Year of St. Joseph Brings Special Opportunity to the Diocese

By Colleen Rowan

WHEELING—Pope Francis’ proclamation of the Year of St. Joseph Dec. 8 celebrates the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the foster father of Jesus as Patron of the Universal Church. This moment also brings a special opportunity to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to celebrate St. Joseph as its patron as well. Bishop Mark Brennan said that he is grateful that the Holy Spirit inspired the pope to have this year to focus on the saint’s faith, virtues, and goodness “in view of our need to renew ourselves as followers of Christ.” In St. Joseph, the bishop said, we see his faith, determination to serve God, to meet all the obstacles to come, trusting God to help him. “That’s the kind of spirit,” Bishop Brennan said, “that’s what we need to move forward to do what we’re supposed to be doing as Catholic Christians—to live our faith and invite others to share it with us.” In his Dec. 8 apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a father’s heart”), the pope said Christians can discover in St. Joseph, who often goes unnoticed, “an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.” Here, in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, planning is underway to offer different ways for the faithful of West Virginia to participate, especially in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is excited to celebrate this Year of St. Joseph and even had plans to initiate it in March, had not Pope Francis promulgated it this month,” Bernadette Kime, director of Worship and Sacraments for the diocese, said just before Christmas. As people of the diocese cannot gather as one because of COVID-19, different ideas are being discussed. The diocese’s Presbyteral Council Committee on Social Justice as well as diocesan staff have been brainstorming on ways that the faithful can celebrate and reflect on St. Joseph and the role he plays in salvation history, Kime said. Under consideration are pilgrimages to special places dedicated to St. Joseph. Kime said such places would include the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling and various parishes named for the saint. Pilgrimages, Kime said, may be held on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. “That is, if the pandemic has lessened and we are able,” she stressed. Definite plans will be announced soon. Ideas also include special prayers that invoke St. Joseph, activities for families to engage in at home, and catechetical activities. Msgr. Dean Borgmeyer, V.F., pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Huntington, who chairs the Presbyteral Council committees, said they have suggested that during each month of the year focus be put upon a social issue that relates to the life and influence of St. Joseph such as family life, labor, migration, death and dying. Kime said the diocese also invites those who are sick, shut-in or vulnerable to COVID-19 to participate in prayers and activities that are designed to do at home. The Apostolic Penitentiary issued a decree Dec. 8 stating that plenary indulgences will be granted to Catholics through prayer and penance, but also through acts of justice, charity and piety dedicated to St. Joseph. Among the conditions for receiving an indul- gence are a spirit detached from sin, receiving sacramental confession as soon as possible, receiving Communion as soon as possible and praying for the Holy Father’s intentions. The decree also highlighted several ways to obtain the indulgence throughout the year, in- cluding to those who “meditate on the prayer of the ‘Our Father’ for at least 30 minutes or take part in a spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph.” As a “just man,” the document continued, who guarded “the intimate secret that lies at the bottom of the heart and soul,” St. Joseph practiced the virtue of justice in “full adherence to the divine law, which is the law of mercy.” “Therefore, those who, following the example of St. Joseph, will perform a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, will also be able to obtain the gift of the plenary indulgence,” it said. Indulgences will also be granted to families and engaged couples who recite the rosary together and thus imitate the “same climate of communion, love and prayer lived in the Holy Family. “ Other acts of devotion include entrusting one’s daily activities and prayers for dignified employment to St. Joseph, reciting the litany or any “legitimately approved” prayer to St. Joseph. During this time of pandemic, the Apostolic Penitentiary also decreed that special indulgences will be granted to the elderly, the sick and all those who “for legitimate reasons are prevented from leaving their home” by “reciting an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph and committed to fulfilling the conditions as soon as possible.” (Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves of Catholic News Service.)