Napoleon church carries on St. Joseph’s table tradition

by Sue Wald

Joseph

Father Neil Pfeifer and Victor Wald gather for St. Joseph’s Table celebration on March 19 at St. Philip Neri Church in Napoleon. (submitted photo)

For the first time in the history of St. Philip Neri Church, the humble, protector of Mary and Jesus, St. Joseph, became the center of attention on March 19. He was honored for being the hardworking carpenter and answerer of many petitions and prayers. Knowing these things about St. Joseph, prompted St. Philip Neri’s pastor, Father Neil Pfeifer, to organize a celebration to honor him on his feast day, March 19.

According to legend, there was a famine in Sicily many centuries ago. The villages prayed to St. Joseph, foster-father of the Infant Savior, and asked his intercession before the throne of God. Their prayers were answered. With the ending of the dreadful famine, a special feast of thanksgiving was held in commemoration of the saint. Wealthy families prepared huge buffets. They then invited the less fortunate people of the village, especially the homeless and the sick. The celebration became the tradition now known as St. Josephs’ Table.

In the past, the parish celebrated St. Joseph’s feast day with an ice cream social and a family game night. Father Pfeifer, however, wanted a more traditional, Sicilian style celebration, so he conveyed his vision to a committee who took it from there.

Father Pfeifer’s vision was a meal celebration with meats, cheeses, and fruit—all of which are typical of this Sicilian festival. He also wanted St. Joseph to preside over the event, which he did in the form of a five-foot statue. St. Joseph was placed in the center of a cross-shaped table, surrounded by candles and lilies, symbols of the un-assuming, kind man. The longer part of the cross was laden with food, enjoyed by approximately 125 people.

Father Pfeifer’s idea for honoring St. Joseph turned out beautifully, under his guidance. The parishioners are now excited to see how the celebration on March 19 will grow in the future.