From its beginning more than 50 years ago, the Joseph House has relied on volunteers in its mission to serve people in need. Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, believed that just as important as helping people, was giving to others the opportunity to get personally involved in providing that help.
April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, and to mark the occasion we’d like to say: We love our volunteers! Over the years so many people have shared their gifts and brought the aspirations of the Joseph House to life. Each volunteer has enriched the Joseph House and been part of its story, making their own unique and special contributions. The current situation with the coronavirus is a new chapter, but the story continues and we are grateful for everyone helping to write it.
We look forward to the day when our full complement is able to safely return to service, once stay-at-home orders are behind us. Until then we remain a united family, devoted to loving our neighbors.
To all of our volunteers, those with us and those of happy memory, we lift you up in a joyful prayer of thanksgiving. May God bless you!
“We do not have professional staff workers, we just have people who love people, people who love people who are disadvantaged and who want to do everything they can, and as well as they can, to bring these people to a point at which they can live and love in peace.” – Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling. The quotes that follow are from her, too.
“Without you, we would close up. We depend on you to do the one thing that is most important in volunteer service—to be available.”
“Whenever I get the least bit discouraged about the state of the world I only have to think of our volunteers and I am filled with hope. Joseph House could not exist without our volunteers. It’s that simple. The entire Joseph House organization runs almost exclusively on volunteers. That’s the way it’s always been. People need the opportunity to give back to the community and to help their fellow man.”
“We have some of the most extraordinary, gifted, and dedicated people I have ever met. They give me a concrete example of the love God has for the poor, because He sends the most wonderful people to help them.”
“We need people who can look beyond their own lives and open their hearts to those who are struggling with a burden. The problems of poverty cannot be solved overnight. Caring for the poor requires vision and patience. We need to walk with them toward a solution, even if they can move only an inch at a time. We depend on people who are willing to do this with the poor.”
“I never worry. I am always amazed at the goodwill of people. I feel gratitude for what God and the people have done to help. It gives me hope to see so many people willing to give and help others.”
“I am trying to teach the lay people who are working with us that God doesn’t always make things smooth, that He wants us to wait on Him; He wants us to do it the way He wants and somehow He is bringing that about in this wonderful group of working people.”
After a short break over Christmas, we are ready to get started in this new year and new decade. There’s always plenty to keep us busy. First of all, at the Joseph House Crisis Center we have our Financial Assistance program, our Food Pantry, Soup Kitchen, and Hospitality Room for the Homeless. Across the parking lot at the Joseph House Workshop, our residential program for homeless men is operating twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Although our community of Little Sisters is small and we don’t have a Sister working in every department, we have the responsibility of overseeing everything. In every way we can, we assist our incredible volunteers as they “Cry the Gospel with their lives.”
And that’s not the extent of what we do. Urgent needs often arise outside the confines of our regular ministries. For example, someone extremely ill might require a wheel chair or transportation to and from a doctor. A transient family in distress might need a basic set of furniture, clothing, and household items. The call comes in and we do what needs to be done.
Plus, there’s more: we have a number of special activities throughout the year, including our Golf Tournament, Neighborhood Food Drive, Magi Concert, and giveaways of Winter Coats, Thanksgiving Turkeys, and Christmas Toys. Most of these programs were initiated by very generous individuals and organizations, and we are extremely grateful for all that they do. Their efforts raise funds for the Joseph House and beautifully augment our everyday services to help those in need.
Finally, our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, understood that the poorest person is not always standing outside the convent door. That’s why she added this paragraph to our Rule:
“As a Community caring for the unwanted, the needy, and the persecuted, we must recognize and embrace the woundedness of the members of the Community itself, applying the same healing love and support to one another that we share with the needy.”
Like everyone else, as we get older it takes us a little more effort to maintain a reasonable level of health and well-being. Sometimes a Sister needs an extra dose of TLC. From the treasury of love she receives it.
Yes, our plate is pretty full.
Here in the dawn of a new year, the calendar is already getting filled in. There are appointments and reminders written on the dry-erase board in our convent dining room. Our work is not a burden, but it does consist of responsibilities, sacred and important ones, entrusted to us by God as part of His providential design. A never ending “to-do” list, however, can make us feel overwhelmed. Maybe you’re familiar with that feeling.
One of our remedies is to gently remind ourselves of the “sacrament of the present moment.” It’s all we have: the past is gone, the future is yet to be. The term comes from the book Abandonment to Divine Providence, written by the French Jesuit Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751). “The present moment is always overflowing with immeasurable riches, far more than you are able to hold.” No matter what’s happening, each moment has all the grace we need for that particular moment. And what do we have to do? “If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.”
At the Joseph House, the duty of the present moment can mean almost anything. To help us get ready, our first prayer each day is Charles de Foucauld’s Abandonment Prayer (see below). We do our part, and let God do His.
Being ready means we can act quickly. Marsha, 32, felt like she was in the middle of a storm. The youngest of her three children, only two years old, has cancer. Marsha is currently out of work, and unable to keep up with the bills, the water was turned off in her home. Other agencies were out of funds. She came to the Joseph House—her last resort—and we paid the outstanding water bill of $180.
Life is a real struggle for Lenny, age 62. His monthly Social Security income is a paltry $216. His bad back, just one of his health problems, makes walking very difficult. Lenny used to drive around in his pickup truck (with 360,000 miles) looking for odd jobs. He can’t do that anymore. Without subsidized housing he would be homeless. We were able to pay two of his bills, the electric ($188) and water ($169).
Pete, 47, was an addict for more than 20 years. After completing a rehab program, he moved to the Eastern Shore for a fresh start away from the big city. Pete found work here and there, but nothing steady until recently. His paycheck wasn’t going to come in time to stop his eviction, so we sent $300 to his landlord.
Jillian, 62, lives alone. She just manages to get by on her monthly disability check. For years Jillian has not been able to wear her dentures. She needed to have dental work completed that was too expensive for her. The Department of Social Services said they can’t help and referred her to us. A dental clinic was willing to do the work for $170. We paid the bill.
Jon, 47, is a single father raising his daughter. Being treated for cancer kept him out of work, but he is feeling better and has resumed his job. We paid $250 toward his past-due electric bill before the cut-off date.
Alana, 21, is looking after her two younger brothers after their mother abandoned the family. Alana needed help catching up with the unpaid rent, despite her full-time job at a chicken plant. We sent $250 to the landlord to stop the eviction.
Your prayers, donations, and financial support enable us to be ready for each person God sends to the Joseph House. Thank you so much—you’re part of His providential design, too. Next month we’ll have some facts and figures from 2019 to show the impact of your generosity. May the New Year be a happy one for you and your loved ones!
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
THE ABANDONMENT PRAYER OF CHARLES DE FOUCAULD
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,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.
A GLOSS ON THE ABANDONMENT PRAYER BY JOHN LUDVIK
Father, into Your hands I commend my whole self,
my desire not to be here,
my family and involvement in the Church,
my unfinished agenda,
and areas of injustice.
Father, into Your hands I commend my life to follow Jesus on His Cross. I desire Your healing and forgiveness as I surrender these areas of my life to You.
Faithful God, into Your hands I commend this day with its resentments and prejudices. I hand You my morning lack of generosity, my midday rush to judge, and the poor self image of my evening.
I see my lack of creativity and fear of risk, my envy, but I surrender all that I detest in myself: my inner darkness, jealousy, addictions and dysfunctional habits, my manipulations, perverseness, negativity, and the non-Gospel way of my life. I seek Your mercy and compassion!
This reflection was written by Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, our founder, in 1979:
When we prepare for the mystery of Christmas, what are our days of preparation filled with? Most of us have thousands of things to do and for many it is the busiest time of the year. What we really should be doing is taking a little “quiet” time in anticipation of Him for whom we are waiting. With all the distractions and problems that present themselves during the course of the day we thought we’d offer a few reflections.
Around this time we usually consider what gift we could give someone to show our love and our gratitude. When you come right down to it, it is the giving of one’s time and self that is the most meaningful, the most beautiful and appreciated.
When I put myself out and do for someone else–instead of, what shall I get for him or her, or which wrapping paper or ribbon should I use to enhance my gift–then I can really experience how Our Lady felt when she gave her “Yes” to God. Can you imagine the struggles Joseph experienced when traveling during the most inconvenient time and then having to put up for the night in a miserable stable and with his wife due to deliver at any moment? How poor can you get? Mary experienced the pain and discomfort of bearing a child from the beginning, and His birth was her greatest gift to God, His Father. Joseph’s quiet and uncomplaining acceptance of a situation which he did not quite understand was indeed his gift to God.
Jesus is still being born each day. He is born in our hearts over and over, so that we can be the gift that we should be to God, His Father. While we are waiting for Him to come, He is really waiting for us to respond by letting Him into our hearts and our lives. Are we ready to welcome Him? Can you not see Him in the ordinary, everyday events, in those who plead for assistance, or our love, or just our caring?
It is Christ that we see in those whose cries we answer, and only through your kind and constant assistance have we been able to do this. May the Lord Jesus bless you and your loved ones at Christmas and all through the year.
“Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). We were not there 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem to offer assistance to the Christ Child, but we can still do something today. If you would like to join the Joseph House in our mission to help the less fortunate, you can learn how at this link: Donate.
May your heart be filled with the hope and joy of this holy season.
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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Learn how you can help us to help those in need: Donate
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
Would you like to share your blessings with those in need? Donate
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…
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.
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.”
Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling made this prayer central to the spirituality of our community:
“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.”
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.
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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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:
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.