St. Joseph Devotional Project begins in schools

Beginning on Dec. 7, 2020, Junior Catechists at each of the Diocesan primary Catholic schools began the task of sharing classroom lessons about St. Joseph and a Catholic devotion to him.

The Diocese Department of Catholic Education St. Joseph Devotional Project new initiative is intended to promote a devotion to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults. This project will also create leadership opportunities for students and faculty and cultivate the “Catholic School Culture” of classrooms, schools and the Diocese.

Regina Rettig, of St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, was selected as one of two Junior Catechists at her school. “When my teacher told me that she had chosen me to be the female Junior Catechist for Saint Joseph School, I was so delighted.”

Regina has been a student at St. Joseph for 10 years and is grateful to be able to give back to the school. “I am very glad that I can go teach others about St. Joseph and what a great saint he is and share my devotion with (my classmates). St. Joseph is an important Patron for our school because he is… watching over us and making sure that we do our best.”

The St. Joseph Devotional Project coincides with the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph” in the Diocese of Venice. Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese to St. Joseph on March 19, 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the consecration and “Year of St. Joseph” provided the ideal platform to introduce the devotion and begin developing a stronger Catholic culture in each of the Diocesan schools.

The foster-father of Jesus Christ, the Patriarch of the Universal Church, is an ideal saint 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 is to provide age-appropriate catechesis for students so that they can carry with them a life-long devotion to St. Joseph, Father added.

“This is not something students will just learn about for a few months, but we will build a devotion they will carry with them for a lifetime,” Father Belmonte continued. “When you teach students early on to have a devotion to St. Joseph, Our Lady or any other saint, the result is you gain a devotion to the Church.”

Each primary school selected two eighth grade Junior Catechists (boy and girl) to spearhead the devotion in the classroom. Training took place through a November Zoom virtual conference with Diocese Curriculum Specialist Jennifer Falestiny. The Junior Catechists started entering the classrooms the week of Dec. 7 to catechize their schoolmates with lessons. The pair will visit each classroom teaching about St. Joseph and promoting a Catholic devotion to him.

For the 12 weeks of the project, each week will have a new theme 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 include “Delight of Saints,” “Our Spiritual Father,” “Young Husband of Mary,” and more. This will build up to a March 19, 2021, Consecration Mass celebrated by Bishop Dewane. Still in the planning stages, the Mass will be livestreamed to each school to ensure total participation. The announcement by Pope Francis on Dec. 8, 2020, celebrating a “Year of St. Joseph” will be incorporated into the Devotional Project.

Meanwhile, each school will receive a custom plaque of the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus which are being custom made for the Diocese. Father Belmonte explained how the plaques will be made available for use and handled in the classroom before being permanently displayed at the schools after this project is completed.

An art contest, at the direction of the art teachers, will also focus on children creating their own artwork related to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph. A friendly competition will showcase some of the works with prizes for the best works.

While this project is centered on primary school students, each Diocesan Catholic high school will incorporate pieces of the project into their curriculum.

Father Belmonte concluded that the St. Joseph Devotional Project is the beginning of what he plans to become annual devotions to be promoted at each of the Diocesan Catholic schools. “Our responsibility to our students is to promote a Catholic Culture in our schools. This is one way that is proven to work.”