LEFT: Sister Mary Elizabeth Gintling, the 1989 Lumen Christi Award recipient.
RIGHT: In 1974, Sister Mary Elizabeth, shown here with another sister, helped found a new order dedicated to serving the poor.
"One Man Even Punched Me"
Sister Mary Elizabeth Gintling, who was known as the “Mother Teresa of Salisbury,” was honored in 1989 for her compassionate work among the poor in urban areas of the Northeast. Originally trained as a public health nurse, at age 50, she packed her bags and went to live in an impoverished neighborhood in Baltimore. At a time when racial tension was high, she roomed with an African-American family and ate table scraps to get by.
When she traveled to local parishes and religious groups to give talks, with the hope of raising funds for her ministry, wary whites hurled racial epithets at her. “One man even punched me because I worked with blacks,” she said. But she remained steadfast in her mission, and in 1966, she opened the first “Joseph House,” which offered a food pantry, religious goods store, free Montessori school, health clinic and prison program – all supported by donations and staffed by live-in volunteers. In 1974, she helped found a new order, the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary. She later moved to Salisbury, Maryland, and established another Joseph House there, along with a religious goods store in nearby Ocean City. Said Sister Mary Elizabeth, “I’m constantly accomplishing impossible things, but it’s really God who is doing them!”