Newsletter: April 2020

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

Our hearts are heavy as we begin this Newsletter. On Sunday, March 8, 2020, Our Lord came to call Sr. Joan Marie Albanese home. Sr. Joan died at Wicomico Nursing Home here in Salisbury. She had previously been under the care of Coastal Hospice in our convent, and the wonderful nurses continued their loving attention until the end. We are so grateful for everyone who helped us care for Sr. Joan as she made her final pilgrimage to God.

One of three children, Sr. Joan was born April 7, 1942 in Stamford, Connecticut to Harriet (Horton) Jacobson and James Jacobson. Following high school, she later met and married Matthew Albanese. Joan worked at Armel Electronics in Union City, NJ for 20 years.

In 2003, Joan followed a call to religious life. She entered our community on May 28, 2003, and professed final vows on October 31, 2011.

Sr. Joan found her niche and ministry in the Hospitality Room at the Joseph House Crisis Center. It was to her that the homeless and countless persons would come for prayer or to fill a special need—be it a bar of soap, clothing, or any one of the little things she knew they needed—or for one of her famous hugs (her nickname was “Sister Hug-a-lotta”). She now sends her hugs from a glorious distance.

Sr. Joan was preceded in death by her parents and her brother John. She is survived by her sister, Catherine Jacobson, and her nephew, Justin Jacobson. In addition to her sisters in community, Sr. Joan had many friends at Joseph House and St. Francis de Sales Church. Her funeral was at St. Francis on March 13, and she was laid to rest in our community’s burial space in Parsons Cemetery.

At the end of Evening Prayer each day we sing a song that begins, “Sister, let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you.” During the last several months the words took on a special meaning as Sr. Joan struggled with memory loss and declining health. She needed help with everyday activities, such as fixing a plate of food at meal times. As she slowly faded away the list of things got longer. But her gentle and soft-spoken nature never faltered. As her body failed her beautiful spirit remained intact and shone all the brighter. We give thanks for the gift of her life. May our merciful God in Heaven grant our dear Sr. Joan eternal rest.


One of our customs in the convent is to have table reading during the latter part of dinner. The book we are currently reading is The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of stories about the beloved saint and the first members of his community. The tales are charming and sometimes humorous but they all convey a spiritual truth. Our well-worn copy of the book bears witness to holy poverty: it is falling apart and the cover price is 95 cents!

Some of the stories have a more serious tone. The ones involving the imposition of the stigmata on St. Francis, that is, when the wounds of the crucifixion appeared in his flesh, seem appropriate at this time of year.

St. Francis received the stigmata in the twilight of his life. He had always felt immense compassion for the suffering of Jesus, and in his later years Francis heard the call to withdraw deeper into silence and solitude, to be alone with the mystery of Christ’s Passion. In the year 1224 Francis spent time in a simple hut among the trees and rocky cliffs of Mount Alvernia. A prayer filled his heart: “O Lord, I beg of You two graces before I die: to experience in myself in all possible fullness the pains of Your cruel Passion, and to feel for You the same love that made You sacrifice Yourself for us.”

Early one morning, before sunrise, a mysterious seraphic angel came to visit Francis. It bore the image of the Crucified Christ, who gazed upon Francis with immense love. For Francis, it was a moment of overwhelming communion and a flood of divine charity filled his soul. The vision departed, but it left its mark, literally, on Francis: he was imprinted with nail marks on his hands and feet and a wound in his side.

Francis kept the stigmata hidden at first, only revealing his wounds with hesitation to a few of his brother friars. It was as hard for Francis to make sense of these marks as it is for us. Perhaps we can begin to understand by remembering that God desires to share His life with each person in a special way. It is up to God to decide what will be for our own good, what will bring us to the perfected reality of our creation.

Very few people will ever have a profound mystical experience like St. Francis. All we have are the ordinary experiences of being human—something we share with Jesus—and that is all we really need. The demands of daily living will show us what it means to love and to sacrifice for the sake of love.

The wounds of the crucifixion pierced the soul of Francis long before they touched his flesh. Can we be just as vulnerable to our suffering Lord, present today in the poor, hungry, marginalized, and homeless?

Gus came to us cold and hungry. We could tell that he had a slight degree of mental impairment. It was February, and Gus had been sleeping in a cemetery. He asked us if we could help him get back to Baltimore where he had family. We purchased a bus ticket and some of our volunteers contributed an extra $55 for his miscellaneous expenses. Gus started crying and had to give everyone a hug.

Bennie, 63, had no fixed address. He either slept outside or if he was lucky someone would take him in for a few days. Bennie stopped working last year because of health problems. For most of his life he got paid “under the table,” off the books, hence his Social Security is only $143 per month. Bennie did get approved for subsidized housing, but before moving into an apartment he needed to pay a security deposit. He had absolutely nothing. We paid the $250.

Tamara, 29, has three young children. When she lost her job she fell behind in her bills and the water was shut off in her home. She started to clean houses for money and then she found a second job, too. Her combined income is $1,600 per month, but the rent takes a big portion of that. She was worried that she would never be able to save enough money to get the water back on for her children. Tamara came to the Joseph House and we paid the outstanding bill of $250.

Rebecca, 61, lives alone on a fixed income. She keeps her bills very low. Rebecca needed to have cataract surgery, but she could not afford the $200 co-pay. We sent a check for the amount to her eye doctor.

Sean, 76, and his disabled wife lost their home and had to move in with a friend. There was finally an opening in an affordable housing complex for senior citizens, but before Sean and his wife could move in they had to settle an unpaid bill with the electric company. We helped them find the funds with a $200 contribution.


The spread of the coronavirus has brought sudden changes to our world. We are writing this mid-March and we don’t know what’s in store. We hope you are well and staying healthy. Let us continue to look out for each other because that is how we stay strong. And thank you for your faithful support. Even when times are “good” life is hard for the poor. Regarding our health and everything else, we must do what we can and trust in God’s providence. Visit our website for the latest updates on our ministry.

Our prayers are with you and the whole world. May you have a Happy and Blessed Easter. We will be clinging a little tighter to the promise of the Resurrection this year.

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Our ministry to the poor continues during this pandemic and depends on your support. Learn how you can help: Donate.

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“What does a truly human life look like, in such times as we are enduring? In answering, I reach a point at once dazzling and darksome. The point being the consequences of the cross of Jesus. It is a point of sacrifice. The cross, (which is to say, the Crucified One) invites the living to the heart of reality, in an embrace as guileless and self-giving as it is indifferent of consequence.” – Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ


Header artwork: “Stigmata of St Francis” by Domenico Ghirlandaio, circa 1485. Public domain.

How Virtue Conquers Vice

Where there is charity and wisdom,
there is neither fear nor ignorance.

Where there is patience and humility,
there is neither anger nor disturbance.

Where there is poverty with joy,
there is neither covetousness nor avarice.

Where there is inner peace and meditation,
there is neither anxiousness nor dissipation.

Where there is fear of the Lord to guard the house,
there the enemy cannot gain entry.

Where there is mercy and discernment,
there is neither excess nor hardness of heart.


The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi is October 4.

Image: St. Francis Giving his Mantle to a Poor Man by Giotto, ca. 1297.

From the Web Gallery of Art (https://www.wga.hu/index.html): “This is the second of the twenty-eight scenes (twenty-five of which were painted by Giotto) of the Legend of Saint Francis…Francis hands his valuable golden cloak to an impoverished citizen. The scene takes place in front of two rocky hills, on whose peaks two very different types of architecture rise up–the world of the city and of the cloister confront one another here. The descending slopes meet behind the figure of the saint, emphasizing his position in the picture, as well as characterizing his situation in life: this is a first indication that the saint will decide to lead a secluded life of poverty.”

Newsletter: April 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

When the tomb of Christ opened on that first Easter Sunday, a new reality for all people also opened up: resurrection is just as real as the cross.

Although rooted in history and the bodily nature of existence, the Resurrection of Jesus reveals an entirely new horizon for the whole world. The disciples could speak with the Risen Christ, could touch Him, yet they were encountering a mystery that transcended their senses. These encounters changed them—fundamentally—and their lives were radically different afterwards, marked by a fearlessness in proclaiming the Good News of God’s love.

But in the quiet hours of that Easter morning, there was only silence and the gentle rays of the rising sun. People waking up that day had no idea the world was changed forever. God is like that. Divinity is typically revealed with little fanfare.

Reminders of the hope held in store for us are always present, but they can be easy to overlook. We often need to slow down and pay attention. With that in mind, we would love to share a little “resurrection” story that was written by a Little Sister years ago for this Newsletter:

A friend presented me with a jar containing a twig with brown and green bumps on it. I’d never seen anything like this before. She said she had found two caterpillars and fed them parsley for a week. Shortly thereafter they evolved into chrysalises. These cases were attached to the twig by two clear strands. My friend told me to observe the jar closely as these chrysalises would emerge into butterflies. I had never done this before but I put my trust in my friend.

For more than a week I became an observer and watched my jar. I was late going to the Joseph House Center one day. I was hurrying about when I noticed something wonderful had occurred in that jar. A big, beautiful butterfly with shades of blue, red, black, and orange on its wings had taken the place of one of the cocoons. I took it outside to release it into the air. It had a difficult time adjusting to its freedom. Soon it started stretching its wings and then flew off. I took the feeling of the chrysalis and butterfly to the Joseph House Center that morning. My hope and prayer is to give new life to the poor.

The new life ushered in by Christ is communicated to each one of us personally. In unexpected moments we can catch a glimpse of it, and it can inspire us to share it with those who need it the most. Person to person—that is how Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples, how the Gospel was spread, and how it is lived out today.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” That’s the approach taken at the Joseph House Crisis Center, where for 35 years we have welcomed families struggling with the burdens of poverty. We assist dozens of people every week because of your faithful support.

Charlie, 64, is an Army veteran who lives alone. He’s had several strokes and is in poor condition, both physically and financially. To make matters worse, a family member cheated him out of some money. The electricity was turned off in Charlie’s trailer. Our payment of $225 restored the power.

Eveline, 55, also lives alone. A broken furnace required her to depend on electric heaters in her home. This doubled her electric bill and she needed help paying it. We contributed $225.

Pam, 51, lost her managerial position at a food store. She found part-time work (with a net pay of $300 monthly), but finding another full-time job was taking longer than she expected. Pam never thought she would be in a desperate situation. We paid $225 toward her rent.

After going through a difficult time, Kaitlin, 41, and her husband had their home go into foreclosure. They ended up losing everything and were homeless. When Kaitlin’s husband found a job as a cook, they felt hopeful for the first time in a long while. The couple still faced an upward climb: a landlord let them move into an apartment, but they needed to pay the rent as soon as possible. We sent over $170.

Haywood, 70, and his wife have a combined Social Security income of $661 monthly. They’ve been frugal their entire lives and live in a home the size of a matchbox. The water was going to be cut off because of delinquent bills. We paid $275 to get their account up to date.

Carmella, 60, has worked as a de-boner in a chicken plant for years. She injured her arm and needed to have surgery. Fortunately, Carmella qualified for Workers’ Compensation, but snafus led to a delay in receiving her first check. Carmella was very worried about losing her housing. A few months ago, she moved into a newly-built apartment complex for people with low incomes. It’s the nicest place she’s ever lived. We sent $300 to the landlord so Carmella would not be evicted.

Shayne is a young man of 20. For the past year he’s been living by himself in a very old house. Shayne walks to work at a fast-food restaurant and is doing the best he can. Despite his determination, he had to contend with living in a home without electricity. We paid $225 toward the past-due bills to get the power back on again.

“Come, have breakfast.” This is what Jesus said to the disciples when He appeared to them for the third time after the Resurrection (John 21:12). Caring for people in down-to-earth ways is truly divine. Thank you for helping the Joseph House do the same for so many of our brothers and sisters in need.

We wish you and your loved ones a Happy Easter and all the joy this springtime season brings!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Use our Contact Form to send us your prayer requests. We will remember your intentions in our daily prayers.

The Joseph House depends on your support. Learn how you can help: Donate.

The World is a Joyful Mystery

Spring is a tonic for the soul. After being cooped up inside during the winter, stepping outside to perceive the awakening land is a blessing. It feels like the flowers and grasses are not the only things coming back to life.

Sooner or later, though, we have to consider the garden chores that await us. There’s always a list of things to do: pruning, clearing, raking, planting. But perhaps not every corner of the yard needs to bear the mark of human cultivation. Pope Francis gives an example why in his encyclical, On Care For Our Common Home:

Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of His infinite beauty and goodness.

“Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “His eternal power and divinity have been made known through His works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20).

For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

Here is a “before” photo of our yard. Hopefully at a later time we will have a nice “after” picture. A good portion of the yard will probably end up in its natural, untouched state 🙂

St. Francis is in our garden for inspiration.

This Hermitage Speaks

Carlo Carretto was a Little Brother of Jesus, a religious community inspired by the life of Charles de Foucauld. With a poetic style, he also wrote several books that explored his desire to live a contemplative life in the world.

One of those books was about St. Francis of Assisi (I, Francis), and Carretto in fact died on the saint’s feast day (October 4) in 1988. What follows is an excerpt from the preface in which Carretto reflects on his time spent in a hermitage favored by St. Francis, a cave near the Italian town of Narni:

I sought out this hermitage because it is one of the special places of the Franciscan world, where the Saint sojourned on repeated occasions, and where all blends together in a perfect oneness. Forests, bare rock, the architecture, poverty, humility, simplicity, and beauty, all go together to form one of the masterpieces of the Franciscan spirit—an example to the centuries of peace, prayer, silence, ecology, beauty, and the human victory over the contradictions of time.

When we behold these hermitages, abodes of men and women of peace and prayer and joyous acceptance of poverty, we have the answer to the anguished conflicts that torment our civilization.

You see, these rocks say to us, peace is possible.

Do not seek for luxury when you build your houses, seek the essentials. Poverty will become beauty then, and liberating harmony—as you can see in this hermitage.

Do not destroy forests in order to build factories that swell the ranks of the unemployed and create unrest; help human beings to return to the countryside, to learn again to appreciate a truly well-turned object, to feel the joy of silence and of contact with earth and sky.

Do not hoard up money—inflation and greedy people lie in ambush for you; instead, leave the door of your heart open for a dialogue with your brother or sister, for service to the very poor.

Do not prostitute your labor fabricating things that last half a season, consuming what little raw material you have left; but make pails like the one you see here at this well—it has been drawing its water for centuries and is still in use.

The ill you speak of consumerism is a cover. You fill your mouth with words in order to stifle a bad conscience. Even as you speak, you are consumerism’s slaves, without any capacity for innovation and imagination.

And then . . .

Unburden yourselves of your fear of your brothers and sisters! Go out to meet them unarmed and meek. They are human beings too, just like you, and they need love and trust, even as you.

Do not be concerned with “what you are to eat and with what you are to drink” (Matt. 6:25); be calm, and you shall lack nothing. “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), and everything else will be given to you for good measure. “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).

Assisi, the city of St. Francis.

Yes, this hermitage speaks. It speaks and says brotherly and sisterly love is possible.

It speaks and says that God is our Father, that creatures are our brothers and sisters, and that peace is joy.

All you have to do is will it. Try it, brothers and sisters, try it, and you will see that it is possible.

The Gospel is true.
Jesus is the Son of God, and saves humankind.

Nonviolence is more constructive than violence.
Chastity is more pleasurable than impurity.
Poverty is more exciting than wealth.

Try to think about it, sisters and brothers. What an extraordinary adventure lies here before us. If we put Francis’s project into execution we shall be escaping the atomic apocalypse.

Is it not always this way? God proposes peace.
Why not try it?