. After becoming a nurse, Frances enlisted in the Army and landed in Normandy shortly after the D-Day invasion. She also has the distinction of being the first American nurse to die in Europe in World War II. In fact, she lost her life within hours of writing her letter, the victim of an artillery attack. Her selfless courage is truly an inspiration.

In her letter, Frances gets to the heart of the matter regarding what it means to help someone in need. When people are wounded, suffering, impaired, or beaten down, overnight miraculous recoveries are rare. As Frances understood, as she witnessed in field hospitals tending to injured G.I.’s, the spark of life can be nursed back, but it is slow and gradual.

We can talk about having hope, but when we are patient that is when we show we believe it. The men who enter the Joseph House Workshop depend on this type of steadfast dedication. Many have been homeless or incarcerated for years. They’ve been controlled, for as long as they can remember, by substance abuse and other health problems. They can’t turn their lives around with a quick fix. But from our vantage point as companions on their journey, we see how caring for someone with patience and sensitivity can do what seems impossible. In the end, the men who leave the Workshop are not the same as the ones who entered.

The Joseph House Workshop is a residential facility for homeless men that allows them to stay up to two years as they get the education, training, and health care they need to set off on their own. When a man enters the program, he is told that he is a blank slate—the past is in the past. He can drop the mask and be who he is, the unique and amazing person he was created to be.

Life skills are learned, but the changes go deeper than that: transformations take place, both inside and out. It’s not unusual for us to see the men getting haircuts or dressing differently, outward indicators of a new sense of pride. For one resident, the change could be seen in the brim of his baseball cap. Over time it slowly lifted from covering his eyes until his face was completely visible: he was unafraid to let his true self be seen.

The success of the Workshop is due to our staff members, Dr. Art Marsh, the Director, and Mr. Rudy Drummond, the Assistant Director.

Art and Rudy make a great team. They both have a deep understanding of the issues facing the men in the Workshop. Since the men live on the premises, attention is given toward creating a healthy, family-type environment that is conducive to personal growth. Sitting down each night at the dinner table, for example, is essential. Not surprisingly, the friendships and fraternal bonds that form drive a lot of the changes that occur. The men spur each other on.

Every three months, the staff meets with each resident to discuss his personal goals. Sometimes a resident will think he has everything squared away, but at the next meeting he’s aiming for new sights— he’s hungry for more as the light inside starts to spread.

It is so important not to give up on people! Life for everyone goes up and down, and we must walk together and find our strength in each other.

Out of necessity, we have less time to spend with the people who come to the Joseph House Crisis Center. There are too many with urgent needs. Our love and concern are not lessened, however.

Nora, 35, has two children. Her husband broke her jaw and is now in jail. Nora receives $450 per month in temporary welfare. It’s not nearly enough to pay all the bills. We sent $225 to her landlord to halt the eviction process.

Hayley has been homeless for four months. She was assaulted one night while sleeping under a bridge in a homeless camp. One of her eyes sustained a severe injury. Hayley has a long history of being abused. A social worker has started looking after her, which is a ray of hope. With arrangements for stable housing forthcoming, we provided Hayley with four nights in a motel ($237) plus plenty of food and other necessities.

Donald, 50, is on temporary disability ($536 per month). He is waiting to have two knee replacement surgeries. The gas has been turned off at his address since last spring. With cold weather approaching and no heat in his house, Donald turned to us for help. We paid the old bill of $135 so his gas account could be restored.

Every day at the Joseph House—because of you—we are reminded of the true spirit of Christmas. Your selfless giving, your willingness to sacrifice and share for the benefit of people you don’t know, with no thought of receiving anything in return, allows our ministry to continue. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

As the year draws to a close we think of our family and friends and all the special people in our lives. May God’s love and blessing be upon us all, and may our Savior bring the hope, healing, and peace we so ardently desire. From our little family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

We received this letter from a homeless man who visited the Crisis Center:

I would just like to take this time to express my thanks to you. You don’t know how grateful I am for what you’re willing to do for me.

There comes a time in a person’s life when they must get their priorities in order before it’s too late. Well, I’m at that road, I guess. It was intended for me to endure what I have so far.

With unrelenting faith in Father God through our Savior Jesus Christ I will be just fine.

I was blessed the first time I set foot in Joseph House. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

God bless all the volunteers at Joseph House! God bless Joseph House and the Little Nuns!

We can assist people like this gentleman because of your support. Every donation makes a difference in someone’s life. You have our immense gratitude for enabling us to be there for people in need. Your prayers and encouragement keep our spirits lifted!

You can make a donation at this link: Donate Online

Christmas is a time of joy. It is also a time of mixed emotions for many people. What is in your heart? Send us a note and we will raise our voices in praying for your needs during this holy season: Contact Form


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Newsletter: December 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

In depicting the birth of Christ, Byzantine icons sometimes show St. Joseph sitting away from the manger, either resting with his eyes closed (symbolizing his dreams) or facing the devil (symbolizing the temptation to disbelief).

Art in Western culture places St. Joseph inside the stable, usually holding a lantern or leaning on his staff. The focus, of course, is on the baby Jesus and His mother Mary: classical artists enveloped them in a heavenly radiance. In some paintings, you have to look twice to find Joseph. But despite being in the background, he is not a “background” character in the story.

Quite the contrary. Although our patron saint probably liked to avoid the limelight, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved in our Savior’s birth. St. Joseph had to protect and care for Mary on the journey to Bethlehem, he had to find shelter for her, come up with a plan ‘B’ when the inns were full, keep her warm and comfortable in the stable, and when the time came for her to have her baby, he had to attend to all of her immediate needs. And then came the flight into Egypt, a perilous crossing that is glossed over in Scripture. St. Joseph had to be the hero for Mother and Child.

There was a lot to be done behind the scenes — and St. Joseph did it all with love. That was his specialty. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.” That was true for Mary and Jesus, and it is true for us through the power of his heavenly intercession.

The world needs St. Joseph. The world needs his dedication to family life and his fidelity to God, even when that requires facing adversity. As we contemplate the manger this Christmas, we must remember his strong, fatherly presence. . . a presence that made Mary and Jesus — who were so vulnerable — feel so safe.

Today, if you want to see the spirit of St. Joseph at work, come visit the Joseph House Crisis Center. Our volunteers embody his selfless and generous service. They also do the hidden work that goes unnoticed but is essential for our ministry.

You, with your prayers, donations, and financial support, make it all possible. For families in need, there is food on the table and a roof over their heads — because of you.

Joni, 31, is the mother of six. She works as a housekeeper in a resort hotel to support her family. When her mother had a stroke, Joni had to take a short, unpaid leave of absence to help care for her. Joni could not afford to lose the income, but her mother needed her. When the rent was due, Joni couldn’t pay it and received an eviction notice. That was the price she paid for helping her mother.

We sent $200 to the landlord to keep Joni and her children from becoming homeless. There are legions of people like Joni, women and men who work thankless jobs. They might as well be invisible. How often do we stop and consider their struggles?

Cheryl, 51, is another family caregiver. Her daughter has a late-stage cancer. The water was shut off in Cheryl’s home because she was beset by so many bills and so little money to pay for them. She has started a new job in a chicken processing plant, but climbing out of debt can be very hard. We paid the outstanding water bill of $217.

Rosie, 80, lives in a small house by the side of the road in a rural area. Her home is heated by propane and the tank was completely empty. She traveled 30 miles and crossed a state line to the Joseph House, looking for help. We paid $200 to the gas company.

Brianna, 32, lost her job at a hotel when business slowed down after the summer. The only other work she could find was a part-time job at a supermarket. Her husband Mike is in poor health. He was recently approved for disability but has not yet received any benefits.

It didn’t take long for Brianna and Mike to slide into the despair of poverty. Little things like soap and household supplies became unaffordable, not to mention the rent. Worries about money were eating away at the couple: Brianna experienced respiratory distress and had to be hospitalized for a few days. We sent $230 to their landlord, buying time to help Brianna and Mike make it through their hardships.

Phoebe, 56, lives in a one-room apartment, surrounded by concrete in a commercial zone. There is no greenery, no shade. Phoebe’s room is home for her and has been for seven years. She is disabled and it’s the only affordable place she can find. Even so, she lives on a pittance and is chronically late with the rent. She hadn’t realized that most of what she was paying was going to the late fees. Phoebe was worried and confused when she received an eviction notice. The Department of Social Services paid the back rent that was due. We paid $259 to cover the remaining costs and cancel the eviction.

Thank you once again for the many ways you show your love for the poor. You bring the Christmas spirit to them year-round. Food, shelter, heat, electricity, medicine. . . these are the gifts they receive because of you.

Your financial support keeps the Joseph House going, not any government funding. Just you and your concern for those in need. You can donate online here. It’s easy to do. Make a one-time or recurring donation. You can also donate in memory of someone.

The birth of Jesus can be a new birth for us. Knowing that you have helped someone in need will add special meaning to your celebration of Christmas.

You are close to us in prayer. Please use the Contact Form and send us your special intentions so we can pray for you during this holy season.

From all of us at the convent, the Joseph House Crisis Center, and the Joseph House Workshop, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

The Baby Jesus is Still Hidden

baby_Jesus_crib_dec2015

Christmas today has something in common with the very first one: the baby Jesus is still hidden.

We all know why the “reason for the season” gets forgotten in our day and age: the birth of Christ has become, if you’ll excuse us, a God-send for fourth quarter profits. The modern situation is so odd; we celebrate a birthday where the guest of honor is kept out of sight and we drive ourselves silly with the preparation. Yet underneath the hustle and bustle, the stress and fatigue, the crowded stores, gift wrap, and credit card bills, Jesus is there, waiting.

If Jesus is hidden today because of our blindness, two thousand years ago it was by God’s design. In the dead of night when Christ was born, no one in Bethlehem knew that the most important event in human history was occurring, except for Mary and Joseph. After the angels broke the silence, the shepherds found the Infant in a stable, but Jesus remained hidden — hidden in the ordinary — for the next thirty years of His life.

How many people in Nazareth saw Jesus, spoke with Him, heard His voice, ate with Him, laughed with Him, and never knew they stood shoulder to shoulder with the Son of God?

The mystery of His hiddenness continues to the present day. Our Lord gives us His assurance in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew:

I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me. . . . Whatever you did for those who count for little, you did for Me.

This is truly a mystery and cannot be explained fully, but in the hiddenness of Jesus we see the intimate love He has for the human family. We also learn about humility and trust, how to be generous in living for others, and the inherent dignity of every human being. Not least of all, we learn how to love God. It isn’t something we do from afar.

Bethlehem reveals the special love Jesus has for the poor. The abode of the King of Kings was a stable, His bed was a manger filled with straw. The hardships of poverty were not foreign to Him.

Is there a better way to honor the importance of Christmas than to reach out to those in need?