Teaching the lessons of the St. Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, has been a priority in the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Venice for the past year.
Therefore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane marked the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2021, with a Mass in Bradenton at the Catholic school named for the Saint.
Streamed live to all Diocesan Catholic schools, the Bishop took the time to recognize the work that went into the Diocese Department of Catholic Education St. Joseph Devotional Project and the students who made the initiative a success. The concept promoted a devotion to St. Joseph, while at the same time encouraging an ongoing devotional life of both children and adults to St. Joseph.
One of the most beloved of all saints who is featured in countless works of art, Bishop Dewane reflected on how on March 19, 2020, he consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“I dedicated the Diocese to St. Joseph, the Protector, so that that faithful, including the students throughout the Diocese, would be safe,” the Bishop continued. “One year later we are here to give honor and Glory to God to commemorate the Solemnity of St. Joseph together.”
A model of obedience of what God asks of him, Bishop Dewane said St. Joseph freely and willingly accepted a vision he was given in life… “to be the foster father of Jesus but also the head of the Holy Family; the provider and the Protector. In this season of Lent, we must all strive to follow the example of St. Joseph and his love of Christ that he magnified so clearly.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Dewane led the students (both in person and viewing online) in the Act of Consecration to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph.
Noting that Pope Francis created a Universal “Year of St. Joseph from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021, Bishop Dewane said that like St. Joseph, “we must continue to devote ourselves to living a life that is dedicated to Jesus. Take St. Joseph as a role model going forward.”
More about the Schools St. Joseph Devotional Project
Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Diocese Catholic Education, said the Diocesan consecration and “Year of St. Joseph” provided the ideal platform to introduce the devotion and to strengthen Catholic culture in each of the Diocesan schools.
The foster-father of Jesus Christ is an ideal Saint to whom to have a devotion, Father Belmonte explained. St. Joseph is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her Faithful. He is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection.
The goal of the St. Joseph Devotional Project was to provide age-appropriate catechesis for students so that they can carry with them a life-long devotion to St. Joseph, Father added.
Praising the effort to teach students about St. Joseph, Bishop Dewane recognized the Junior Catechists – students who served as leaders in their respective Catholic schools, sharing classroom lessons about St. Joseph and a Catholic devotion to him. Many were present for the Solemnity Mass in Bradenton and were accompanied by parents, grandparents, teachers and principals.
Each primary school selected two eighth grade Junior Catechists, a boy and a girl, to spearhead the devotion in the classroom. For the 12 weeks of the project, each week had new themes centered on the role of St. Joseph. The first week consisted of teaching about the saint and learning a Prayer to St. Joseph. Later themes included “Delight of Saints,” “Our Spiritual Father,” “Young Husband of Mary,” and more.
An art contest was incorporated into the St. Joseph Devotional Project, which Father Belmonte noted had more than 500 entries and ultimately six winners. The students were asked to express their idea of who St. Joseph was according to his respective titles – Protector of the Universal Church, foster father of Christ, Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and many others.
Veronika Bateneva, sixth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice was one of the art contest winners and brought her grandfather to the Mass. “It was such an honor to be recognized. I tried to incorporate what I know of St. Joseph into what I created.” Her artwork was of St. Joseph protectively holding the Child Jesus. St. Joseph is also holding a lily, the symbol of the Most Chaste Heart, on his chest.
The winning artists were recognized with an award and the honor of having their artwork used on prayer cards for the students of the Diocese. On the reverse of the cards is either an “Act of Consecration to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph,” or a “Consecration to St. Joseph of Children by their Parents.”
Art award winners are: Ian Morales, second grade, St Catherine Catholic School, Sebring; Emmanuel Ronquillo, fourth grade, St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton; Emareen Ramirez, fourth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, Venice; Veronika Bateneva, sixth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School; Eleanora Del Sole, seventh grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School; and Emma Underwood, eighth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School.
Feast of St. Joseph Mass in Italian
On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Bishop Dewane also celebrated Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. The Mass was celebrated in Italian and was organized by the Italian American Club of Venice and is an annual tradition.
Following the conclusion of the Mass, the Bishop blessed a “St. Joseph Table,” piled with wrapped bread. The tradition of the “St. Joseph Table” of food (“la tavala di San Giuseppe”) has its origins in Sicily as part of a Middle Ages celebration of the ending of a drought where food – bread in particular – is brought to be shared among the townsfolk. The Mass was livestreamed and is available for viewing at https://vimeo.com/526325765.