Memorial Mass for St. Joseph, the Worker
On Saturday, May 1st, I celebrated the Liturgy for the Memorial of Saint Joseph at St. Joseph’s Chapel in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod. When preparing my homily for this Mass, the word memorial caught my attention, of the importance we have to keep and pass along the memories of our community, families, and of course, faith. That beautiful little church helps us to remember the humble, faithful man St. Joseph is and to pass on the memory of his life, his virtue, and his example. I know many times family can relate to the many different ways we keep the memory of our loved ones alive. When my father died, some of my brothers and sisters wrote down all that we could remember about him, and then we published a little book to be shared with generations to come.
Imagine if the Apostles had decided to move on after Jesus ascended into heaven? What if they had just forgotten all about what they’d seen and heard, and not passed it onto the next generation—or the many generations to come. Imagine if they had not written down the Gospels of the memories of what Jesus did in his ministry. What would this world be like if we did not know all that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did? We not only want to remember for ourselves but so that others can come to know them and follow their example. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, established the Year of Saint Joseph to do just that— to help you and I remember the important role of Saint Joseph in our lives and the life of our Church.
When we began planning for the May 1st Liturgy, it was to be held at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River. Yes, there may have been a bigger crowd; however, I believe this small gathering in the chapel is exactly how St. Joseph would have wanted it. It more closely resembles the quiet, simple, humble image of St. Joseph. Not a single word from St. Joseph is recorded in the Gospels. Yet, we can deduce from his behavior that he allowed the peace of Christ to control his heart, and he was thankful in word or deed, doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, just as St. Paul records in Saturday’s first reading.
St. Joseph put everyone before himself, even in the expression, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” his name comes at the end. The Vocationist Fathers, of which I am a member, has a habit that when we greet each other, we don’t say good morning; instead, we say, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” When I was pastor of Saint Nicholas church in Palisades Park, I was given a parrot, a beautiful, Blue-fronted Amazon. I took him to the novitiate house, and one of the novices, who had a very deep voice, taught it to say, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” On nice days, I’d bring the parrot, Nicholas, outside and place it on a tree, it would travel all the way to the top, and greet people with, “hello, how are you,” followed by in a very deep-voiced, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
Let us follow St. Joseph’s most humble example of putting others and their needs before ourselves and share our faith so that people will know Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for generations to come.
After celebrating the Mass, I left the chapel and walked across the street to visit the St. Joseph Bell Tower and the beautiful Mary Garden planted at its base. Situated on the shore of Eel Pond, it’s a prayerful and peaceful area that has drawn visitors from all over for decades. The stone tower’s bronze entrance door depicts, in bas-relief, scenes from the life of St. Joseph, and inside the door is a small oratory with miniature bronze Stations of the Cross. Outside, the Mary Garden was radiant with daffodils, miniature hyacinths, and other flowers in springtime bloom drawing visitors to its focal point, an original sculptured figure of the Blessed Virgin Mother. Since last summer, a small group of volunteers from the parishes of the Catholic Community Collaborative in Falmouth have been hard at work with local landscape designer Cynthia Rose to restore the garden. Its pristine condition is a testament to their efforts and green thumbs.
Month of Mary – Pope’s Rosary Marathon
As I mentioned last week, Pope Francis has invited Catholics around the world to take part in a marathon of prayer during the month of May for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. This global prayer initiative calls for a daily recitation of the Rosary in this month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each day throughout the month of May at 12 noon EDT, Vatican online media platforms will livestream the Rosary from one of 30 different Marian shrines around the world to lead the recitation of the prayer.
I am very pleased that Pope Francis called for a global prayer marathon for the upcoming month of May to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to encourage all of our faithful people to take part, joining their prayers to this critical cause.
Consider how you can best participate, either by reciting the Rosary at noon (perhaps along with the Vatican broadcast) or at any other time as your schedule permits. Consider gathering as a family or as a group at home to pray or come together as a parish community to pray in the church.
The month of May, dedicated to Mary, our Blessed Mother, is a perfect opportunity to seek her intercession, especially to help bring an end to the suffering that so many have been forced to bear in the grips of this pandemic over the past 14 months.
A liturgical guide for this prayer initiative, available in English and Spanish, can be downloaded from the website of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Teacher Appreciation Week
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to share some amazing accomplishments of our Catholic Schools here in the Fall River Diocese thanks to their dedicated teachers, staff, and leaders.
- When Governor Baker called for all schools to close on March 13, 2020, all of our Catholic schools immediately pivoted to full remote learning on March 16, 2020.
- All Catholic schools completed the 2019-20 school year in June with between 90-100% attendance rates.
- All 20 Catholic schools used the summer of 2020 to plan how their school would re-open for the 2020-21 academic year on time with in-person learning.
- All 20 Catholic schools opened their doors to welcome students back to school in September with much joy and excitement.
- All 20 Catholic schools offered synchronous remote learning for families requesting distance learning due to medical concerns or quarantine for the entire 2020-21 school year.
- As of May 2021, all 20 Catholic schools were able to remain open for the entire school year and expect to close out the year in June with full in-person learning. [Source: Catholic Schools Alliance]
To the teachers, staff, and leaders of all the Fall River Catholic Schools, please know of my admiration and gratitude for all you do for our students and families. May God continue to bless your dedication, creativity, and example to show how to move forward despite so many challenges.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha