Tag: Joseph House Workshop

Newsletter: March 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

We read with interest about a series of meetings that started at Harvard Divinity School between Nuns and Nones, “nones” referring to young adults, or millennials, who profess no religious affiliation (about 25% of the population).

Apart from the obvious differences—such as the age gap—the two groups discovered they share some common aspirations. For example, they’re united in wanting to make the world a better place, and both groups have a preference for community-based decision making. Both groups also realized they can learn from each other. The nuns were amazed at how adept millennials are with technology. The millennials, in turn, commented on how comfortable the nuns were with silence. They marveled at how Catholic religious sisters can sustain themselves over years, even decades, of ministry and social activism.

Could it be that the things that impressed the millennials are related? From our perspective as Little Sisters, we believe they are. They point to a common denominator: a life of prayer.

Prayer takes root in silence and as it grows it touches everything in a person’s life. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, made sure that prayer was an essential part of our daily routine. She included in our Constitutions and Rule:

Times of encounter with the Lord in prayer are indispensable in our religious life. Only in union with Him will our work be fruitful, for without Him we can do nothing. As our prayer and action become a single response of love, our life gradually achieves unity and peace.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth described herself as an active-contemplative, and she wished the same for the members of her community. One way of being an active-contemplative is to develop a contemplative way of seeing. That means to look beneath the surface, to see the potential— to behold the oak tree in the acorn, so to speak. When Jesus saw Simon, a self-confessed sinful man, He also saw Peter, the rock of the Church—and that is the person Jesus spoke to, all the while accepting who Simon was at the moment.

Prayer isn’t “useful,” we don’t do it to get something out of it, but it does change who we are. For us, this certainly carries over into our ministry at the Joseph House. Anyone who is different or struggling or on the margins of society can get written off so easily. But approaching someone prayerfully helps us to see deeply, with compassion, and we create a space for his or her potential to grow and develop. In contrast, presenting someone with judgment and condemnation creates a barrier: that person will feel fenced in.

A prayerful life helps us to see the seed of grace within each person, to honor it, and to remember that every person has a destiny in eternity.

By his own account, Jack was a very mean person. People would take one look at him and keep their distance. Jack was homeless for years. He said he would sleep in the woods, far into the bushes so even the wind couldn’t touch him.

One day Jack came to our Hospitality Room at the Crisis Center. We asked if he was hungry. Jack said yes, and we gave him coffee, “Oodles of Noodles,” and two slices of bread. Jack later told us it was the best meal he ever had. He was so hungry for something more.

Best. Meal. Ever.

We asked Jack if we would be interested in the Joseph House Workshop, our residential program for homeless men. He said yes again, so he was interviewed, where it was explained to him that he would have to follow some rules. That won’t be a problem, he said.

Jack was in disbelief when he entered the Workshop. A bed just for him! A kitchen and dining room! Hot meals! A living room! A community! For Jack, it was heaven on earth.

Well, that was over seven years ago. Jack is now a successful graduate of the Workshop and loves to be the first person at his job in the morning. He’s had setbacks with his health, but he’s doing much better. Whereas once he drove people away, now he attracts them. His network of friends is always growing. They look after him, and Jack is no longer on the outside of anywhere.

And to think it all started with opening the door and saying hello….

Many poor people are hiding in plain sight. They get ignored, yet modern society depends on the work they do. Gail, 52, is a bathroom attendant in Ocean City. She makes sure the facility on the boardwalk is clean and safe so the people enjoying the beach don’t have to worry about it. Gail had a roommate who moved out suddenly. The rent was too much for Gail to pay by herself and so she received an eviction notice. The Joseph House paid $170 to the landlord so Gail wouldn’t become homeless.

Patricia, 60, drives a school bus. She is single and has the care of her grandson; the parents have no involvement with their child. Patricia is a good, responsible person. Paying her basic expenses is a real struggle. She came to the Joseph House after giving $200 (all the money she had) to her landlord. It was not enough. Fortunately, we were able to pay $325 to keep Patricia and her grandson in their home.

Leila, 24, washes dishes in a restaurant and does other odd jobs. She has a young son but the father does not pay child support. Leila and her son did not have a fixed address. Even after giving up her car she never had the funds for the security deposit for an apartment. The Joseph House provided $225, plus a warm coat for her son who needed one. Now this family has a place to live.

Late winter, early spring. This is the time of year when appearances are deceptive. Everything looks dead and the trees are bare, but then we notice the red buds on the branch tips. Nature is so resilient—it reminds us to live as a sign of hope. Thank you for all the ways you support the Joseph House, including your generosity. You give hope to people who are desperately searching for it. May God bless you!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


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Learn more about donating to help those in need.


When you meditate, be like a mountain
immovably set in silence.
Its thoughts are rooted in eternity.
Do not do anything, just sit, be—
and you will reap the fruit flowing from your prayer.

When you meditate, be like a flower
always directed towards the sun.
Its stalk, like a spine, is always straight.
Be open, ready to accept everything without fear,
and you will not lack light on your way.

When you meditate, be like an ocean
always immovable in its depth.
Its waves come and go.
Be calm in your heart,
and evil thoughts will go away by themselves.

When you meditate, remember your breath:
Thanks to it we have come alive.
It comes from God and returns to God.
Unite the word of prayer with the stream of life,
and nothing will separate you from the Giver of life.

When you meditate, be like a bird
singing without a rest in front of the Creator.
Its song rises like the smoke of incense.
Let your prayer be like the coo of a dove,
and you will never succumb to discouragement.

When you meditate, be like Abraham
giving his son as an offering.
It was a sign that he was ready to sacrifice everything.
You too, leave everything,
and in your loneliness God will be with you.

When you meditate, it is Jesus
praying in you to the Father in the Spirit.
You are carried by the flame of His love.
Be like a river, serving all,
and the time will come when you will change into Love.

Every mountain teaches us the sense of eternity,
every flower, when it fades,
teaches us the sense of fleetingness.
The ocean teaches us how to retain peace during adversities,
and love always teaches us to love.

Fr. Seraphion of Mount Athos
(adapted by Fr. Jan Bereza, OSB)

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: June 2018

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Money is a curious thing. It can buy books but not intelligence; finery but not beauty; entertainment but not happiness; luxuries but not culture; a house but not a home.

Money can give us what we want, but not always what we need. It is our servant, not our master.

Jesus advised us to ask for our daily bread (Mt 6:11). He also affirmed that we do not live by bread alone: our fulfillment is of a higher order (Mt 4:4). As Sr. Mary Elizabeth once said, “Some days we have much, and many days we have little. I tell the sisters, ‘much is better, but, much or little, we always have God!'”

We ask money from you to help those who have little. The people we serve lack the necessities required to live a basic, decent life. It is a matter of alleviating suffering and upholding human dignity. We try to keep money in its proper place and allow our benefactors to do the same. Money can be used for good or evil: it is our choice.

Money is called currency if it’s “in circulation.” It has power when it moves, and your donations supply the power to our operation. We can assist people only because of you. Thank you for everything you do for the Joseph House. Having a heart open to people in need is a real treasure.

Like many people who come to the Joseph House, Armand was not eligible for help anywhere else. He is 58, homebound, and a dialysis patient. A social worker came to our Crisis Center on his behalf. After paying 72% of his disability income on rent, Armand has about $200 left over each month. This needs to cover the electric, water, food, and miscellaneous household items. It’s never enough. Armand has nothing extra in his life like cable TV. We paid $200 toward his past-due electric bill.

Celine, 32, is a single mother with two children. She was working a temp job but then was let go by the employer. Living paycheck-to-paycheck, Celine quickly ran into trouble paying her bills, and the water was shut off. She went to the Department of Social Services and learned it does not assist with water bills. The next stop was the Joseph House, and since we are not bound by red tape and we understand that running water is essential, we paid $170 toward Celine’s bill.

Elda is 60 and had to stop working because of arthritis in her back. She can barely walk. At the moment, her only income is $185 a month in Temporary Disability. Elda has minimal bills, but $185 doesn’t go very far, to say the least. We sent $200 to the electric company so Elda would not lose power in her home.

Janet, 46, is separated from her husband. She recently had to have one of her legs amputated. Unable to work during her recovery, she has no income. We sent $175 in rent money to her landlord.

Christine, 56, recently obtained custody of two of her grandchildren. She is trying to get a third one because the mother is abusive. Family relationships have fractured and Christine wants to do what is best for the children. To proceed with the custody case Christine needs to have a larger apartment to house the additional child. Her current income is $1,059 per month and she pays $850 in rent. She found another apartment but needed to pay a security deposit. Her lack of spare funds made that impossible. Determined to provide all of her grandchildren with a loving and healthy upbringing, Christine came to the Joseph House. We contributed $210 toward the deposit.

Last year Sister Virginia’s art class at the Joseph House Workshop took on the task of designing and creating a sign in mosaic tile for the Workshop entryway. Three new residents were up to the challenge. The sign was completed in April 2018, just as the class was ending. Here is the story from Sr. Virginia:

“Mosaics are manly,” I said to Larry, Juan, and John, my art students at the Joseph House Workshop. “Glue and cement and breaking things with tools: What’s not to like?”

As new residents of the Workshop, the three men were still in phase one, the initial three months during which they learn how to cook, clean and cooperate in a small community of men. They also do volunteer work and take an array of skill-building and inspirational classes, including my art class, which I hope provides a bit of comic relief from their very challenging schedule.

The goal of the Joseph House Workshop, a residential therapeutic program, is to help homeless men transition to stable, productive living. We know the goal has been reached when a resident completes the program and has a steady job and the means to live independently.

When Rudy, the assistant director, learned that I was going to give a class in mosaics, he suggested we make a sign for the Workshop to replace one that was falling apart. It was a handsome sign, lovingly and skillfully made by a previous resident, but unfortunately the material was not weatherproof.

I’m not sure what the men were thinking when they heard about the project, or what they said to each other in private, but in the class they were very good sports. As the weeks went by and we were still making preparations, I would anxiously try to assure the men that things were going to get more exciting. Larry would give me a deadpan look and say, “Sister-Virginia–I-am-very-excited-about-the-project-today.” Juan often assured me that the class did indeed make him feel “manly.”

John was a bit more serious – maybe because he had the most experience – and he quietly kept the project on track and free of major blunders. In fact, John devoted many hours of his scarce free time to preparing hundreds of mosaic tiles, which needed to be broken up into a variety of sizes.

We also received help from experts in the community. Carla Lewis, a superb local mosaicist, encouraged us and offered good advice. Erin Kenny and Daniel Winn at Acme Ceramic Tile in Salisbury generously gave their time to help us select the proper materials, and they showed us techniques for producing a harmonious and pleasing design.

Fortunately, the cost of the materials – weatherproof backing board, ceramic tiles, glue and grout – was covered by an education grant that the Workshop receives annually.

As the class drew to an end, the sign was far from complete. I was resigned to handing over the unfinished project to the next cohort of men, due to begin class in the fall.

My students were now preparing to enter phase two – the period during which they find training and employment, with the ultimate goal of becoming stable and independent. I was working at the nearby Joseph House Crisis Center, when John came up to me and said, “Sister, I have to show you something.” He led me across the parking lot to the Workshop entrance.

The sign was not only finished, it was framed and installed above the doors! John had worked day and night to lay all rest of the tiles, and he then enlisted another resident, Carl, to build the frame and help mount the sign, while swearing everyone involved to secrecy so he could surprise me. I was deeply moved and thrilled!

Rudy revealed to me later that John was initially quite unenthusiastic about the mosaic project. An experienced contractor, John said that he had always insisted on getting paid in full for his work. “But when the sign was finished and I saw the expression on Sister’s face,” he said, “it made it all worthwhile.” He had experienced something profound: the joy of giving his time and talent without any thought of material gain.

The mosaic project was for me a tremendous blessing and privilege. After every class, I would feel elated. Working side-by-side with these men to create something that was handsome and useful, in such a venerable and ancient art form, felt like a tiny sharing in the timeless and blissful creativity of God.


There are many things we can do with our time and money. Few of them compare with making the world more hospitable for those who need a hand.

To all men celebrating Father’s Day, we pray that God will bless you with an abundance of love. And may everyone enjoy a happy and restful summer.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Look Up For A Sign

The goal of the Joseph House Workshop is to help homeless men transition to stable, productive living. We know the goal has been reached when a resident completes the program and has a steady job and the means to live independently. There are also signs along the way that show hard work, commitment, initiative, and pride. Just look up!

Sr. Virginia explains why in her report from the Workshop:

This past winter and spring, I conducted an art class with three residents, Larry, Juan and John. They were in phase one of the program. I decided that we would create a ceramic tile mosaic for the entrance to the Workshop building. None of us had ever done anything like this and we had many false starts and changes of plan. The sign was still far from finished when the class ended. John, seen here, secretly completed the project and worked with another resident to install it over the entryway. Then he surprised me with it. I was deeply moved and thrilled!

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