The first St. Joseph’s altar on the Island of Sicily was humble in the 1700s, but the dedication has grown with four area churches celebrating the patron saint of the poor with altars of their own.
St. Charles Borromeo, St. Gertrude, Holy Family and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic churches are among those hosting an altar this year. They are open to the public.
At St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the St. Joseph Altar Society has baked 18,555 cookies, including biscotti, fig and seed cookies, for the altar, which will be held at the church’s Borromeo Room, 13396 River Road in Destrehan.
The Altar Society is hosting its fourth annual altar and meal.
Viewings will be March 18 and March 19, both 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Society member Sandy Owens said a hot “meatless” meal will be served in the cafeteria 5 – 7 p.m. on March 19. Donations will be accepted.
Owens said they will also bring a statue of St. Joseph to homebound church parishioners on March 19 who can not attend the mass.
For more information, call (985) 764-6383.
Holy Rosary Church in Hahnville is holding an altar this year, a celebration it holds every other year, said parishioner Quincee Berthelot.
This year’s altar will be held on March 19 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A special Blessing of the Altar will be held at 10 a.m. followed by a “meatless” lunch at noon. Donations will be accepted.
The OLHR Altar committee started making cookies on Feb. 11 and continued through Feb. 20, Berthelot said.
At St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Luling, the altar will be blessed on March 17 followed by a viewing of the altar, said parishioner Kerry Hotard.
“We do this altar for the people to bring the people together to a place where they can offer their petitions to St. Joseph for intercession to God for their needs,” Hotard said. “At the closing of the altar, the food is distributed to the poor.”
Held for nearly the fifth year, the altar also will be open March 19 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with lunch served at 11:30 a.m., all will be held at the CA building next to the church.
Donations will be accepted with proceeds going to those less fortunate, the youth traveling to Medjugorja on July 30 and next year’s altar, Hotard said.
The altar will feature cookies, breads and fruit, as well as cakes, wine and baked fish.
Parishioner Elaine Markey assisted by volunteers make the altar. Last year’s altar drew more than 200 people, she said.
For more information, call (985) 758-8885.
St. Gertrude Catholic Church in Des Allemands is opening its annual altar at 10:30 a.m. March 17 in the Father Mack Community Center.
On March 19, the altar viewing and serving of food begins at 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church, 172 La. Highway 631, Des Allemands. Viewing only continues until 4 p.m. A meal also will be served until 1 p.m.
The altar is done by the St. Joseph’s Altar Society members and friends, said Society member Sherry Folse.
“All are invited to participate in this beautiful tradition,” Folse said.
For more information, call (985) 758-7542.
Devotion to the less fortunate
St. Joseph altars are rooted in Sicily where the people prayed to St. Joseph for relief from famine. The rains came and, in gratitude, the people prepared a table with a special assortment of foods they had harvested. After paying honor to St. Joseph, they distributed the food to the less fortunate.
The first St. Joseph Altar set up on the Island of Sicily was a small one, but the tradition took hold and the altars became bigger and more elaborate over time. Though Sicilian immigrants introduced the custom to America, the celebration is not confined to any nationality.
Many believe the altar brings good fortune.
St. Gertrude Catholic Church in Des Allemands has made an altar for at least 16 years.