“We give new meaning to the term blue haired ladies,” said St. Joseph Altar Committee volunteer Eleanor Means when talking about the women volunteers’ blue hairnets. The women were working to prepare food for the St. Joseph’s Altar at the St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica Cathedral Center.
This year’s St. Joseph’s Altar Celebration is March 17 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The women of the St. Joseph Altar committee spend 30 days from the beginning of February until the middle of March preparing the food for the St. Joseph Altar.
It is a labor of love.
“We want to help the poor and underprivileged in our community,” St. Joseph Altar Committee chair and St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica parishioner Linda Domino said.
That tradition has not changed in centuries.
“The St. Joseph Altar is a Sicilian tradition,” said 26-year St. Joseph Altar volunteer Joanne Roper, a St. Jude Thaddeus, Beaumont, parishioner. Roper’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Sicily in the late 1800s.
St. Joseph Altars were first offered after the people of Sicily asked for St. Joseph’s intercession in a time of drought and famine. When the rains came and the crops prospered, the community made offerings to St. Joseph of their most prized possession – food.
The altar was erected in three levels which represented the Holy Trinity, and the poor were invited to share in the food.
The St. Joseph Altar committee continues the tradition of providing food for all, and feeding the poor, in a multi-parish effort that results in a very big St. Joseph Altar.
Proceeds from the St. Joseph Altar celebration will be donated to support the work of Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas, Some Other Place, Southeast Texas Food Bank, St. Katharine Drexel Humanitarians, and St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica Youth for their Mission Trip Project.
“St. Joseph is the patron saint of Italy,” Roper said. She said that in Italy they have parades and St. Joseph Altars on the feast day of St. Joseph, which is March 19.
“Last year we made 39,000 cookies. We had 600 cookie orders through the mail, 700 dine in the parish center and 720 take out dinner orders,” said C.J. Liberto, a St. Jude Thaddeus parishioner.
As of Feb. 20 this year, the committee has used over 350 pounds of flour, 700 eggs, 280 cups of sugar, 140 cups of margarine and butter, and many other ingredients. They have baked over 22,000 cookies since Feb. 1 and they will bake more before the event.
The St. Joseph Altar event will also feature pasta Milanese, fried fish, green bean and artichoke casserole, fish fried by parishioners from Our Lady of Sorrows in China, and lots of cookies!
Preparing the Altar is a lot of work for the St. Joseph Altar Committee.
“They do it because they are devoted and want to honor St. Joseph, and because people love our cookies,” Domino said.
The St. Joseph Altar Event will feature a blessing of the altar by Bishop Curtis J. Guillory, SVD. Children and adults will also enact the roles of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Sponsorship sheets will be available on each table during the event for those who would like to help underwrite the expenses of the 2017 St. Joseph’s Day Celebration.
Sponsorship sheets and cookie order sheets are also available in the St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica office and at www.stanthonycathedral.org.
There is no set ticket price for dine-in meals, though donations are accepted.
To go orders will include a serving of pasta Milanese, fried fish, Italian green bean casserole, cabbage fritters, bread and biscotti and are $12.
Delivery is available for to go orders of 15 or more that are to be delivered to one address. Advance orders for delivery are appreciated, but not required.
Cookies and other items are available by pre-order. Please call 409-833-6433 for a form or go online to www.stanthonycathedral.org.