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: April 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Our hearts are heavy as we begin this Newsletter. On Sunday, March 8, 2020, Our Lord came to call Sr. Joan Marie Albanese home. Sr. Joan died at Wicomico Nursing Home here in Salisbury. She had previously been under the care of Coastal Hospice in our convent, and the wonderful nurses continued their loving attention until the end. We are so grateful for everyone who helped us care for Sr. Joan as she made her final pilgrimage to God.

One of three children, Sr. Joan was born April 7, 1942 in Stamford, Connecticut to Harriet (Horton) Jacobson and James Jacobson. Following high school, she later met and married Matthew Albanese. Joan worked at Armel Electronics in Union City, NJ for 20 years.

In 2003, Joan followed a call to religious life. She entered our community on May 28, 2003, and professed final vows on October 31, 2011.

Sr. Joan found her niche and ministry in the Hospitality Room at the Joseph House Crisis Center. It was to her that the homeless and countless persons would come for prayer or to fill a special need—be it a bar of soap, clothing, or any one of the little things she knew they needed—or for one of her famous hugs (her nickname was “Sister Hug-a-lotta”). She now sends her hugs from a glorious distance.

Sr. Joan was preceded in death by her parents and her brother John. She is survived by her sister, Catherine Jacobson, and her nephew, Justin Jacobson. In addition to her sisters in community, Sr. Joan had many friends at Joseph House and St. Francis de Sales Church. Her funeral was at St. Francis on March 13, and she was laid to rest in our community’s burial space in Parsons Cemetery.

At the end of Evening Prayer each day we sing a song that begins, “Sister, let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you.” During the last several months the words took on a special meaning as Sr. Joan struggled with memory loss and declining health. She needed help with everyday activities, such as fixing a plate of food at meal times. As she slowly faded away the list of things got longer. But her gentle and soft-spoken nature never faltered. As her body failed her beautiful spirit remained intact and shone all the brighter. We give thanks for the gift of her life. May our merciful God in Heaven grant our dear Sr. Joan eternal rest.


One of our customs in the convent is to have table reading during the latter part of dinner. The book we are currently reading is The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of stories about the beloved saint and the first members of his community. The tales are charming and sometimes humorous but they all convey a spiritual truth. Our well-worn copy of the book bears witness to holy poverty: it is falling apart and the cover price is 95 cents!

Some of the stories have a more serious tone. The ones involving the imposition of the stigmata on St. Francis, that is, when the wounds of the crucifixion appeared in his flesh, seem appropriate at this time of year.

St. Francis received the stigmata in the twilight of his life. He had always felt immense compassion for the suffering of Jesus, and in his later years Francis heard the call to withdraw deeper into silence and solitude, to be alone with the mystery of Christ’s Passion. In the year 1224 Francis spent time in a simple hut among the trees and rocky cliffs of Mount Alvernia. A prayer filled his heart: “O Lord, I beg of You two graces before I die: to experience in myself in all possible fullness the pains of Your cruel Passion, and to feel for You the same love that made You sacrifice Yourself for us.”

Early one morning, before sunrise, a mysterious seraphic angel came to visit Francis. It bore the image of the Crucified Christ, who gazed upon Francis with immense love. For Francis, it was a moment of overwhelming communion and a flood of divine charity filled his soul. The vision departed, but it left its mark, literally, on Francis: he was imprinted with nail marks on his hands and feet and a wound in his side.

Francis kept the stigmata hidden at first, only revealing his wounds with hesitation to a few of his brother friars. It was as hard for Francis to make sense of these marks as it is for us. Perhaps we can begin to understand by remembering that God desires to share His life with each person in a special way. It is up to God to decide what will be for our own good, what will bring us to the perfected reality of our creation.

Very few people will ever have a profound mystical experience like St. Francis. All we have are the ordinary experiences of being human—something we share with Jesus—and that is all we really need. The demands of daily living will show us what it means to love and to sacrifice for the sake of love.

The wounds of the crucifixion pierced the soul of Francis long before they touched his flesh. Can we be just as vulnerable to our suffering Lord, present today in the poor, hungry, marginalized, and homeless?

Gus came to us cold and hungry. We could tell that he had a slight degree of mental impairment. It was February, and Gus had been sleeping in a cemetery. He asked us if we could help him get back to Baltimore where he had family. We purchased a bus ticket and some of our volunteers contributed an extra $55 for his miscellaneous expenses. Gus started crying and had to give everyone a hug.

Bennie, 63, had no fixed address. He either slept outside or if he was lucky someone would take him in for a few days. Bennie stopped working last year because of health problems. For most of his life he got paid “under the table,” off the books, hence his Social Security is only $143 per month. Bennie did get approved for subsidized housing, but before moving into an apartment he needed to pay a security deposit. He had absolutely nothing. We paid the $250.

Tamara, 29, has three young children. When she lost her job she fell behind in her bills and the water was shut off in her home. She started to clean houses for money and then she found a second job, too. Her combined income is $1,600 per month, but the rent takes a big portion of that. She was worried that she would never be able to save enough money to get the water back on for her children. Tamara came to the Joseph House and we paid the outstanding bill of $250.

Rebecca, 61, lives alone on a fixed income. She keeps her bills very low. Rebecca needed to have cataract surgery, but she could not afford the $200 co-pay. We sent a check for the amount to her eye doctor.

Sean, 76, and his disabled wife lost their home and had to move in with a friend. There was finally an opening in an affordable housing complex for senior citizens, but before Sean and his wife could move in they had to settle an unpaid bill with the electric company. We helped them find the funds with a $200 contribution.


The spread of the coronavirus has brought sudden changes to our world. We are writing this mid-March and we don’t know what’s in store. We hope you are well and staying healthy. Let us continue to look out for each other because that is how we stay strong. And thank you for your faithful support. Even when times are “good” life is hard for the poor. Regarding our health and everything else, we must do what we can and trust in God’s providence. Visit our website for the latest updates on our ministry.

Our prayers are with you and the whole world. May you have a Happy and Blessed Easter. We will be clinging a little tighter to the promise of the Resurrection this year.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


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“What does a truly human life look like, in such times as we are enduring? In answering, I reach a point at once dazzling and darksome. The point being the consequences of the cross of Jesus. It is a point of sacrifice. The cross, (which is to say, the Crucified One) invites the living to the heart of reality, in an embrace as guileless and self-giving as it is indifferent of consequence.” – Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ


Header artwork: “Stigmata of St Francis” by Domenico Ghirlandaio, circa 1485. Public domain.