Anne Cuomo, one of our many wonderful volunteers, passed away on February 3, 2021, from COVID-19. She was a special friend of our community.
After earning her B.A. in Mathematics, Anne worked for 34 years in the field of computer and software management for the Department of Defense. Her husband Peter died in 1986, and when Anne retired in 1997 she moved back to her hometown of Salisbury.
She came by one day and asked Sr. Mary Elizabeth, “How can I help?” Sister loved hearing those words. Our Representative Payee Program was in need of a Director, so Anne jumped in and got completely involved. The program is for people who have difficulty in managing their household budgets. Under our supervision, a volunteer handles the checkbook for clients in the program, helping them to avoid financial hardships.
Anne was perfect for the job. She was thorough and meticulous and her personal warmth put people at ease. Anne would meet with potential clients, and if the program was a good fit for them, she would make the necessary arrangements at the bank. She liked to visit clients in their homes and take them shopping so as to better understand their spending habits. That enabled her to match each client with the right volunteer. Anne oversaw a few clients herself, even helping them move when they needed safer and more affordable housing. She was a dedicated advocate with a deep concern for the welfare of other people.
Anne quickly proved herself invaluable to us, and Sr. Mary Elizabeth invited her to join the Advisory Committee for the Joseph House Workshop. Anne brought her enthusiasm and efficiency to the huge task that lay ahead. The Workshop was initially just a dream, but over the course of several years Anne was instrumental in making it a reality. Her project management skills were a tremendous blessing. In addition, she brought a willing spirit, a kind heart, and a joyful sense of humor, and this made everything easier for all of us.
Anne became Co-Director of the Workshop (along with Dave MacLeod) during the time of the second pilot program. She recruited teachers and volunteers, and to prepare for the final version of the program she helped Sr. Mary Elizabeth establish the Advisory Board, on which she later served. Anne also found a seat on the Board for the Little Sisters—her wisdom was always in demand!
Anne made countless donations to the Joseph House in many ways, never holding back in giving her time, talent, and resources. She was loving and friendly to all, enjoyed music, and sang in the church choir. Ever so humble, Anne loved a good laugh and spread her cheerfulness wherever she went. She also had a precious cat, Sophie, and they were totally suited for each other.
Anne was so dear and loved by everyone, especially Sr. Mary Elizabeth and the Little Sisters, plus all who knew her at the Joseph House. In her later years at an assisted living facility, Anne was appointed the Goodwill Ambassador to greet the new residents. Her smile and friendly nature made everyone feel welcome. We’re not alone in missing her, but our loss is Heaven’s gain. May she rest forever in the embrace of God’s love.
We wish we could offer a fitting tribute to all of our volunteers. Each one makes a difference, each one enacts the mission of the Joseph House to “Cry the Gospel with your life!” We lift them all up to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving.
The Joseph House Workshop is a long-term residential program for men who were homeless. It help them advance toward gainful employment and healthy new lives. Here is an interview with Nick, Assistant Director, who is also a Workshop graduate:
How many men are in the program? We have 4 men here now; one is in the employment phase and three have just started taking classes.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the program? The only changes here at the Workshop because of COVID-19 are that we do temperature checks and the residents do not go to outside meetings as they would have before the pandemic.
What part of the program are the men especially grateful for? The men are especially grateful for the chance to receive the tools to see things in a different way. They appreciate the kindness and love that they receive from the Workshop and all associated with Joseph House. They love the opportunity to “give back” to the community by way of community service over at the Crisis Center and helping the Sisters at the convent.
What are some of their goals? Their goals are gaining the ability to be self-sufficient, to stay off drugs and alcohol, rebuilding family relationships, obtaining a job and learning how to keep it, learning about building credit, getting a car and house. The resident in the employment phase is reaching every goal he has set here, he even says that he surprises himself on how much he has turned his life around with the help of Joseph House Workshop—he has held a job, started college, and is doing great in rebuilding his relationship with his wife and kids. Those who are starting classes are setting short-term goals to work on.
How are their lives different today compared to how they were before entering the Workshop? The biggest difference is that they have HOPE now, they have a PURPOSE.
Do you hear from former residents and graduates? Yes, we like to stay in touch. We believe everyone benefits from the program in different ways. They hold jobs and some have even started their own business. It’s heartening to see people rebuild their lives. The Workshop is a turning point for them.
The Joseph House Workshop was the final program that came into being through the vision and leadership of our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling.
To celebrate the Workshop’s 15th Anniversary in 2020, three of the current residents wrote letters of appreciation addressed to Sister. Although they never met her, the men nonetheless are reaping the benefits of her lifetime of service:
“Dear Sr. Mary Elizabeth, My name is Andrew, a resident at the Joseph House Workshop. I am very grateful for all that you have done. The program has given me my life back. I owe everything to this program, from my relationship with Christ, family, and learning what it means to love and serve others. Thank you with all my heart.”
“Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, I first want to thank God for your love of wanting to help those who are less fortunate than others. What a blessing you are. I thank you for the Joseph House—it was not only a blessing for me, it saved my life in so many ways. Words cannot express my thank you. But now I know you are in God’s loving arms, grace, and hope for all you did while here. Thank you. – Thomas”
“The Joseph House Workshop has been one of the best decisions I have made in my whole 55 years in life. It was an experience that I grew closer to God like I have never been before. A group of guys trying to do the right thing and also accepting God in our lives. It has not been easy or hard, just trying to follow God’s will. Thank you Sis Mary Elizabeth for a place that made me a man fit for society. Love you for giving me a chance. Amen. – Maurice”
February 14 is of course Valentine’s Day, but the day has another special meaning for us in that it’s the birthday of the Joseph House Crisis Center.
It was on February 14, 1984, that the Crisis Center officially opened, the beginning of a new era for the Joseph House ministry. The building where it’s located also received a new lease on life. Back in the early 1980s, the structure (a small warehouse) was being used to store voting machines for Wicomico County. The county was renting the property from the Campbell Soup Company, which used to have a plant in Salisbury. Through the diligent efforts of the mayor’s office and community leaders, use of the building was given to the Joseph House.
Although the building was a tremendous gift, and we desperately needed the space, it was far from being ready for its new purpose. As noted in the February 1984 edition of this Newsletter, what was to be the future home of the Joseph House possessed only a leaky roof, cement floors, and cinder block walls. In other words, “It was a start from scratch project.” But thankfully, many people rose to the challenge of the renovation, a testimony to their concern for the less fortunate.
The project took about three months under the supervision of Jim Berrigan. Local businesses donated supplies and tennis promoter Bill Riordan covered the extra costs. According to our Newsletter, “Almost all of the ordinary construction work was done by jobless men who had come to us for help. How fitting that the haven for the poor should be built by the hands of the poor.”
Home renovation TV shows are common today, and we are used to seeing people walking through “oohing” and “aahing” at all the marvelous changes. Well, that gives you an idea of what Opening Day was like. Here’s more from our Newsletter archive:
“We had set February 14th as our opening day, and although it was not quite finished we opened at 9:30 A.M. There was a considerable group that attended, and each person who entered was pleasantly surprised at the space, convenience and warmth of our new quarters…We noted that the most surprised persons were the two gentlemen who secured the use of the building from Campbell Soup. They were flabbergasted at the change.”
In the history of the Joseph House, building projects are a recurring theme. St. Joseph is our patron, after all. The transformations involving wood and brick are only part of the story, however. A change also occurs in the people who bring to life the Crisis Center and our other ministries. “I am not the same person I was,” they often say.
Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, was well aware of this. She once said:
“One of the great joys that I had is that many of the people who come here to volunteer…have changed their attitudes about the poor completely, and have become people who are seeking for justice and peace….Without any arguments, without trying to persuade people, they have simply seen by the way of life that they adopted, after they came to help, that the world wasn’t the way it was when they first came.”
These personal transformations are not surprising because every instance of loving and serving the poor is an encounter with Christ.
The Crisis Center is a symbol of hope in more ways than one. Its creation and birth is a story of how government, businesses, religious groups, and private citizens all worked together on behalf of those in need. Its mission continues through your support. Sr. Mary Elizabeth articulated this mission very simply: “We do anything that the poor need. We are free, that’s the beauty of our work. We are absolutely free to do anything that the poor person needs.”
Freedom has a purpose, to do what is right and good, and Sister wanted our freedom to be used to help stabilize family life. We do this by offering assistance to people facing crisis situations.
Cassandra and her family experienced a real nightmare. A fire destroyed their mobile home in the middle of the night (it was caused by a space heater). No one was injured, but all of their belongings became a burned and soggy mess. After being assisted by the Red Cross for two days, this family had nowhere to go. We paid for a week at a motel ($392), gave them groceries, a gasoline voucher, and a small sum of cash, and provided Christmas gifts for the four young children. Cassandra does condominium cleaning to earn a few hundred dollars per month. She used the week in the motel to find another place to rent.
Gabe, 37, got sick with COVID-19 and was not able to work for a while. His wife is pregnant and does not have a job. Gabe’s unemployment was delayed and he needed rental help to avoid being evicted. We sent $313 to his landlord.
Sofia and Ken have five children and are homeless. They have been living in motels for a few months. Sofia lost her job at a school because of the pandemic. Ken is also unemployed. With their money running out they needed help paying for a motel over Christmas. Sofia was scheduled to return to work in January. We paid the motel bill of $392.
Katrina, 29, a single mother of two, has also been living in a motel (for eight months). She works at a pizza place, earns about $300 per week, and almost all of it goes to the motel. We paid for one week to help her save for an apartment.
2020 CRISIS CENTER RECAP
Last year, more than ever, we had to abandon ourselves to the Providence of God. Like everyone else, we had to adapt quickly to changing circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Crisis Center remained open and we implemented safety protocols, namely mask wearing and social distancing. Out of necessity, the Soup Kitchen was closed in March because it lacked the space to keep patrons safely apart (it won’t reopen until the virus is under control). Overall, less people visited us than in previous years, probably because they received a stimulus check and/or extended unemployment benefits. But these relief efforts only go so far—when people really need help, we are here for them.
The pandemic touched us directly in December when a staff member tested positive for the virus (which had been contracted elsewhere). Out of an abundance of caution we closed the Crisis Center for ten days, but no additional infections occurred. The staff member was hospitalized and has since recovered. We reopened the week before Christmas, with plenty of time for our Christmas gift distribution. Thank you for your support of the Crisis Center!
1,118 checks and payments were issued to assist with critical needs; 4,505 hot meals were served; 5,232 bags of groceries were given out; 308 households per month (on average) received food; 3,838 requests were made for services at our Hospitality Room for the Homeless (showers, laundry, clothing, food); 138 winter coats were given away; 415 children received Christmas gift bags.
LENT BEGINS FEBRUARY 17
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
Many of us are spending more time alone than usual because of the pandemic. During this time of avoiding large gatherings, the words of Jesus from the Gospel remind us that God is always with us. If there are habits and activities that distract us too much in solitude, perhaps we can fast from them periodically and rest in the sanctity of our “inner room.”
The three pillars of Lent are prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. If you need special prayers for a particular need, please let us know. We will add our prayers to yours: Contact Form
The work of the Joseph House depends on private donations. Your support is gratefully received: Donate
As God changes us, we change the world in which we live. We get a little bit closer to a world of harmony and peace and of just being good neighbors to each other. Our dedication to the poor, the sick, marginalized, and vulnerable will always keep us on the right track. Let us continue to make this journey together, as faithful friends united in our care for all of God’s children.
Years ago, in December of 1964, our founder Sr. Mary Elizabeth was at a turning point in her life. Unsure of her next move, she decided to make a pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, the largest shrine in the world dedicated to St. Joseph. She went there to have a heart-to-heart talk with the shrine’s namesake. Sr. Mary Elizabeth believed she had a calling from God, “a call within a call,” to begin a new mission of service to the poor. The problem was, she was alone and had absolutely nothing. How could she do what was being asked of her? She needed help.
So she went to St. Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, the one chosen by God to love and care for Jesus and His mother Mary, the one who protected them from danger, established a home for them and provided for their needs. She entrusted to St. Joseph all of her hopes and dreams, the desires of her heart that we’re waiting to be fulfilled. After spending long hours in prayer, she left the shrine and returned to Baltimore. She had a few ideas about the next steps to take, and confidence that she wasn’t really alone. Within a year she started the Joseph House ministry.
Now in December of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic that has caused suffering across the globe, Pope Francis is asking all the faithful to “Go to Joseph” (Gen 41:55). To highlight the unique importance of this saint, the Pope recently announced a “Year of St. Joseph,” extending from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021.
The purpose of this year is to encourage the faithful to learn from and follow the example of this beloved saint. In so doing, according to the official decree, people may find “with the help of St. Joseph, head of the heavenly Family of Nazareth, comfort and relief from the serious human and social tribulations which today afflict the contemporary world.”
To coincide with this “Year of St. Joseph,” Pope Francis has written an Apostolic Letter entitled Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), which refers to “how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as ‘the son of Joseph.’”
The Letter presents a personal and prayerful look at the life and actions of St. Joseph in the Gospels. Special emphasis is given to Joseph’s role as a father, with Pope Francis describing him as a beloved, tender and loving, obedient, accepting, creatively courageous, and working father, as well as a father in the shadows.
“I would like to share some personal reflections on this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Mt 12:34). My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how ‘our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone.’”
“How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all.”
“Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
“Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.”
“Nor should we ever think that believing means finding facile and comforting solutions. The faith Christ taught us is what we see in Saint Joseph. He did not look for shortcuts, but confronted reality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.”
“Just as God told Joseph: ‘Son of David, do not be afraid!’ (Mt 1:20), so he seems to tell us: ‘Do not be afraid!’ We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground. Even if our heart condemns us, ‘God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything’ (1 Jn 3:20).”
“Working persons, whatever their job may be, are cooperating with God himself, and in some way become creators of the world around us. The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new ‘normal’ from which no one is excluded.”
“Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.”
“Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction.”
“The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal. Indeed, the proper mission of the saints is not only to obtain miracles and graces, but to intercede for us before God, like Abraham and Moses, and like Jesus, the ‘one mediator’ (1 Tim 2:5), who is our ‘advocate’ with the Father (1 Jn 2:1) and who ‘always lives to make intercession for [us]’ (Heb 7:25; cf. Rom 8:34). The saints help all the faithful ‘to strive for the holiness and the perfection of their particular state of life.’ Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.”
The journey that Sr. Mary Elizabeth made in 1964 was an expression of her determination and faith. The shrine sits high above Montreal and one must climb many steps to reach it. But as it is in life, each step brought her closer to the goal.
It has been a hard year for everyone, and many people are feeling worn out and exhausted. The steps seem never-ending. Even if we feel like there is no one beside us, we can always reach out to St. Joseph. He will help us obtain the graces we need.
Our ministry is named after St. Joseph. We depend on his help all the time. The “Year of St. Joseph” is a blessing for the world, and we encourage everyone to spend some time getting acquainted with this trustworthy saint.
This is the season for giving thanks, and the difficult times we live in only make us more grateful that the Joseph House is here to help people facing hardships. Our ministry is an expression of your compassion: thanks to your continued prayers and support, our doors remain open to welcome the poor, hungry, and homeless. And we can never forget our brave staff who keep the mission alive with their dedicated service. We give thanks for all of you every single day.
When people really need help, it’s a very good feeling to be ready for them. For example, Ryan and Michelle, a young married couple, recently came to our Food Pantry in need of groceries. Crisis Center staff members greeted them and asked how they were doing. As they got checked in Ryan told their story. Michelle was involved in a terrible accident: she fell off a balcony and sustained multiple injuries. She almost died. Extensive surgeries were needed to rebuild her arm, shoulder, and leg (she is full of metal). She also suffered a brain aneurysm and lost most of her memory and half of her eyesight.
Through it all, Ryan has been a devoted husband, being at Michelle’s side constantly. He has been her 24-hour-a-day nurse. Making frequent trips to Baltimore for medical care is part of their routine.
Ryan is used to driving; he’s worked as a delivery driver, but that income has vanished because of his care for Michelle. He’s trying to get compensation for his responsibilities as a caregiver. Until then, their household income is only Michelle’s monthly SSI check of $783. Although they needed more than food they didn’t know what to expect from us.
Your support allowed the Joseph House to act immediately and provide $300 toward Ryan and Michelle’s rent and a voucher for a tank of gas. This doesn’t solve all their problems, but it gives them the help they need right now. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt 6:34).
Our mission at the Joseph House is to reach out to and assist the vulnerable members of our community. The story of Ryan and Michelle is just one among many.
This year, however, has brought into focus how we are all vulnerable. Every time we put on a face mask we are reminded of this fact. Being vulnerable is part of being human. It’s unavoidable.
Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth, once spoke with us about vulnerability. She began by saying, “God loves by destroying.” The example she gave was of a grain of wheat, which becomes useful and successful at each stage by being changed drastically (or destroyed) from what it was formerly: from grain to wheat…to flour…to bread…to being consumed. If the grain was unbreakable, what would become of it?
As flesh and blood creatures, our vulnerability is not a sign that we are “weak” but that we have the capacity to be “more.” Our vulnerability shatters the illusion of self-sufficiency. It teaches the hard lesson that “no man is an island” and dismantles our monuments of pride. It opens the heart to compassion for the suffering of others. It leads the human spirit to the grace of letting go.
The Joseph House is built upon the belief that we belong to each other. We need each other. The wounds we suffer draw us together in bonds of empathy and care. “We know we are all broken people healing other broken people through God’s love,” to quote Sr. Mary Elizabeth again.
If all we can do is help each other make it through the day, our time has been well spent.
HOLIDAY GIVING We will be giving out frozen turkeys and chickens for Thanksgiving on November 24 and 25. If you would like to donate one or the other (or both), please drop off your donation at our convent by November 22.
Christmas Toys will be given away over a two week period: WEEK 1: December 8, 9, and 10 WEEK 2: December 15, 16, and 17
Christmas toys and gifts (new and unwrapped) for children up to the age of 14 are needed by December 6. We prefer gifts that do not require batteries. Also, we cannot accept toy guns.
COMMUNITY NEWS It is our great joy to announce that Sr. Virginia Peckham professed her perpetual vows as a Little Sister of Jesus and Mary on October 18! The ceremony took place in our chapel in Princess Anne, MD. Rev. John T. Solomon from St. Mary’s/Holy Savior Church in Ocean City, MD was the presider.
Sr. Virginia entered our community in 2012. Her hometown is Averill Park, NY, and before joining us she was living in Maine. Here is a short bio, in her words:
“I was married for 23 years, I am a widow. I worked as a freelance and grant writer. I work with the homeless in the Joseph House Hospitality Room, and also I manage our payee program. In addition, I work on grant applications and occasionally teach an art class. Art and music are my hobbies. This is the most fulfilling time of my life—our work and our prayer time, our training, our retreats have brought me a peaceful heart and ever-growing trust in God.”
Our religious consecration is a total gift of self to Christ. We give thanks to God for guiding Sr. Virginia on her journey, and we are so grateful that she responded with love and trust. May God in His tender mercy continue to bless her and give her strength.
You’re probably going to celebrate Thanksgiving differently this year. We hope you find ways of staying close to family and loved ones, despite the need for social distancing. May you feel in your heart many reasons to be thankful.
God is always at work behind the scenes, giving us firm grounds for having hope. We pray that God’s abundant goodness will touch your life and keep you healthy and safe. From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
As we mentioned a few months ago, Charles de Foucauld (“Br. Charles”), the spiritual father of the Little Sisters and the Joseph House, will soon be canonized a saint. He was beatified in 2005 after an Italian woman was cured of bone cancer that was attributed to his intercession. In order to be canonized, a second miracle was needed. This is the story of that miracle.
On November 30, 2016, the day before the 100th anniversary of the death of Br. Charles, a 21-year-old man (whose name is Charle, without the “s”), was working as a carpenter’s apprentice on the renovation of a church in Saumur, France. Charle was working above the vault when he fell about 50 feet, landing on a wooden bench. It shattered, and he was impaled by a piece of wood that pierced his left side just below his heart and came out the back underneath his rib cage.
Amazingly, Charle stood up and began to walk. Help was called and a helicopter arrived to take Charle to the hospital, but the piece of wood passing through his body prevented him from safely entering the craft. So he had to wait for an ambulance.
Meanwhile, the manager of the company that Charle worked for was alerted. He contacted people at his parish to get them to start praying. His parish was newly established in 2012 and is named after Blessed Charles de Foucauld! In preparation for his feast day on December 1, parishioners had already been praying a novena for his canonization. With news of the accident, hundreds of people began to pray in earnest, asking Blessed Charles to intercede for the young man. The following morning, his mother called the manager: her son was alive, the operation to remove the piece of wood was successful, and no organs were damaged! The accident should have been fatal, but nothing is impossible for God.
Charle spent only a week in the hospital. He suffered no long-term effects and returned to work several weeks later. Despite not being a practicing Christian himself, he is very happy that his recovery was recognized to be due to Br. Charles’ intercession. The pastor of the church in Saumur remarked, “When you know the life of Charles de Foucauld, it’s astonishing to see that the miracle attributed to him concerns someone who has no Christian faith…This echoes his missionary desire to go and to evangelize those who are not in the Church.”
The date for the canonization has yet to be announced. It is comforting to know that we are not alone, that the love of the people who have gone before us, whether they are official saints or not, accompanies us through life.
Don’t forget–please send us your prayer requests and we will pray for you: Contact Form.
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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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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