St. Joseph, model father - Part 3

North Texas Catholic
(Mar 15, 2021) Feature

A statue of St. Joseph at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

A statue of St. Joseph at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Hope of the Dying

“Every poor, needy, suffering or dying person, every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person is ‘the child’ whom Joseph continues to protect,” writes Pope Francis. “For this reason, St. Joseph is invoked as protector of the unfortunate, the needy, exiles, the afflicted, the poor, and the dying.”

Tradition holds that St. Joseph experienced a “happy death” because he died in the arms of his Saviour, whom he raised, and the Blessed Mother, whom he protected. At the moment of his death, he went from their physical arms to the eternal arms of God the Father, whose role he was asked to fulfill in caring for the Son as his own.

Most parochial cemeteries share a name with their attached parishes, which is providential for lifelong Rhinelander Valera Hartel, who has multiple family members buried at St. Joseph Cemetery.

“I believe that he helps us at our death,” said Hartel.

Hartel said she is comforted knowing that her husband, parents, grandparents, in-laws, and other family members are buried at the cemetery bearing his name.

“St. Joseph is the patron of the dying and happy death, he was a worker and a role model for all dads and for family life,” she said, reflecting on the Year of St. Joseph. “It’s wonderful that the pope is doing this, and I hope there’s a lot of novenas and true devotions to St. Joseph.”

Protector of the Holy Church

“We should always consider whether we ourselves are protecting Jesus and Mary, for they are also mysteriously entrusted to our own responsibility, care, and safekeeping,” writes Pope Francis.

“God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who would not only save her life but would always provide for her and her child,” the pope adds. “In this sense, St. Joseph could not be other than the Guardian of the Church, for the Church is the continuation of the Body of Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church. In his continued protection of the Church, Joseph continues to protect the child and his mother, and we too, by our love for the Church, continue to love the child and his mother.”

A parishioner at a statue of St. Joseph at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

The people of Muenster turned to St. Joseph as the protector of their local church early on. In late 1891 parishioners began work on a $6,000 wood frame church, but before it could be completed, a December storm destroyed the building, according to “A Vow to Honor: Muensterites Look to St. Joseph as Patron and Protector,” by Nicholas Taylor published in the March 16, 2012 edition of the Muenster Enterprise. Using much of the material from the previous building, parishioners completed a new church in spring 1892 that was dedicated by then-Bishop Thomas F. Brennan of Dallas. That church, too, would be destroyed by a tornado on July 31, 1893.

“I always heard from my forefathers that they promised St. Joseph that they would keep that day holy if he would protect them from the tornadoes,” said 88-year-old lifelong Muensterite Regina Pels. “As far as I can tell, we still honor that day. We honor St. Joseph’s Day here.”

After that second storm, parishioners used money from the insurance policy and materials from the wrecked church to build a multi-purpose building that would serve as a church, school, and convent. They completed a gothic style brick church in 1898, writes Taylor. After parishioners outgrew that building, a fourth building was completed in 1954 and stands today.

Founding pastor Father Bonaventure Binzegger, OSB, had a devotion to St. Joseph — a long tradition among Benedictines — and had wanted to name the parish in his honor. Although parishioners chose Sacred Heart, Fr. Bonaventure proposed that St. Joseph’s feast day be recognized as a local holy day.

“The townspeople vowed to celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph as a solemnity to obtain protection from powerful storms,” writes Taylor. “A 1935 newspaper article noting Muenster’s celebration of the saint’s feast day wrote, ‘No matter how threatening the sky may look, they have confidence in St. Joseph.’ To this day, the Catholic residents of Muenster regard St. Joseph’s feast as a local holy day and look to the saint for protection.”

Pels has always kept the feast day and made sure to pass that devotion along to her children.

“We think he’s protecting us from getting our church torn down from tornadoes, and he protects our town. That’s the way we all feel here,” she said. “I put it in my children that that’s the day you honor St. Joseph for protection. I pray to him every day, and I think my children do, too. When that day comes along, they see that they go to church.”

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