Saint Joseph Altar Is A Lasting Tradition Among Catholics

This weekend many Catholics keept an old tradition alive in their churches and in their homes. The Altar of Saint Joseph, which began in Sicily many centuries ago, has become an important celebration in this country.

"You don't have to be Italian to enjoy the altar and enjoy what the altar stands for," one parishioner,Sal Domino, said.

Parishioners decorate an altar with food as a tribute to the saint.  Members at St. James Catholic Church say what the altar stands for is how grateful they are for what they have. It also reminds them of the importance of giving. Church members spend weeks collecting and preparing the food for the altar, and everything is donated.

"You don't buy anything," Gloria Jones said. "You ask for gifts, and it's just a promise that you make that you will do it."

Parishoners at St. Joseph's Church also go all out for the celebration. They say the hard work doesn't really feel like work. Some people say the tradition has survived because it passes from one generation to another and that it carries with it an important lesson.

"It shows them that the love is what counts, and that it's important to give as much of your time as you can," Diane Insalaco said.

And the younger generation seems to be listening.

"If we give to the poor that we will receive a blessing from God and it will be real important to give," said 12-year-old Brian Shepard.

Church members say as long as altars to St. Joseph continue to be built, the tradition of sharing and giving will never go out of style.

by Danielle Thomas