Tag: Dorothy Day

Newsletter: January 2018

Pope John Paul I.

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

To the world, he was John Paul I, a pope known primarily for the shortness of his term (33 days). To Pia Luciani, however, he was Uncle Albino, and in a recent interview she shared her memories of him:

Pia: He told stories, sometimes even jokes with a moral ending, exhorting us always to practice eutrapelia.

Reporter: Excuse me, what does that mean?

Pia: It is a Greek word, it means showing happiness to others, finding the joyful and playful side in all things, because, he told us, “When things go wrong, they never go completely wrong. There is always a solution.”

Eutrapelia. There, we’ve learned a new word for the new year and a good one to keep in mind. 2017 had a heaviness to it, and we need to look for the light, for the solutions to our problems, because they exist.

Dorothy Day, the writer and social activist, had a similar philosophy she called the “duty of delight.” She made it her response to suffering:

I was thinking how, as one gets older, we are tempted to sadness, knowing life as it is here on earth, the suffering, the Cross. And how we must overcome it daily, growing in love, and the joy which goes with loving.

It’s easy to look at the world today and sigh. The problems can seem overwhelming. Unthinkable violence is becoming commonplace. The common good is sacrificed because of greed and the lust for power. Life is devalued and creation is just a commodity and trash dump. But reacting with fear and despair leaves us cold. That turns the human heart into stone, and makes us mean and self-centered and prone to scapegoating.

Dorothy Day.

As Dorothy said, despair is a temptation, and overcoming it requires making a decision, every day, to move in the other direction with action, effort, and focus. She was ready for her critics:

People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.

To that we say, “Amen!” We know we’re not alone in believing this because so many steadfast people keep the Joseph House Crisis Center in operation. How wonderful it is to be united in working for the good of others, to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

Your support makes a difference. Here are a few people who can tell you how much:

Charlene, 31, is the mother of four children. A few months ago she had a mental breakdown and was diagnosed as bipolar. The process of recovery is not easy — Charlene is working hard to incorporate it into her journey through life. After finding the right medication level she is starting to feel more settled. She would have been lost without her mother’s help in taking care of the children.

Charlene came to the Joseph House a week before she was scheduled to return to work as a nursing assistant. A notice had been taped to her door by the sheriff’s office, stating that she was going to be evicted because of non-payment of rent. We called her landlord and received disheartening news: the entire amount of $1,400 needed to be paid to stop the eviction, not a penny less. That was way beyond our budget. We told Charlene we could hold $225 for her in case she found another source of funds.

Then the unexpected happened. An anonymous donor came to the door with a check for $1,400 to be used for Charlene’s rent. What? Angels exist! Charlene was overjoyed and so grateful as she took the check to her landlord.

Hilda, 40, lost everything when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. She and her young son made their way to the States and the Eastern Shore, living in a car for over a month. A childhood friend in the area helped Hilda find a place to live. After we paid $200 toward the security deposit, Hilda and her son were able to make the move before winter arrived. Her new landlord gave them some furniture and clothing. Hilda and her son have little, but it is more than what they left behind.

Jack is in his sixties and going through some major life events. He was recently widowed and just lost his job as a bail bondsman (after 20 years). Before that he was a police officer. Jack lives with his son who has kidney problems and may or may not be able to go back to work. Jack himself has a large tumor attached to his spine. In the midst of this he is looking for a job. Jack came to the Joseph House after the water was shut off in his home. He never thought he would have to ask for help. We sent $250 to the water utility.

Don, 60, went on disability after suffering a series of mini strokes. He can no longer work as a truck driver. He lives very frugally but is still having a hard time paying his basic expenses. We paid $250 toward his electric bill so the power would not be cut off in his home.

Mavis, 67, is working as a home health aide to support herself. She had back surgery not that long ago and is slowly recovering. The loss of work put her behind in her rent. Even though Mavis must walk with a cane, she feels she is almost ready to return to her job. She has no choice. We sent $200 to her landlord.

Antonia was homeless with her three children. Fortunately, a shelter had a family room available, and once Antonia knew her children were off the streets she could piece her life together. Before their time was up she found a housekeeping job. We paid $225 toward the security deposit for an apartment so she and her children could escape the cycle of homelessness.

It is very gratifying when we can help families in crisis take a step toward stable living. Thank you for your generosity in supporting the Joseph House. As we begin a new year, we hope you will continue to join us in our service to those in need. We will have a report on our activities during 2017 next month.

Every night when we go to sleep we place ourselves in the hands of God. He is the reason we can rise with joy and look forward to the day, knowing that whatever happens we will get through it together. May His abiding love grant you peace and much happiness.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Sr. Marilyn Bouchard, LSJM.

With the unanimous consent of her community, Sr. Marilyn Bouchard has been named Superior General of the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary. She replaces Sr. Connie Ladd, who served faithfully for 15 years.

Sr. Marilyn hails from Wisconsin and entered our community in 1990. She supervised our Baltimore mission for several years and then was the “right-hand woman” of Sr. Mary Elizabeth. Sr. Marilyn has been active in all aspects of the Joseph House and maintains close ties with the Village of Hope. She is an excellent promoter of our ministry to the community at large.

Sr. Connie will assist Sr. Marilyn as Vicar General. We pray that God will bless these two dedicated servants as they guide our community and direct our ministry with the poor. In His kindness, may He send wisdom and strength to help Sr. Marilyn carry out her new responsibilities of leadership. We know with her gentle spirit and loving heart she will be a good steward of the mission entrusted to us by our founder.

Dorothy Day

dorothy_day_001

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a journalist and social activist. She co-founded the Catholic Worker newspaper, which carries on her dedication to peace and the works of mercy.

When Pope Francis addressed a joint session of the United States Congress on September 24, 2015, he spoke about Dorothy as an example of someone who worked to build a better future and who shaped the fundamental values of the American people:

“In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

Of Dorothy’s many attractive qualities, there is one that stands out: she practiced what she preached. She loved the poor, she lived with the poor, and she lived as a poor person herself. She once wrote:

“The solution proposed… in the Gospels, is that of voluntary poverty and the works of mercy. It is the little way. It is within the power of all. Everybody can begin here and now…We have the greatest weapons in the world, greater than any hydrogen or atom bomb, and they are the weapons of poverty and prayer, fasting and alms, the reckless spending of ourselves in God’s service and for His poor. Without poverty we will not have learned love, and love, at the end, is the measure by which we shall be judged.”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth, our foundress, met Dorothy in 1966 when they were both invited to speak at the Jesuit novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. This is Sister’s recollection of Dorothy:

“That’s where I met her personally, but I had known about her and read about her because in my younger days as a nurse I had worked with the Catholic Worker in Baltimore when it first started. I volunteered there for a short time while I was doing my studies at Mercy Hospital. So I knew about Dorothy and read about her and admired her very much. When she came to Loyola to speak I invited her to the house and she came. But my first meeting with her was at Wernersville.

“I admired her ability to live completely with the poor, and to share with them absolutely anything and everything she had. She never kept anything for herself alone. She was the poorest person I think I’ve ever met. Wherever they have a Catholic Worker house around Washington or Baltimore they always had a room for Dorothy, but Dorothy insisted that her room be used for the poor when she was not there. So many times when she would arrive from somewhere – if they didn’t know ahead of time – there was already a poor person sleeping in her room and she slept in somebody else’s bed. And if you knew Dorothy’s houses at that point in history, that was not like ‘I’ll sleep in your bed tonight,’ because a lot of those beds were wet in over and over again, and they smelled of urine terribly, and Dorothy would just go lay in one as if it were her own.

“She was the most selfless person I think I’ve ever heard of, and I really admired that tremendously. She was so detached. A very detached person. Except from her opinions, which she had a right to stand up for. But she was extremely detached. And very humble. But she did have a temper. I saw her one night put a priest in his place because he was speaking against the teachings of the Church. She really put him right where he belonged. She could handle any argument, anyone. But as I say she was simply, totally unattached to herself.

“The same thing came up when she spoke at Loyola. She was a controversial figure so they did have bouncers, so to speak, for her talk. And they almost had to use them because one man stood up. I think these people were sent by her enemies to talk out loud and heckle her.

“And so this guy stood up and said was it true that she had been arrested on a morals charge at one time. And she said ‘Yes, it’s true.’ But she said, ‘Worse than that.’

“And he said, ‘What?’

“And she said ‘I just remembered I have two coats in my closet at home and I can only use one.’ Which really carried a big message with it.

“And I thought, ‘God, isn’t she admirable?’ To say a thing like that in public, and not to defend herself on the morals charge whatsoever, but just simply to say yes, that she just remembered that she had two winter coats at home in the closet and she could only wear one. She just was a woman of principle, at any expense to herself whatsoever. Never did she come first, she was always last in whatever God’s cause was. So that’s why I admired her. I certainly don’t have her virtues, but I admire them.”

On Dorothy’s visit to the Joseph House in May 1966:

“She came, and knowing how poor she lived, and knowing that certainly I was not rich in any way shape or form, but knowing also that she lived in this total disorder and total untidiness, and I at that point in life was very tidy, because I had the energy to be tidy, I was worried because my place looked nice even though it was very poor. And I thought, ‘Is she going to think that I don’t care about poverty?’ I was really concerned that maybe she would be offended by that. And when she walked in the front door I had a little classroom on the side in what would be the living room, and they had desks and chairs and a little library, and that’s of course what she saw first. So I thought, ‘Well, I wonder what she’s going to think?’

“And she looked at it and looked at it and she looked around and she said, ‘I would give my right arm to have a place like this.’ [laughter] So I breathed easy. Yes, she was really a wonderful woman.

The classroom in question. From an article in the Baltimore Evening Sun, May 17, 1966.

The classroom in question. From an article in the Baltimore Evening Sun, May 17, 1966.

“So she gave us a talk that night in one of the classrooms. We had a classroom upstairs. And she went to Mass. And when it was over, I had put her in one of the back bedrooms where she would be quiet. All my things were very poor, and she had a little poor rocking chair with no arms on it. And so I went back to see if she wanted anything before she retired, and she was sitting in the little rocking chair in her night gown, and rocking back and forth and preparing for the Mass in the morning. She was reading the prayers of the Mass for the next morning and was preparing for that.

“She really was a very holy person. Extremely holy, very prayerful and just. Justice was a big thing with her. And justice was a big thing with me and I think that’s another reason I liked her so much. I didn’t fear poverty as much as I feared injustice for the poor.”

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For more information about Dorothy Day, please visit http://www.catholicworker.org

Below you can see two cards Dorothy sent to Sr. Mary Elizabeth, who was a lay person at the time and known as Mae Gintling:

Front of postcard.

Front of postcard.

Back of postcard.

Back of postcard.

Envelope for greeting card.

Envelope for greeting card.

Front of greeting card.

Front of greeting card.

Inside of greeting card. The accident refers to a car accident that involved Sister.

Inside of greeting card. The accident refers to a car accident that involved Sister.

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