BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Nearly 50 years ago, the late Patsy Koerner was concerned about her son Clyde Jr. coming home safely from Vietnam. When she asked in prayer for an intersession from Saint Joseph, an annual family and community celebration was born.
This week, the 49th Koerner family St. Joseph Altar reception in took place at the family home in Bay St. Louis.
Clyde Koerner Sr., a military veteran himself, is an energetic 93-year old. He remembers how the St. Joseph altar celebration began as a symbol of hope during uncertain times.
"She started the altar so Clyde Jr. would come home safe," Koerner said. "It kept growing as we gave to more people. We've had a lot of help over the years."
Clyde Koerner Jr. said when he made it home safely, he promised to turn the celebration into an annual event.
"I went overseas, did my tour, and I came back safe," he said. "I promised to do it for 50 years, and this is my 49th."
Each St. Joseph's day is marked as a time for celebration, reflection, remembrance and a chance to give back to the community.
"Today we honor what was the gift that St. Joseph gave the people who sought his intercession," said Fr. George Gromley, who blessed the altar and the large table of food. "It was a form of giving back from the blessings we receive from the Lord. It's giving back from our hearts."
Clyde Koerner Sr. has watched as his children, 32 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and 8 great-great grandchildren also pay it forward through serving either in the military or in law enforcement.