When Pope Francis decreed in December 2020 a special year for the Catholic Church dedicated to Saint Joseph, parishes around the world named in honor of the biblical adoptive father took charge of celebrating the year despite the continuing difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaders of churches nominated for St. Joseph in Kenya, the UK and the US told NCR that the year, which runs through December 8, 2021, has been a time to focus on service. community, religious pilgrimage and special devotions.
St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Kangemi, Kenya, is located in a slum in Nairobi, where hundreds of thousands of people live in makeshift structures with no sewers or basic services. Fr. Jesuit. Binamungu Mukasa, a former father in charge of the parish, said the church “feels the hearts of the poor beating”.
Due to pandemic restrictions in Kenya, parishioners were unable to organize their traditional event for St. Joseph’s Day on March 19. Instead, they honored their namesake by distributing food to the hungry. As Mukasa explained, Joseph is the “keeper of the family, so we acted as keepers of the needy”.
Mukasa said that it is important to “not neglect the social apostolate” during church celebrations because “unless we reach the poor and needy, our spiritual life is not complete. … reach out to the poor. “
Francis decreed the special year for Saint Joseph on December 8, 2020, in an unexpected papal letter titled Patris Corde (“With a father’s heart”). The Pope said he has been pondering the move for some time, but his desire to declare the special year “increased” as the pandemic unfolded.
Catholics are offered a plenary indulgence if they choose to participate in the special year in any of the six ways described.
Peter McMillon, president of St. Joseph’s pastoral council in Clarkston, Scotland, said their parish was also unable to host their traditional March event. Instead, they asked their 1,600 or so regular Mass attendees to pray a novena.
After celebrations resumed as pandemic restrictions eased, the congregation began reciting the prayer to Saint Joseph of Patris Corde at the end of each Mass “as a token of our appreciation for the role that Saint Joseph plays in our faith and how we should try to reflect the values he so graciously displayed,” said McMillon.
McMillon said that the year has been “a wonderful honor that has strengthened our bond and our appreciation of the importance and the wonderful example of the life of service of Saint Joseph”.
COVID-19 related restrictions have also affected St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Leicester, England. Alison Kennedy, pastoral assistant at the church, said they were, however, able to provide a broadcast of their Masses in 2021. In doing so, she said, the parish “has become a kind of ‘beau -father ‘for many Catholics temporarily deprived of their own parish communities.
As St. Joseph’s Church in Kenya helped people living in a slum and those in the UK offered virtual support to isolated parishioners, their counterparts in the US took to the streets.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Houston hosted a parade-like procession for St. Joseph’s Day this year. The parish coordinated with the city to have a police escort, and the streets around the downtown church were blocked off.
It took six men working in tandem to carry a large statue of St. Joseph in the procession. Virginia Fraguio, director of faith training at St. Joseph’s in Houston, said the procession “exceeded expectations” as the loud songs and prayers drew “many, many people” out of their homes and into the city. the celebration.
Fraguio said that when ward leaders heard of the year of Saint Joseph, “we were all elated.” Two months before this papal announcement, the church had received the Pope’s approval to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Saint Joseph’s declaration as patron of the Universal Church with a Jubilee Mass led by Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
According to Fraguio: “It was a very big boost for all of us. It really strengthened the sense of mission and vocation that we have as a parish to serve all of God’s people.”
Another big boost came when the Pope offered plenary indulgences to all who visited the church and asked for Saint Joseph’s prayers. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Houston was honored to become a place of pilgrimage this year.
The last unique way that St. Joseph Houston celebrated the Year of St. Joseph was to obtain a first-class relic of St. André Bessette, a 19th century Canadian known for his devotion to St. Joseph.
By feeding those in need, praying novenas, organizing parades and offering pilgrimages, these Saint Joseph parishes from three different countries have achieved Francis’ goal for the Year of Saint Joseph: “Increase our love for this great saint, encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal. “[Alyson Rockhold is a freelance writer based in Houston. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter at www.alysonrockhold.com.]