St. Joseph altars pop up in Gonzales

Halen Doughty

Two nursing homes in Gonzales held St. Joseph altars leading up to Easter. The first was held at Ascension Nursing Home, then at Gonzales Health Care Center. Deacon Jodi Moscona of St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church presided over both altar blessings.

Nell Bercegeay is in charge of putting the altars together at the area nursing homes. This year marks 17 years that the altars have been held in the community. She said each year, the altars become more decorated than the last.

"Every year it gets bigger and bigger and better and better," said Bercegeay.

The altar features a variety of decorations contributed by the community. A wooden cross on the altar was made by a local carpenter. Bercegeay noted that is appropriate since both Joseph and Jesus were carpenters. Another is a stained glass piece made by a member of Bercegeay's family. She proudly touted the beautiful decorations to attendees at the nursing homes.

Bercegeay added that the statue of Our Lady of Fatima is another new addition to the alar. The elegant Blessed Virgin sits at the top of the altar, seeming to watch over the offerings brought forth by the people. She said this statue is very special to her as her mother was born in 1917, the same year that Blessed Virgin first appeared in Fatima.

Moscona began the event at Gonzales Health Care Center by telling the story of his first St. Josephs altar. It's a tradition that has become a staple in many Catholic churches and households all over the world. The practice began in Sicily when months of drought threatened the community as crops died off from a lack of rain. The people prayed to St. Joseph, their patron, for relief from the dry season.

After rains finally fell, saving the crops, the people celebrated with an altar for St. Joseph. The altar was filled with an assortment of foods they had harvested. Once the celebration ended, the food was given out to the poor.

Moscona said the people of Sicily had strong faith, like Joseph did. He said Joseph lived a difficult life, and it must have been very hard for him to have faith while dealing with the struggles he faced. The reading from the Gospel of Mark told the story of Joseph's faith when he learned that his wife, Mary, was pregnant. An angel came to Joseph and told him to take Mary into his home and that this child was a blessing from the Holy Spirit. Joseph abided by the angel's command and went on to raise the child who would save God's people.

Whether the St. Joseph altar is an eloquent display in a church or a modest one in someone's home, it is a reflection of the devotion to the patron saint of the needy. That tradition lives on today in homes, churches, and retirement facilities throughout the community.

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