Dear Friends of Joseph House:
On the day the Joseph House Crisis Center opened in 1984, a newspaper quoted Sr. Mary Elizabeth as saying, “A beautiful thing has happened. It means an awful lot to us to finally have this.”
We are just as grateful today.
Over the years, the Crisis Center has grown with the addition of a larger Soup Kitchen and a Hospitality Room for men and women who are homeless. There is also a trailer in front for office space and one in the back for food storage. In fact, we have a little “campus” on Boundary Street. It includes the Joseph House Workshop and a Pole Barn for even more storage.
Our spiritual forefather, Br. Charles, established an oasis of friendly charity in the Sahara Desert. We have ours in a modern desert. Tucked away behind what was once the Campbell Soup factory, we are bordered by scrap metal and a gritty industrial complex. It might seem less than desirable, but people live nearby, and this is where God wants us to be. Everything we have was built by Divine Providence to do what it needs to do. When we look at our place, we see how God answers prayers. We see holy ground.
This is not simply a pious thought. A place is sanctified through the presence of God, as when Moses approached the burning bush on Mount Horeb and God said to him: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Ex 3:5).
But the presence of God is not always announced through extraordinary sights. A homeless man holding his cardboard sign, a disabled senior without food, a migrant family looking for a place to stay—that is where Jesus said we can find Him. He made this clear in the Gospel: “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
Everything changes when we see with the eyes of faith.
We don’t need to hear a voice like Moses did to know that a place can speak to us. To travel down Boundary Street is to leave behind any notions of wealth, power, and status. God has made our place humble and unpretentious, an expression of littleness. One word describes it best: Nazareth.
Nazareth is where Jesus grew up, and it’s also a spiritual idea. It means the life of hiddenness and routine, of doing small things with great love. Nazareth is also the place of communion with our family, neighbors, and God. There may not be a variety of experiences, but there is a depth to them, a depth that comes from daily practice and long-standing commitment.
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46). Well, it’s where Jesus grew in wisdom and grace (Lk 2:52). It’s where Mary and Joseph lived with their Lord. As the defining characteristic of the Joseph House, it makes our ministry a place of welcome for all, especially those in need.
We still have only a skeleton crew working at the Crisis Center, but the mission continues.
Millicent, 66, has custody of her three grandchildren. The mother’s whereabouts are unknown. Millicent came to the Joseph House because she had no hot water in her home. The water heater uses heating oil and the tank was dry. She pays 70% of her Social Security for rent. Not much is left over for food, utilities, and medical costs. We bought 100 gallons of heating oil ($340) for this family.
Isabelle, 62, has been in and out of the hospital during the last few months because of heart trouble. She lives alone and is struggling. Isabelle will be going back to the hospital to get a pacemaker. She hopes this will help and ease her worries. Keeping up with her electric bill was troubling her, too. We paid $250 toward the back balance.
Mike, 44, has stomach cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy twice a week. He is not able to work. Mike has three children and is doing his best to take care of them. Right now his income is $896 per month in Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Joseph House paid $226 so the water would not be turned off in Mike’s home. We also gave Mike a gasoline voucher for his car and bags of groceries.
Kim and Jonathan and their four children were homeless. They were renting a house but had to leave because the owner sold the property. Jonathan works odd jobs and earns on average $1,250 per month. He spent $742, all the money he had, on motel rooms so his family would not be on the street. He was desperate when he came to the Joseph House. We paid $379 for an additional week at a motel. Jonathan has some money coming in from a new job, and he will use that to secure another rental. We also gave him plenty of food for his family.
Camilla, 51, lives in a boarding house with her 31-year-old son, who suffers from mental illness. He receives $943 in monthly benefits. Camilla has had heart surgery and feels like she can’t work anymore. For the past seven years, she and her son have lived in a poor and dangerous neighborhood. Camilla was behind in the rent. Someday she would like to move, but right now she needs to hold on to her place. We sent $240 to her landlord.
Norah, 61, is coping with the progression of multiple sclerosis. Alone and living on a monthly SSI check of $759, she needed help with her water bill. We paid $298.
We hope you are doing ok during these difficult days. Let us remember the Beatitudes, which are a portrait of Christ. A better world is only possible by being poor in spirit, compassionate, gentle, hungry for justice, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers.
October 27 will be 16 years since Sr. Mary Elizabeth departed for heavenly glory. We trust in her prayers, as you can trust in ours. You are remembered every day. May a special blessing lift you up when you need it the most.
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
Every year, the Salisbury University Police Department holds an auction of unclaimed property, which includes many bicycles. The auction was canceled this year because of COVID-19, so the SUPD got creative and partnered with SHOP (Students Helping Others Pedal) to give the bikes a second life. SHOP is a program of the Wicomico County Public Schools that teaches students how to repair and refurbish bikes in exchange for academic credit. Students hail from the Wicomico Evening High School and the Summer Youth Employment Program. Once the bikes are ready, they are donated to community organizations.
We were thrilled to receive the first delivery. We don’t know what we like better—the bikes or the excellent program that provided them! Some of the bikes are for the men in the Joseph House Workshop and the rest (including several children’s bikes) will go to needy families. This was a great idea. Thank you to everyone involved!
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