Newsletter: March 2021

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

A year ago the pandemic really began to tighten its grip on all of us. Quarantines, lockdowns, and face masks became part of life. There was a long road ahead, but thanks be to God we have made it to this point. Every day has been a surrender to the mercy of God, which is without end. A few of us Little Sisters have been able to get vaccinated. We hope and pray that you are able to do what you need to do to stay healthy. Only together can we bring the spread of this virus under control.

This is true across the board: only together can we do anything about any of the problems facing our world. Our troubled times call into focus the words of Christ in the Gospel of John: “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” As Dorothy Day remarked, this is a commandment, not a counsel.

From your own life experience, you know that love is not always a feeling of liking someone. Love is more about our behavior and how we treat others. For inspiration, we can turn to the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. It’s a shot in the arm we all need—and no appointments are required. “Love is patient, love is kind…it is not rude.” A meditative reading of the whole chapter is recommended (it’s not very long). There is no greater way to make a positive contribution to the world than deciding to be a loving person.

Dorothy has more wisdom for us. She wrote about the necessity of “getting on with the business of living,” despite the catastrophes that befall us. The wounded need to be cared for and the hungry need to be fed. “It is walking in the steps of Jesus when He fed the multitude on the hills, and when He prepared the fire and the fish on the shore. He told us to do it. He did it Himself.”

We carry on this sacred work at the Joseph House. It is ground-level work. These difficult times have thrown a harsh light on the inequalities in society. It’s evident that not everyone has access to the same resources and support systems. Your contribution to our mission helps to feed and shelter families in need. Our mission is simply about loving our neighbor—a love based on our common humanity as individuals created in the image of God.

Lance, age 60, was in a very bad situation. He lives alone in a one-room apartment, sharing a kitchen and bathroom with other tenants (the kitchen, always a mess, has a broken stove). With no furniture in his room, Lance was sleeping on the floor at night. A few weeks ago, he fell off a ladder and injured his back. He is still in a lot of pain, but unfortunately his medication was stolen while he was washing up in the bathroom.

Lance came to the Joseph House Crisis Center the day before he was scheduled to be evicted. Our Director became very concerned about Lance’s welfare and made a home visit. Sleeping on a cold, hard floor is no good for anyone, especially someone with a back injury. An air mattress was purchased immediately to give Lance a comfortable place to rest. Our Director also bought two living room chairs at the Habitat ReStore and arranged to have them delivered.

We then paid the rent due ($255) and supplied Lance with bags of groceries. He had eaten nothing in the past three days except a bag of potato chips. Lance needs to find a better place to live, and we are assisting him with that, too. Although he is unable to work, he will receive an SSI check. Lance has an autistic son who likes to visit him. They value their time together, and hopefully in the future Lance will welcome his son in a home that is decent and safe.

Shellie, 56, was also stuck in a deplorable living situation, but then her name reached the top of the list for subsidized housing. It meant the chance to move into a relatively new apartment. Shellie was excited, but a deposit was required, and her job in food service did not pay enough to cover the cost. Since the wait for subsidized housing is measured in years, we contributed $300 so Shellie would not miss this opportunity. She will finally be able to live in a place that isn’t freezing during the winter.

Vernon, 66, was working until he caught COVID-19. He spent two months in the hospital. The recovery has been long, but he’s gradually getting stronger. Right now he is worried about his bills because he hasn’t been able to find a new job. We paid $350 toward his water bill so his service would not be disconnected.

Maria, 27, was working full-time as a nursing assistant until she was diagnosed with cancer. The chemotherapy is taking its toll on her energy level. She can only work about half of her usual hours. Maria lives with her son and needed help paying her rent. We sent $400 to her landlord. Despite all of her trials, Maria is maintaining a positive attitude. She told us she will keep moving forward.

Aretha, 25, was working two jobs to support herself and her young son (the father is incarcerated). After she lost one of her jobs because of the pandemic, she could no longer afford child care for her son, and that meant she wouldn’t be able to work at her second job. Aretha is looking for other child care options, but in the meantime she fell behind in her rent. We paid $300 to stop the eviction.

Trudie, 38, has two children and works for minimum wage at a fast-food restaurant. Her hours have been up and down during the pandemic. We helped with $200 toward her past-due gas bill.

Thank you for enabling us to help these people and many others. Never forget that even the smallest acts of love create a ripple effect, spreading their impact outward. . .

You can find out how to support our work here: Donate

Amanda Gorman was captivating as she recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at the Inauguration in January. There is one line we’d like to share: “Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.” That is such a helpful perspective to have—not only for our country, but for other people and ourselves. Unfinished, not broken. There are possibilities for everyone.

The cold days of winter are coming to an end, and that fills us with HOPE. With grateful hearts, we remember you faithfully in our prayers.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


March 19 is the Feast of St. Joseph.

Pope Francis has declared 2021 to be the “Year of St. Joseph.” Please read this blog post to learn more about it and for selections from Patris Corde, a personal meditation on St. Joseph by the Pope: The Year of St. Joseph.


Please use our Contact Form to send us your prayer requests. We are happy to lift up your needs to the Lord.

Newsletter: December 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

One of our customs during Advent is to set up a Jesse Tree in our dining room. The Jesse Tree is sort of a cross between a Christmas Tree and an Advent Calendar. It depicts the family tree of Christ and the events of salvation history; the name comes from Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” In years past, our dear Sr. Joan would be the one to put a new ornament on the tree each day before dinner. This year someone else will do it because Sr. Joan is no longer with us, having gone to her eternal reward last March. Her absence is just one reminder of how much has changed this year.

Our Jesse Tree.

In her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day recalled an event that “threw us out of our complacent happiness into a world of catastrophe.” It was the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Dorothy was a child at the time living with her family in Oakland. The two minutes and twenty seconds of the earthquake terrified her. Her family’s bungalow rocked like a boat on the ocean, but they all managed to escape.

In the days that followed, something equally unforgettable happened. Refugees poured in from across the bay and began to set up camps in a nearby park. The home of Dorothy’s family was in shambles, and so were the homes of her neighbors. Yet Dorothy observed how they all “joined my mother in serving the homeless. Every stitch of available clothing was given away.”

This experience of the “joy of doing good” stayed with Dorothy. It gave her a glimpse of what truly satisfies the human heart. As she entered adulthood, it set a goal for what she wanted:

“I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too. I did not want just the few, the missionary-minded people like the Salvation Army, to be kind to the poor…I wanted everyone to be kind. I wanted every home to be open to the lame, the halt and the blind, the way it had been after the San Francisco earthquake. Only then did people really live, really love their brothers. In such love was the abundant life.”

Today, it feels like we’re in a slow-motion earthquake as the world in which we live continues to be disrupted and cracked wide open. In the midst of the turmoil there is only one response that gives hope and healing to those who are hurting. It’s the same response Dorothy saw in 1906: to love your neighbor as yourself, even if it involves personal sacrifice.

Thank you for all that you do to support the Joseph House. Every donation and prayer is a reflection of the “abundant life” we all desire so much. No one has been unaffected by the events of this year. To be able to see beyond your own needs, to show concern for the welfare of others, is such a tremendous grace. Let us praise God for this gift!

We gave out turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas toys are next. You can drop off donations at our convent. For more information, please call us at 410-742-9590 or visit our website: Holiday Giving.

Our Financial Assistance program is year-round. We’ve seen a number of people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Lucas and Valerie, in their early forties, were living on a chicken farm, which closed down due to COVID-19. The couple were forced to leave and became homeless. With no car, they walked everywhere. Valerie needs to use a cane because of her weight and health problems. She and Lucas came to the Joseph House asking for shelter and food. We gave them bags of groceries and paid for a motel stay ($265). A forthcoming SSI check will be used to get an apartment.

Arlene, 53, lost her job when she fled the violence of her abusive husband and ended up living in her car. She went through a really bad time. Now she has found a job and is trying to save money to move into an apartment. We paid $300 toward the cost to make it happen. Arlene felt renewed when she left the Crisis Center and very happy.

Richie, 27, is a recovering drug addict. He has been sober for three months and has started working as a cashier at a fast-food place. He needed $150 in rent money to stay at a halfway house. We paid the amount so Richie can live in a safe and supportive environment. In talking about life and the possibilities of his future, Richie said he never graduated from high school and would like to get his GED. A laptop would help. We are looking into getting him one.


JOSEPH HOUSE WORKSHOP NEWS
The Workshop is a long-term residential program for men who were homeless. Here is an interview with Nick, Assistant Director, who is also a Workshop graduate:

How many men are in the program? We have 4 men here now; one is in the employment phase and three have just started taking classes.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the program? The only changes here at the Workshop because of COVID-19 are that we do temperature checks and the residents do not go to outside meetings as they would have before the pandemic.

What part of the program are the men especially grateful for? The men are especially grateful for the chance to receive the tools to see things in a different way. They appreciate the kindness and love that they receive from the Workshop and all associated with Joseph House. They love the opportunity to “give back” to the community by way of community service over at the Crisis Center and helping the Sisters at the convent.

What are some of their goals? Their goals are gaining the ability to be self-sufficient, to stay off drugs and alcohol, rebuilding family relationships, obtaining a job and learning how to keep it, learning about building credit, getting a car and house. The resident in the employment phase is reaching every goal he has set here, he even says that he surprises himself on how much he has turned his life around with the help of Joseph House Workshop—he has held a job, started college, and is doing great in rebuilding his relationship with his wife and kids. Those who are starting classes are setting short-term goals to work on.

How are their lives different today compared to how they were before entering the Workshop? The biggest difference is that they have HOPE now, they have a PURPOSE.

Do you hear from former residents and graduates? Yes, we like to stay in touch. We believe everyone benefits from the program in different ways. They hold jobs and some have even started their own business. It’s heartening to see people rebuild their lives. The Workshop is a turning point for them.

Learn more about the Joseph House Workshop.


We pray that the light of Christ may lead us to a place of hope and peace at Christmastime. Please send us you prayer requests and we will pray for you during this holy season: Contact Form.

Our ministry depends on free-will offerings. We can assist the homeless, the hungry, and families in distress because of the support of caring individuals. If you would like to help, please visit our donation page: Donate.

You are always close to us in prayer. In quiet moments we like to gather all the memories of this year, the people and places, our worries and hopes, our trials and joys, and place them into the hands of God. We’re on a real journey, and in reaching for the light, for what is good and true, there is hope. We pray for you and your loved ones, that you may enjoy a happy celebration of Christmas and the many blessings of the yuletide season. May God’s providence guide and protect us all in the New Year.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Christmas Traditions
by Archbishop José H. Gomez

Christmas tells us that the things of this world are “sacraments,” signs that point us to our Creator. If we have the right attitude toward material things, they can be instruments that open our hearts and lead us into his presence…

My prayer is that we will also rediscover the profound biblical spirit that lies behind all of our “material” Christmas traditions.

We decorate trees because Scripture tells us that when the Lord comes, every tree will sing for joy (Ps 96:12). We carol and sing hymns because when the Lord comes all the earth will sing a new song (Is 42:10) and angels in heaven will praise him (Lk 2:13).

Christmas lights remind us that he is the morning star (Rv 22:16), the great light given to those walking in darkness (Is 9:1), to lead us on the journey of life (Mt 2:9). Even the tradition of holiday baking can be traced to our Lord’s invitation to taste and see that his promises are sweeter than any honey (Ps 34:9; Ps 119:103).

We give gifts to our loved ones at Christmas because in his tender love God has given us the precious gift of himself (Rm 6:23).

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.