Stockton Diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire will provide a sermon at St. Joseph’s Mission in Tuolumne for Sunday’s mass in celebration of the church’s patron saint, St. Joseph of Bethlehem.
“We are delighted that he is coming,” said Father John Fitzgerald of the Parish of All Saints in Twain Harte and St. Joseph’s in Tuolumne. “We are a small part of the Diocese of Stockton, probably the smallest parish period, and he is happy to come on a special day like that. We are excited in the right way.”
The Catholic celebration for The Feast of St. Joseph falls on Sunday, Fitzgerald said, but because the date falls during Lent this year, only a liturgical homily will accompany Mass followed by a community luncheon.
Because Lent is a period of abstinence, the actual Feast will be held on Monday, he said.
Blaire said he does not get the opportunity to visit the parish often, but every time he is in Tuolumne County, his “experience has always been lovely.”
“It is kind of distant from down here, so this presents a nice opportunity to visit with the people and get to know the people again,” he said. “It just makes for a very nice day.”
Blaire explained that he attended The Feast of St. Joseph last year at the invitation of the parishioners because of the importance of St. Joseph to the culture of the church.
“It’s a commemoration in honor of St. Joseph,” he said, noting that the 9 a.m. Mass will feature a blessing associated with scripture surrounding his life.
“He was delighted” to accept the invitation, said Father Fitzgerald. “It’s going to be something nice. Something really nice and domestic.”
The highest present member in the church hierarchy presides over the Mass, Blaire said. Though Fitzgerald typically presents the sermon, he will co-celebrate with Blaire this Sunday.
Mass will be conducted, as it is every Sunday, he added, in front of the statue of St. Joseph at the altar inside the church.
On a regular Sunday, the church receives about 60 people, Fitzgerald said, but they expect about 90 because of the occasion.
Following the Mass, a “pleasant” luncheon will allow him the opportunity to speak to attendees in a more relaxed and casual setting.
“It gives me an occasion to visit with the people that attend Mass at the parish,” Blaire said. “The important thing for me is it gives me the opportunity to celebrate mass with them and The Feast of St. Joseph.”
The Feast of St. Joseph is also known as a solemnity, the highest rank of celebration in the Roman Catholic church, because it is associated with the foster-father of Jesus Christ. St. Joseph is also known as the patron saint of workers and as one of the chief patron saints of the Catholic Church. The event is typically preceded by a vigil on the night prior to the feast.
Fitzgerald explained that the Feast of St. Joseph is a worldwide celebration and a national holiday in primarily Catholic countries such as Spain and Italy.
In secular life, the celebration is meant to acknowledge the importance of family life and is an “expression of the domestic church.”
The event in Tuolumne will feature a community potluck, Fitzgerald said.
But in more traditional celebrations, the food served is St. Joseph’s bread, or Pan Di San Giuseppe, which is blessed by a presiding priest. The crumbly fried dough and sesame seeds in the bread, or zeppole, is meant to represent sawdust, because St. Joseph was a carpenter.
The church is at 18473 Gardner Avenue in Tuolumne.
After The Feast of St. Joseph and 11 a.m. mass, Fitzgerald said he would head to the Twain Harte site for a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
“Truly though,” he said, “St. Patrick really has to defer to St. Joseph.”