Newsletter: October 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

When someone is homeless, he or she needs many things. At the Joseph House, we can’t do everything, but one service we do provide is laundry. We have to set limits since we only have one washer and dryer in our Hospitality Room, but we try to give each person who asks a week’s worth of clean clothes. Putting on a set of freshly laundered clothing goes a long way in upholding someone’s dignity.

In her beautiful book, The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris has a short chapter on laundry:

We groan about the drudgery but seldom talk about the secret pleasure we feel at being able to make dirty things clean, especially the clothes of our loved ones, which possess an intimacy all their own. Laundry is one of the few tasks in life that offers instant results, and that is nothing to sneeze at. It’s also democratic; everyone has to do it, or figure out a way to get it done.

Memories of her childhood, and the colorful laundry strung between tenements in Honolulu’s Chinatown, bring further reflection:

In any city slum, it’s laundry—neat lines of babies’ T-shirts, kids’ underwear and jeans—that announce that families live here, and that someone cares. For some people, laundry seems to satisfy a need for ritual. A television commentator with a hectic schedule once told me that the best, most contemplative part of his day was early morning, a time he set aside for laundering and ironing his shirts.

Even when we finish our laundry, it’s never done—we’ll have to do more later. Laundry is just one of the little domestic chores that everyone has to attend to, that keeps us grounded and united in the creatureliness of being human. It’s part of the private, behind-the-scenes work that goes on in everyone’s life. That some people don’t have the means to do this is part of the stripping of human dignity that can be the most degrading aspect of living in poverty.

The little things we do for each other can be the most important. As Norris mentions, they are signs that someone cares.

In a year’s time, the Crisis Center will touch the lives of thousands of people through our Hospitality Room, Food Pantry, Soup Kitchen, and Financial Assistance program. We can show people we care only because you care about them, too. Your generosity gives hope to so many people.

Sometimes men and women who are homeless are on a long journey of being on the street. Recently, we helped Aaron, age 56, take a new road. His disability claim was approved and his name made it to the top of the waiting list for subsidized housing. The Joseph House paid a security deposit of $175 so Aaron could move into a well-maintained, low-income apartment building.

For the past couple of years, Paul, 64, has been living in a dilapidated trailer park. His residence sheltered him from the elements, but without electricity it lacked even the most basic comforts of a home. Paul has been in poor health and is recovering from vascular surgery. Our payment of $300 toward his old electric bill was enough to restore the power.

Arielle, 32, is separated from her husband. Even though she is caring for their four children, he has not paid any child support. In the meantime, she is working as a nursing assistant at a nursing home to support her family. Arielle’s oldest child, a son, has had to grow up quickly—she said he has been a big help to her, does the housecleaning and looks after his siblings. Arielle needed help paying her electric bill. She went to one agency, but they were out of funds. Fortunately, the Joseph House was able to assist her and we sent $232 to the utility company.

Victoria is only 45 but had to stop working because of severe arthritis. While her disability claim is being evaluated, she is receiving $200 per month in temporary disability and $190 in food stamps. That’s hardly enough to live on! Victoria said her most pressing need at the moment was her overdue water bill; she didn’t want the water to be cut off in her home. We paid the bill of $187.

Lorenzo, 60, lives alone on a fixed income. Each month, 88% of his check goes toward the rent. Although he never learned to read and write, Lorenzo has managed to do odd jobs to get some much needed cash. An extended illness, however, has limited his ability to work. He fell behind in the rent and was going to be evicted. The Joseph House sent $175 to the landlord to halt the proceedings.

Wesley, 48, works in a factory and is also being treated for cancer. A seasonal slow-down at work has resulted in fewer hours. He also had a major car repair bill. Our payment of $280 to his landlord kept Wesley from being evicted.

Naomi is 73 and waiting for subsidized housing. It would help tremendously with her budget. Right now she is paying 79% of her check each month on rent. High housing costs are squeezing people dry. We can’t imagine what’s going to happen to the millions who won’t be able to afford to live anywhere.

Naomi came to see us because she was worried about her electric bill. She lives out in the country and depends on well water. A leak was causing the pump to run continuously. She fixed the leak, but not before it caused her electric bill to jump pretty high. We paid $170 to avoid a shut-off.

These words of our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, spell out the essential mission of the Joseph House. It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since October 27, 2004, when she departed this earth for eternal life with God. We can never remember her without smiling because her joy and laughter are always the first things that come to mind. Please pray for us, that we may be faithful to the work she began so many years ago.

And rest assured that we pray for you. Thank you for all the ways you help to bring the mission of the Joseph House to life. You are so important to us and to the poor! May God’s blessing be with you always.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


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Newsletter: August 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

The Joseph House has been in Salisbury for more than 40 years.

When Sr. Mary Elizabeth first arrived on the Eastern Shore, she was more or less a nomad, staying with friends and becoming acquainted with trailer parks. Her wandering came to an end in 1978 after she found the perfect home for her fledgling community: a large white house on the corner of Poplar Hill Avenue and Isabella Street. From there the ministry of Joseph House took root in this area. We still live in that house, our convent, today.

It used to be common to set down roots like this, but less so in the present day. As a society we have become much more mobile. But there’s a lot to be said for digging in deep in one location. Benedictine monks, in fact, take a vow a stability, which is a promise to stay in one place, in one monastery, for their entire lives. For St. Benedict, the monastery was a spiritual workshop, a place where virtue is developed to help one grow closer to God. Even back in his day, people were tempted to seek “geographic cures” for their restlessness. As many found out, however, “No matter where you go, there you are.” Benedict understood that sometimes it’s good to stop moving around. What we need can be right in front of us.

Although we ourselves don’t profess a vow of stability, we appreciate its purpose. Stability goes by other names, such as fidelity and commitment. For the many people who live outside of monasteries, Cardinal Basil Hume, who was an abbot in England, broke open the meaning of the vow. It resonates with us. Maybe it will with you:

“The inner meaning of the vow of stability is that we embrace life as we find it, in this community, with this work, with these problems, with these shortcomings, knowing that this, and not any other way, is our way to God.”

Day by day we really have no choice but to embrace life as we find it. If we can’t stay in one spot, we can always remain true to our values. At the Joseph House, our life is to embrace the needs and sufferings of the poor. Thank you for finding a place for this in your life as well. We can help all the people that we do only with your support.

Elaine, 60, receives disability because of mental health issues. Her son and two grandchildren live with her. Elaine has to take care of all of them because her son has serious health problems and is often in the hospital. She came to the Joseph House with an eviction notice. No other agencies, including the Department of Social Services, had funds to assist her. Fortunately, we did, and we sent $225 to her landlord so Elaine and her family would not become homeless.

Marissa, 40, also needed help with an eviction, and like Elaine she had nowhere else to go for help except the Joseph House. Marissa has four children. She works as a delivery person for a restaurant. The rent takes half of her income, and after paying for utilities, food, and insurance, there is almost nothing left. When her car broke down, she had to get it fixed. That meant there was a lot less money for the other bills. We sent $200 to Marissa’s landlord to make up the shortfall.

Jessica, 63, lives alone and is in poor health. When her home became infested with bed bugs, she had to call an exterminator. He took care of the problem, but Jessica’s bed frame and mattress had to be removed and destroyed. She looked around and found a new set at a pawn shop. The cost was $240, which she could not afford. The Joseph House paid the bill.

Antonio, 46, is mentally challenged. He often becomes homeless, and a few months ago he was hit by a car. He’s recovered, but we wanted to get him off the streets. Antonio receives a small disability income. After finding an affordable room in a boarding house, we sent $300 to the landlord so Antonio could move in.

Leticia, 62, has worked as a cook at the same hotel for 29 years. Despite her work history, and living frugally, she barely gets by financially. She also is raising her ten-year-old granddaughter. Seventy percent of Leticia’s income goes toward the rent. Recently she did not get enough hours at work, and this caused a catastrophe with her budget. To keep Leticia from getting evicted we sent $325 to her landlord.

Stacey, 50, is also raising a grandchild because the child’s mother is in prison. Stacey drives a school bus for a living. The hours are good for parenting, but she has a hard time making ends meet. We sent $200 to the electric company so the power would not be cut off in her home.

Your generosity helps the many people who come to the Joseph House Crisis Center for financial assistance, food, and other necessities. It also helps the men living in the Joseph House Workshop (click here to read a story about one of their activities). Thank you for all the ways in which you assist us in serving the needy in our community. We never forget you in our prayers.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


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Newsletter: July 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

When we consider people in need—”the poor”—we may focus on how they’re different from us.

Do we ever consider how we’re the same? Does that change how we want to respond to them?

Our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth once shared a story from the early days of the Joseph House in Baltimore. She was interviewing a mother who had requested help paying a heating bill:

[The mother] had just explained her need for $60 to pay a gas bill. I acknowledged the importance of such a need and then very professionally began to list her expenses alongside of her welfare income. Somewhere she had $50 she could not account for and I worried her with questions.

Finally we arrived at the truth: she had spent the fifty dollars on a coat for her three-year-old, trusting she would get money for her gas from us.

I pointed out that she had made a very unwise decision. She looked at me and with a great look of pride on her face and a sense of accomplishment in her voice she said, “I guess I did, but for once in her life my little girl was the best dressed girl in Sunday School. It won’t never happen again—but for just once the best dressed girl was my little girl.”

I felt her pride, I knew it would live forever in her heart—that great memory. I paid her gas bill and was happy to do it. I felt that it was my little girl that had captured a respect she would never again know.

When we identify with people as people, as fellow human beings who have their hopes and dreams, who have inner lives that are as rich and complex and precious as our own, then our sense of compassion begins to enlarge. “I felt her pride….I felt that it was my little girl.” Sr. Mary Elizabeth had a natural ability to get close to people. She could easily place herself in the shoes of another, a consequence of an open heart not put off by appearances.

Beneath the mystery of each person there is a deeper one. In her excellent book on the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, Hidden in God, Bonnie Thurston writes:

We must learn to see beyond people’s “packaging,” for example, the accidents of birth, education, taste, and culture. We must learn to live beyond our own narrowness in those same areas, our preferences and prejudices.

Charles de Foucauld wrote: “To be able to truly see others, we must close our physical eyes and open the eyes of our souls. Let us see what they are from within, not what they appear to be. Let us look at them in the same way as God looks at them.” In so looking, Foucauld believes we see Jesus….

Writing on February 5, 1916, nearly at the end of his life, Foucauld recommends: “Be kind and compassionate, and do not be insensitive to any misery. See Jesus in all people.”

For Charles, the spiritual father of the Joseph House, it was the presence of Christ in each person that ultimately unites everyone. He looked at people “in the same way as God looks at them,” and that changed his life. Charles lived as a “universal brother” to all people—Christian, Muslim, atheist, European, African—and freely shared what he had with those in need. His was the vision of all the saints, canonized or not.

To see Christ in everyone means to treat each person with respect. It means to affirm the dignity of all people as being made in the image and likeness of God. That’s the overriding mission of the Joseph House, whether we are helping a family with a pressing financial need, washing the clothes of a homeless person, feeding empty stomachs, or accompanying a resident in our Workshop program as he builds a better future. Your support brings this mission to life.

When people have nowhere to turn, the Joseph House is here for them. Caroline, 37, worked in a restaurant for four years. She liked her job, but she started to receive unwanted and aggressive physical advances. Caroline finally left. She has four children, although their father ignores every court order for child support. With no income and no other options, Caroline asked the Joseph House for help paying her electric bill. It was the day before the electric was scheduled to be shut off. We called the power company with our commitment of $250, and the shut-off was canceled.

Sabrina, 58, can barely walk because of arthritic knees. Her income is $194 per month in temporary disability. Were it not for subsidized housing, she would be homeless. Sabrina needed help paying her electric bill—if the power was shut off she would jeopardize her housing subsidy. We paid the $200 bill immediately.

Ellen, 72, doesn’t have subsidized housing, and her rent takes 95% of her income! She is frail and not in good health. Her electric bill was overdue, but she did not qualify for assistance in her county. She came to the Joseph House and we paid $200. Ellen hopes to find a roommate to share expenses. Since affordable housing is so scarce that seems to be her only hope.

Kenny, 68, lives in one of the worst neighborhoods in the area in terms of substandard housing. We’ve been in those houses before—you can smell the decay. Kenny has cancer and is being treated with chemo and radiation. He normally works odd jobs to supplement his income, but he hasn’t been feeling up to it. He was behind in his rent and received an eviction notice. We paid $225 to stop the proceedings. We really wish there was more affordable housing, places that are clean and safe, especially for seniors and those with health problems!

Matthew, 51, worked for a food company for 21 years. His struggle with a debilitating depression required him to stop working. His wife Ann works in a nursing home. Her income doesn’t cover all of their basic expenses, and she is looking for a second job. After falling behind in their rent, the couple applied for assistance at the Department of Social Services. They qualified only for food stamps. We sent $220 to their landlord to give Matthew and Ann time to sort out their new circumstances.

To continue our work we need help. We need you. Thank you for being generous.

July is the anniversary month for the Little Sisters. On the 7th we celebrated 45 years! As the years roll by we hope to stay young at heart just like Sr. Mary Elizabeth. The example she gave us is a treasure, and we hope and pray to be faithful to her vision for our community. May God bless us with more vocations, and may God bless you with an abundance of love and peace.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary

Praying for people is a special—and much loved—part of our ministry. Please feel free to trouble us with your troubles and whatever is in your heart. What would you like us to pray for?

• restored health
• medical bills
• spiritual and emotional welfare of a loved one
• safe pregnancy and birth
• selling a house
• job search
• happy marriage
• freedom from anxiety and depression
• respect for all life
• safety of a loved one in the armed forces
• government leaders
• pastors and church leaders
• justice for all
• lasting peace…

Please use our Contact Form to send your prayer request.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:16


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Newsletter: May 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

We were talking not that long ago about what it means to be in charge. We laughed because being the “head honcho” is not always glamorous. In our line of work, it usually means you’re the one pushing a broom, cleaning up after everyone has left.

This shouldn’t be too surprising, given what Jesus did at the Last Supper. It was His last chance to tell His disciples what it’s all about, and He opted for a visual sermon. Jesus did something that caught His disciples off guard and left an image they would never forget: He washed their feet, the most humble and lowliest job imaginable.

This needs to be burned into our minds, too.

As the founder of the Joseph House and the Little Sisters, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling was always the one in charge. In many ways it came naturally to her. But her abilities never blinded her to the teachings of Jesus. She would tell us over and over again to avoid anything resembling a “professional” attitude. By that she meant being attached to power and the trappings and privileges of power. All the things that place someone over and above someone else.

She left no shortage of examples to get her point across. Sr. Connie fondly remembers when she first came to work at the Crisis Center and needed a desk. Sr. Mary Elizabeth promptly turned over a trash can and voila! — there was her desk.

Yes, those were the days!

But there was a reason for what she did. Sr. Mary Elizabeth knew the value of humility. It guards against sinful pride and it helps us become approachable and non-threatening. Sister wanted us to embrace our “littleness.” She wanted us to be present to those in need face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to listen. We should be willing to wash another’s feet without hesitation, and have that willingness apparent in our demeanor. We can’t hide behind job titles.

If she gave us a high standard to live up to, well, so did Jesus.

This spirit of loving service unites us with you, and together with your support we translate love for others into concrete action. Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “We are free to do for the poor what the poor need.” She had in mind a freedom from red tape and overbearing regulations, and also a freedom of the heart, a freedom to love without reserve. A freedom to do whatever is needed.

Eloise was surprisingly calm given her situation. Her strength and intelligence were serving her well. Eloise is married, but her husband was locked up awaiting trial on a DUI charge. She said he is a good and responsible person, except when he is drinking. Then, she said, he is terrible.

Eloise and her husband have six children. They live in a one-room apartment. After her husband was arrested, Eloise suddenly became the provider for the family. She found a job at a nursery, but it wasn’t going to start for a little while. Her badly needed paycheck was weeks away. Eloise came to the Crisis Center, where we listened to the sad tale of her struggle. Behind in the rent and electric, no food for her children, she didn’t know what to do. Thanks to the generosity of people like you, we were able to act immediately: $300 for the rent, $100 for the electric, and more groceries than she could carry.

Many senior folks come to our Crisis Center. Veronica is 86 and a widow. For the past year her home has been infested with bed bugs and others pests. Living on a very small income, she didn’t have the funds to do anything about it. She came to see us and we paid $350 to an exterminator… Floyd, 69, lives alone out in the country. He tries to find work cutting grass for extra money, but it’s often not enough. We paid $200 to stop an electric cut-off.

Another common occurrence is people unable to work because of health problems. For Patty, 56, cancer took away her house. Medical bills and loss of work forced her to let go of just about everything. She now rents a room but still needs help sometimes. We sent $225 to the electric company on her behalf… Laurel, 50, takes care of her adult son who is learning disabled. She suffered a series of strokes and is now trying to get by on a very limited income. We sent $160 to her landlord to stop an eviction… Jason, 58, cannot work because of a seizure disorder. He fell behind in paying his bills and was dropped from the payment plan with the electric company. He could only pay $63; our contribution of $170 helped to bring his account up to date and prevent a cut-off.

Thank you for your support. We can do what needs to be done because of you!

“There are as many ways to serve God as there are people.” That was another guiding principle from Sr. Mary Elizabeth, and it certainly applies to all the people who work “behind the scenes” at the Joseph House. We need to give recognition to one such individual, Ella Duma, who retired as our bookkeeper on May 1 after 23 years of service. Ella came to work in our convent office in 1995. So much has changed since then, but Ella has been a constant presence, putting up with us, keeping our records in order, and so much more. Quite simply, her work kept the lifeblood flowing that enabled our service to those in need. We will miss her, and wish her all the best as she spends more time with her delightful grandchildren. Niech cię Bóg błogosławi!

We didn’t have to look far for a new bookkeeper. Heidi Price, who was our secretary, moved over to Ella’s desk, and a new addition to our staff, Tina Schrider has taken over Heidi’s responsibilities. In other personnel news, Nicole Soder has joined our community as a Postulant. Nicole comes to us from Ohio, and she is here to discern more closely her vocation as a Little Sister of Jesus and Mary.

It’s been a season of change and transition. We pray that God will bless everyone who is beginning a new journey, and may God’s love for you be your constant strength.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


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When you don’t believe, believe anyhow

Charles de Foucauld composed this prayer as he meditated on the death of Jesus on the Cross:

This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved. May it also be ours. And may it be not only that of our last moment, but also of our every moment:

Father,

I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into Your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.

Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, made this prayer central to our spirituality:

The first prayer we say every day is the Abandonment Prayer of Brother Charles, which is a very beautiful prayer in which we give ourselves totally to God.

Abandonment simply means that you give yourself completely to God in such a way that you trust Him with everything that He has in mind for you, and that each morning you just give yourself to Him completely, and you’re at ease and at rest because you know that He is going to take care of you. Maybe He’s not going to do it your way, but He’s going to do it His way, which is a lot better.

Sometimes you’re a little afraid of what is He going to want to do. You don’t always feel like you’re ready for it, but that’s what takes faith. It just takes faith. We like to make our own plans….

I can assure you there were many times when I thought that I could not go on with some of the things that I had to bear. It’s just trust. And if you can trust, God will certainly take care of this matter, but give yourself to Him. That’s what we mean by abandonment. It’s when you don’t believe, believe anyhow.

A Good Foundation in Life

Without a good foundation, nothing will stand.

Buildings crumble and arguments fall apart if they lack the necessary support beneath them. Human societies also need to rest on something — something that is solid but flexible, dynamic yet enduring. That something is the family.

Families are the foundation of society because they create people, not just in the biological sense, but in terms of forming the whole person. And this applies not only to children, but adults, too, since we never stop growing. The family is the school of charity where we learn our identity and mission, both of which are found in God, and both of which are defined by one word: love.

Members of a family protect, care, and provide for each other. An essential part of our ministry at the Joseph House is to support each of these functions of family life. For the single mother who wants to protect her children from the chaos of the streets, we pay past-due rent bills to forestall an eviction. For the elderly couple in failing health, we pay for medications so one spouse can care for the other. For the man who is looking for a job so he can provide for his wife and children, we pay for ID cards and work uniforms.

Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, grew up in a loving and supportive family, and like many people she considered it the fundamental blessing in her life. With her keen memory she loved to tell stories of when she was young:

My mother always wore an apron and would take the apron off before my father came home. She would make sure her hair was combed and everything was neat. And she would have his bedroom slippers out for him sitting beside the rocking chair where he could lean down to put them on, and the newspaper was on the table beside it for him when he came in.

You know it’s very nice to learn to be respectful like that as a child.

My father was a very non-threatening person…. When we were sick in bed, at night in the evening after work he would come home and bring our supper upstairs to us, and after we were finished with our supper he would sit under the gas lamp in the hallway on 23rd Street in Baltimore and he would read to us.

On Saturdays, that was pay day, he would give my mother the money for the house and then we would all stand around and he would give to us according to our age. He would give us a little spending money. He was a good daddy. He certainly was. He always provided well for us, did kind things, we could always depend on him.

Sister’s parents, Dessie and Hal Gintling.

With my father, it didn’t make any difference who needed to have a home, if we had an empty place it was alright with him. We never heard him say anything about these things at all. My mother would make the arrangements…. My father would just figure out what he should do and what he shouldn’t do and what was the right thing to do.

Sister absorbed the lessons of her upbringing and went on to start the Joseph House. Could her parents ever have imagined how their simple acts of love would bear fruit?

Never underestimate the seeds you plant today in your own family.


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A Community in the Footsteps of Br. Charles

Our founder used to say, “A community is not so much a group of people living together to love Christ as it is a group of people loving Christ together.”

Being together physically to form a community is not always possible. Distance can keep people apart, not to mention their commitments and circumstances.

Now, thanks to the Internet, there is a new online community called the Companions of Jesus of Nazareth. It hopes to fill a need for those who desire a community in order to “love Christ together.”

This community is open to people from all walks of life – men and women, married, single, lay, ordained, and a variety of faith traditions. What unites them is a desire to become more like Jesus through an understanding of the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld, who is an inspiration for the ministry of the Joseph House.

The Companions of Jesus is under the leadership of Rev. Leonard Tighe, an authority on the life of Br. Charles and a long-time friend of the Little Sisters.

The website has more information. Check it out – this may be something you’ve been looking for:

https://www.companionsofjesusofnazareth.com

It is ironic that in our age of instant electronic communication many people feel isolated. The Companions of Jesus is using that technology to bring people together, all the while each person is living his or her own “Nazareth,” the particular place where God has planted them.

A sense of belonging is such a help to our spiritual growth. Jean Vanier, a pioneer in the healing power of communities, said it well:

We have been drawn together by God to be a sign of the Resurrection and a sign of unity in this world where there is so much division and inner and outer death. We feel small and weak, but we are gathered together to signify the power of God who transforms death into life. That is our hope, that God is doing the impossible: changing death to life inside of each of us, and that perhaps, through our community, each one of us can be agents in the world of this transformation of brokenness into wholeness, and of death into life.

Newsletter: May 2018

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, our founder, had a vision for our ministry that continues to guide us. When she started the Joseph House, she had next to nothing apart from a few principles in mind. These principles, and the rationale behind them, were explained by her in this way:

1). Joseph House helps the poor.
We wanted to help the people who fall through the cracks of the welfare system and who cannot receive help elsewhere.

2). Joseph House uses volunteers.
We wanted to give people the opportunity to share in acts of Christian charity. We also wanted to minimize operating expenses so most of our money would go toward direct aid to the poor.

3). Joseph House depends on Divine Providence.
Through the generosity of free-will donations of money, food, and other resources we wanted to avoid government funding and the restrictions and regulations that often accompany it. We wanted the freedom of the Holy Spirit in responding to the needs of the poor.

These three points are just as relevant today as they were 52 years ago when the first Joseph House opened in Baltimore on May 1, 1966. Today we carry on the good work Sr. Mary Elizabeth started, reaching out to people in need to relieve their distress, offer them hope, and uphold their dignity.

We’d like to share with you a story from one of our volunteers that beautifully ties together what Sister envisioned. Jerry has been doing amazing work helping people find employment, whether at the Crisis Center, the Joseph House Workshop, or the Village of Hope. He goes above and beyond the call of duty. A few weeks ago, Jerry met Mary in our Hospitality Room for men and women who are homeless. Mary was definitely someone who had “fallen through the cracks.” As can be seen in Jerry’s write-up, however, her life was about to take a turn for the better:

Mary had just been released from the county jail. We interviewed her, helped her get an e-mail address, created a résumé, performed on-line job searches, wrote cover letters, helped fill out job applications and drove her to interviews with prospective employers. She recently had a second successful interview with one of the employers we helped her target, and she gladly accepted their job offer. She reported for orientation a few days later.

Needless to say, Mary is thrilled with the services we provided. Our volunteers who work in this area are equally joyous each time they help one of our clients become self sufficient.

A lot has changed over the years, but “the poor you will always have with you” (Mt 26:11). For people living in poverty, the world keeps creating new barriers for them. The latest is the digital divide — the gap between those who have access to the Internet and technology and those who don’t. That was an obstacle facing Mary until Jerry helped her get to the other side.

We are so happy that the Joseph House allowed these two individuals to cross paths. And they’re just one example. The transformations that occur are life-changing — for everyone involved!

There’s something Sister didn’t mention in her vision for the Joseph House, but it’s always been present in our service to those in need: loving personal concern. She in fact set the standard. Whether in our Hospitality Room, Soup Kitchen, Food Pantry, Financial Assistance department, or at the Joseph House Workshop, our service is never simply the mechanical distribution of goods. Everything is done person-to-person, motivated by a desire to love thy neighbor.

There are many people alone and adrift with nowhere to go for help. We are here for them because of your donations.

Sybil, 51, is coping with mental health issues and living in someone’s garage. Her income is only $195 per month (Temporary Disability). Sybil came to the Crisis Center and asked for one thing: money to see a dentist. We paid $150 so she could make an appointment.

Harvey, 63, needed to move from the house he has lived in his entire life. Badly run-down, his home was returning to the elements from which it came. Mice and insects were speeding up the process. Harvey is limited in what he can do for himself. We paid $200 toward the security deposit so he could move into a place that will be easier for him to manage.

Edwina, 62, is trying to work while being treated for cancer, but sometimes the pain from radiation treatments is too much. She’s had to cut back her hours from her job in a cafeteria. With her reduced income, the rent has been taking almost all of her money. We paid $200 toward her past-due electric bill to keep the power on in her apartment.

Margot, 28, has a four-year-old daughter and newborn twins, a boy and a girl. She took a maternity leave from her job, believing that her husband would be able to take care of the bills. He, however, is a veteran and suffering from PTSD. His violent episodes became so severe that he needed to be hospitalized. The family’s income quickly dropped to zero. Margot’s landlord said something had to be paid toward the rent or else an eviction was likely to happen. We sent $300 to buy Margot some time.

The mission of the Joseph House goes forward because friends like you have been part of it from Day One. Sr. Mary Elizabeth could not do it alone and neither can we. Thank you for your donations, financial contributions, prayers, and encouragement. Learn how you can help: Donate.

We remember you faithfully every day in our prayers. You are precious to God and to us.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


URGENT REQUEST: We need a full-size pickup truck for our Crisis Center. The truck will be used primarily for our Food Pantry and must be suitable for heavy-duty work. Our current truck is ready to be retired after 300,000 miles of commendable service. If you can help in any way please Contact Us.

What am I preaching with my life?

Our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth was inspired by Br. Charles de Foucauld, who wrote:
Let us preach the Gospel in silence and with words….

It is the responsibility of all to preach in silence.

As for preaching with words, some should do it more than others,

but there are very few who should not do it at all.

This is according to each one’s vocation.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling made preaching the Gospel her life’s work.

What made it natural for her was that she let the Gospel shape every aspect of her life. She could not not preach the Gospel by the way she lived. Anything she might possibly call her own she gave back to God. He had access to everything.

Sister exemplified the observation of St. Vincent de Paul: “If God is the center of your life, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts.”

She had a few big moments in her life, but like everyone else her days were filled with little ones. She did the same things, with the same people, day in and day out. She “preached” a lot in those moments, giving witness to the love and mercy of God by being loving and merciful herself. Br. Charles said his goal was to have people look at him and say, “If that is the servant, imagine what the Master must be like!” Sister took that approach, too.

For personal reflection: What am I preaching by the way I live my life? I might be the only sermon someone else hears today.

Newsletter: October 2017

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

She was born in Philadelphia and raised in Baltimore.

She lived in a house built by her father on the banks of North Point Creek, from where she liked to set out in a row boat and go crabbing.

Trained as a registered nurse, she had several “careers,” and wasn’t afraid to start a new one at age 50 with nothing but a suitcase in hand.

When she was feeling burned out she sought advice from Mother Teresa.

She was fluent in French, had an eye for art, was an astute businesswoman and never owned a credit card.

She never married but was a mother to many.

She was, of course, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, the founder of the Joseph House and the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary. It has been thirteen years since she passed away from this earthly life on October 27, 2004.

Sister is with us in spirit and we see her handiwork everywhere we look. We’re speaking of the buildings where we live and serve the poor, and also of something deeper, on the inside. Hopefully we are not the same people we once were.

Her sense of mission was guided by the Mystical Body of Christ: we are many parts yet one body, and if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it (1 Corinthians 12:20,26). Sister felt that intensely. She told us, “When you see someone who is suffering, you realize that God is in that person. And He is suffering in that person. And if there’s anything I can do to help, to improve that situation, to let someone know his own value, I will do it.”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth visiting her family home. Photo taken in 1999.

We carry on the work she started and make it our own in the here and now. In one of the last staff meetings she attended, Sister gave us these words of encouragement, as recorded in the minutes: “Don’t give in, and don’t give up. It is such a privilege to work for God. Don’t cut God short, be happy He picked you. God picks those who are lowly, He wants to defeat His enemies that way.”

Sr. Mary Elizabeth knew that our work with the poor would be impossible without the support of countless individuals who want to share what they have with the less fortunate. Thank you for being a part of our ministry. You are the agents of Divine Providence for the Joseph House. Together we show solidarity with the weak and the poor, give hope and dignity to the destitute, and extend a hand to people in need.

Chantell, 48, has two children and lives on a monthly disability check. After falling behind in paying her electric bill, the power was turned off in her home and she was removed from the utility’s budget plan. That was more than 60 days ago. To get the power back on Chantell needs to pay the entire balance due, a large amount. She has been slowly raising the money but ran out of options as she approached her goal. She came to the Joseph House for help and we sent $200 to the electric company.

Cynthia, 72, also needed help with her electric bill, but it was the last thing on her mind. She is being treated for cancer of the jaw and throat. She was in the hospital recently for surgery and her daughter Marian came to see us on her behalf. Marian lost her job and is not able to help her mother as she normally does. We sent $200 to the electric company to help stop the impending cut-off in Cynthia’s home.

Leona, 51, needed help buying prescriptions, but she also needed to talk and have someone listen. After many surgeries for a brain disorder, her husband is now legally blind. Leona has become his “eyes” for him, and although they both keep a positive attitude, coping with this loss has been difficult. It’s hard to be brave and strong 24 hours a day. The Joseph House paid the pharmacy bill of $132. We also found out that Blind Industries has been a terrific resource for Leona’s husband.

Madeleine, 44, has been out of work for two months after falling and injuring herself. She has one daughter and has been living on the $310 monthly child support. Madeleine is rapidly falling behind in all of her bills. She came to the Joseph House because the water in her home was scheduled to be turned off. We paid the $202 bill. Madeleine works as a nursing assistant, and she said her doctor will soon give her clearance to return to her job.

Anna, 63, was finally approved for subsidized housing. She is disabled and was not keeping up with her basic expenses. In order to move into her subsidized apartment, however, Anna needed to pay a deposit, which was impossible given her budget. Fortunately, the Joseph House was able to make the $300 payment to the Housing Authority.

There are moments of joy and relief every day at the Crisis Center. Thank you for making them happen. You are a blessing to us and to the poor.

We depend on your generosity. You can donate online here.

Do you have a copy of the book about Sr. Mary Elizabeth? Entitled Sister Mary Elizabeth Gintling: A Life For God, it can be ordered through our website (Book on our Founder) or from your favorite bookseller.

Click here for a newspaper profile of Sr. Mary Elizabeth.

With our love and prayers,

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary