Newsletter: June 2020

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.

Newsletter: May 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Even after a couple of weeks we are still not used to this new way of living.

We are writing this Newsletter in the middle of April, a critical time for the spread of COVID-19. From morning till night we are on guard against an invisible enemy, a virus that will not leave anyone unscathed, whether or not we get infected.

We keep a watchful eye on soap and disinfectants, always mindful of how physically close we are to another person. It’s a balancing act. We must take care of ourselves so we can care for the people God sends to us at the Joseph House.

Our ministry continues, despite some substantial modifications to how we normally conduct it. At the Joseph House Crisis Center, we closed our Soup Kitchen in March because we don’t have the space to allow patrons to practice social distancing. The dining room is empty, the kitchen is quiet— the sight creates a sense of loss, although we know the situation is temporary. It’s quieter in general at the Crisis Center. Many of our volunteers have made the wise decision to take a break because of age or other circumstances.

The Hospitality Room, our outreach to men and women who are homeless, is still active. We strictly limit the number of people who occupy the room at a given time. Our visitors have been very understanding and cooperative. Thankfully, we can provide them with a place to receive food, wash up, and get some clean clothes. Some of the churches and organizations that provide meals for the Soup Kitchen are now giving us bagged lunches so our visitors have something to take with them.

Our Food Pantry is open, too. People in need present their information at the front door of the Crisis Center and then go around to a side door to pick up their bags of groceries. We are also doing Financial Assistance for emergencies. This is being done with social distancing measures in place.

The Joseph House Workshop is near full capacity: we have eight residents and another man is planning to enter the program soon. All are staying healthy. The Workshop helps homeless men develop life skills needed for employment and independent living. COVID-19 is keeping our teachers away so classes have been suspended temporarily. A few of the residents are in the employment phase of the program and their jobs are continuing. One of the residents is working in environmental services at the local hospital. Two other residents have been hired there as well, but we don’t know yet in which department they’ll be working.

During these weeks of “staying at home,” the residents occupy their time with in-house meetings, group discussions, and recreational activities such as playing various games and watching television. They are keeping the building clean and in good order and recently finished a major painting project. A fresh coat of paint does wonders and we are proud of the work they did (visit our website for photos).

At both the Crisis Center and the Workshop, we are operating with a skeleton crew of staff members and volunteers. They are doing an outstanding job. We treasure them. Their dedication will never be forgotten.

The overriding mission of the Joseph House is to “Cry the Gospel with your life!” We often view that in terms of providing charitable service to people in need. But the Gospel has many other aspects that we are called to enact in our lives. We are called to be witnesses to our faith, to be people of prayer, trusting in God’s never-failing providence. In recent weeks we have felt close to Mary, who pondered the events of life in her heart, and who kept the faith during the silence of Holy Saturday when her Son lay in the tomb. The busyness of life can drown out the whispers of the heart. Now we have more time to listen.

Our collective pilgrimage into the unknown is a time of trial. It may not seem like it at the moment, but going through a crisis is a time of learning and developing new strengths. We can all agree that we have taken so many things for granted (to begin with, we miss hugs and just going to the grocery store without a second thought). We are re-learning what our priorities are and what is most important in life.

We are also being reminded of how much we depend on one another. This is especially true when we consider all the people who work at jobs considered essential during this pandemic. Where would we be without retail workers who make sure we have food and other necessary items? And doctors, nurses and health care workers! There is a long list of people who are making sacrifices to preserve our lives. Ordinary people, rising to the challenge of extraordinary circumstances, doing nothing less than safeguarding our civilization.

May 1st is a special day for us, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. In his document on our patron saint, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the family of Nazareth.” That’s what we see all around us: daily expressions of love.

Waiting is a sign of hope, and every day that passes we are growing stronger in that virtue (and to live in virtue means “to be set right within”). Grave concerns loom large for everyone, like heavy clouds that won’t go away. The health and safety of so many people. The dire economic impact of layoffs and shutdowns. Who can fathom it all? When the world seems out of control, it’s helpful to focus on the things we can control. Little things that spread hope and joy make a big difference, in the same way a single candle shines brightly in a pitch black room.

Our ministry is a saving grace: we can do something for someone else. Erica, 45, left her abusive husband just before the pandemic started. She is struggling to provide for herself and her son. Her job pays about $1,100 per month. Erica has many serious financial woes. We paid $400 toward her rent so she would at least have a place to live….Jolene and her two children were living in a car. She found a place to live but could not move in until she got the electric in her name, and that required paying off an old bill. We paid the $200 that was due. There are many more people having their own crisis in the midst of what’s happening in the world. Thank you for helping us to help them.

Viruses don’t respect boundaries. They don’t care about wealth, religion, race, politics or any of the ways we separate people. We must take care of everyone for each one of us to survive—that is a lesson from these times to be burned in our memory.

There’s a long road ahead. Being connected to people—though physically separated—makes the journey easier. Please visit our website for our latest news: thejosephhouse.org. And thank you for being part of the Joseph House family. You always have an honored place in our hearts. May our loving God, who holds the whole world in His hands, look with mercy and kindness on the needs of His children everywhere.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


During this stressful time, please send us your special intentions so we can remember them in our prayers: Contact Form.

If you would like to support our work, you can learn how here: Donate.


On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic crashed into an iceberg and four hours later sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. Survivors spoke of a woman who left the relative safety of the upper decks to return to her cabin. She hurried along the corridors already tilting at a dangerous angle. She crossed the gambling room where money and costly gems littered the floor. Reaching her stateroom she saw her own treasures waiting to be picked up. But she paid no heed to them. Instead she took as many oranges as she could hold and hurried back to the life boats.

An hour earlier it would have seemed incredible to her that she could have preferred oranges to her own diamonds, but Death boarded the Titanic and all values were transformed. Precious things became worthless, and common things became precious. Oranges became more important than diamonds.

Today the coronavirus has boarded our spaceship, and toilet paper has become more important than stocks and bonds. But what is really important?

Fr. Stephen Verbest, OCSO
New Melleray Abbey

A Message from the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Light of COVID-19

Dear Friends,

We would like to begin by saying that we are in prayerful solidarity with everyone being impacted by the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, now a global pandemic. This virus has brought sickness and even death to a growing number of people. It has also brought worry, fear, shortages of medical supplies and food, economic hardship, and an unprecedented upheaval of our daily lives. Our prayers are with everyone who is suffering. We are also praying for our leaders who are making gravely important decisions about our health and well being.

For us personally, the foundation of our spirituality is the Abandonment Prayer of Charles de Foucauld. It begins: “Father, I abandon myself into Your hands, do with me what You will.” We start each day with this prayer. Under normal circumstances it can be hard to say these words, and now it feels like our faith is really being put to the test. We believe the policy with God is “come as you are.” Our faith may be great or little or somewhere in-between, but no matter what we take time during the day to remember God’s presence, who is always with us as a loving parent. Through every joy and sorrow in the past God was there, and God is here with us now in this present state of trial. Sometimes people say that prayer changes things, but more importantly prayer changes people, it makes us more attentive to the movement of grace in our lives. Every prayer also touches God’s heart. What we need for our greatest good will be given to us. (We have provided the full text of the Abandonment Prayer below.)

The next thing we would like to say is that the mission of the Joseph House continues. We are here to serve people who are poor, hungry, and homeless and to uphold their dignity and worth. Of course, we have had to adapt our operations because of the coronavirus. We are taking the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of exposure for our volunteers, staff, and clients at the convent, the Joseph House Crisis Center, and the Joseph House Workshop.

Here are specific measures from each department at the Joseph House Crisis Center:

Soup Kitchen: This outreach is closed until further notice. Some of the churches and organizations that normally provide meals are now bringing bagged lunches that we distribute to homeless individuals.

Food Pantry: This continues with social distancing measures in place. People in need present their information at one door and receive their food at another.

Financial Assistance for Emergency Needs: This also continues with social distancing measures in place.

Hospitality Room: This outreach to homeless men and women also continues. We strictly limit the number of people who occupy the room at a given time.

The Crisis Center on Boundary Street.

We value to the utmost degree our volunteers and staff for their dedication and courage. They are just a few of the heroes we see all around us. Some of our volunteers have needed to take a temporary break because of their age or other circumstances. We understand and know that their hearts are with us.

In addition, we cannot express enough how much we value our benefactors. We depend on free-will offerings in order to serve the poorest members of our community. The generosity of people is the life blood of the Joseph House and is a sign to us every single day of the goodness that keeps our world from falling apart.

We are deeply grateful for everyone who gives. Whether it is the gift of service, material goods, a monetary contribution, prayer, or any other expression of support, it all makes a difference. The size of the gift is irrelevant–it is all a treasure in our eyes.

Every day we read the news with some trepidation. But underlying any passing fearful emotion is the confidence that we will get through this crisis by working together and caring for one another.

Thank you for reading this message. We will keep you updated on any changes we may need to implement in our ministry. Please stay in touch and let us know how you are doing. Send us your prayer requests and we will lift them up to the Lord.

May God bless all doctors, nurses, and health care workers. May all who work at essential jobs be kept safe. May everyone be sustained by good health in body, mind, and spirit.

All across the globe we see acts of generosity and self-sacrifice. The Holy Spirit is bringing out the best in people. Better days are coming. May we all have a safe passage to that time.

United with you in hope,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


The Abandonment Prayer of Charles de Foucauld

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.

Amen.

Flowers blooming next to our front steps.