Loves Park Parish Holds First St. Joseph Altar
By Louise Brass, Observer Correspondent
March 22, 2018
LOVES PARK—St. Bridget Parish honored St. Joseph with an altar overflowing with edible delights, March 17 and 18. 
It was the work of many in the parish and persons from other parishes who came to share their talents to build the altar in the Mitchell Center.
Msgr. Daniel Deutsch, pastor, blessed the altar, which featured a floodlit statue of St. Joseph holding a lily. He said he was pleased with the effort that produced this first-of-its-kind event at St. Bridget. 
“I’m so proud of the people of the parish that have stepped up,” he said. ”I am so proud we have pulled something together that is this magnificent. St. Anthony (of Padua) ladies gave us some breads, and the statue.”
Food, including speda pastry and cuchidati shaped like crowns of thorns, 150 pounds of pasta (donated by Bravo Pizza and Italian Restaurant in South Beloit) and salads, spaghetti, sweet Italian pastries and focaccia was enough to feed a multitude, he added.
About 200 people were served after the 10 and  11:30 a.m. Masses on Sunday.
People flooded into the center. Any leftover food was to be given to other entities, including the Poor Clare nuns and Carpenters Place in Rockford, and shut-ins in Winnebago County, said Laura Padron, who first raised the idea for an altar at St. Bridget with Msgr. Deutsch. When he replied by asking if she would be willing to work on it, Padron  said yes.
“I asked Jill Kapala to work on this, and she said ‘yes.’ 
“Collaboration is the key,” Padron said. “And Rose Scalise Sheridan, from St. Anthony (of Padua Parish in Rockford), also helped. It was like she dropped out of heaven.”
It has been a learning experience, Kapala added. 
“I just found out there are so many people who have a devotion to St. Joseph,” she said. “He is such as important saint (yet) some people call him the forgotten saint.”
The tradition, recognizing the power of St. Joseph’s intersession, comes from Sicily. A great drought and famine there hundreds of year ago, causing many deaths, was stopped after the citizens pleaded for help from heaven and asked the intersession St. Joseph, according to tradition. The lack of rain at that time had resulted in crops failing, and people had to eat fava beans that normally would have been fed to cattle.
When the rains finally came and the crops prospered, the people knew their prayers were answered. So they made offerings to St. Joseph, and offered their precious food to the poor. Since then, the tradition of having St. Joseph altars every year has spread throughout the world, Padron says. And, the tables always include a bowl of uncooked fava beans.
Everyone attending this event is encouraged to take a bean home with them as it represents abundance, said Lisa Frost, a local artist and member of Holy Family Parish who assisted with the altar design.
Franchini Nedlund, of St. Bernadette Parish, recalled attending such events more than 20 years ago. “This is one of the prettiest ones I’ve see for a long time,” she said of the St. Joseph altar.
Marie Max came with her family members. “It’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s the largest one I’ve ever seen.” 
The free lunch was prepared by the Knights of Columbus starting at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, and donations were gladly accepted by the organizers.
Bernard Eterno, a 1st degree Knight of Columbus, said he started working on the Sicilian sauce in the center’s kitchen at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, joining 4th degree Knight Adam Parnello, who delivered the pasta.
Another knight said that St. Joseph is his patron saint. 
“He was a fine father. He has helped me to be a good father,” he said.
The women of the parish, together with others from St. Anthony, St. Bernadette and Holy Family parishes, beginning after Christmas, joined in to help this parish make a great success of their very first St. Joseph altar. Baking for the event began two weeks ago, Padron said.
Frost agreed that the event brings people together. “So many women from so many parishes have come together for this, because it is their first one. The traditions, the thanksgivings, the way you make the pasta and breads, and all of the prayers, it’s beautiful.” 
Donating the left over food is also important, Frost said. 
“There’s a joy when you can work together with strangers and bring food to the needy, and we can say, ‘We will walk with you.’”
“I hope this continues every year,” said her husband, Kevin Frost, 4th ward alderman in Rockford, and Knight of Columbus at Holy Family.
A nine-day novena was prayed by the faithful prior to the feast.