The “Joes”
St. Joseph and Sons Continues Their Work and Prayer
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
September 2, 2021
ROCKFORD—About eight years ago, the gift of a statue of St. Joseph the Worker encouraged the Rockford Men’s Group to become St. Joseph and Sons, Inc.
The Catholic service group has roots back to 2004 when a group of Catholic men who were skilled in a variety of building trades traveled to Haiti to work at The Haitian Project’s Louverture Cleary School. They began to organize annual work trips to Haiti.
Dealing with COVID-19
The Joes kept busy even during 2020, taking steps to deal with the coronavirus challenges.
Before the total shutdown in Illinois, they were able to work on several outdoor or socially-distanced projects. 

Projects completed by the Joe’s in 2020 included:

 Beautifying St. Rita School entrance.

 Installing sports pads around the perimeter of the gym at St. Elizabeth Catholic Community Center.

 Replacing wood panels with glass in doors leading to the vestibule at St. Mary Oratory so parents could attend to their children and stay engaged with the Mass. Similar panels were installed in doors in the rectory dining room, and some plumbing repairs and library renovations were completed.

 Holding a summer work camp at Bishop Lane Retreat Center similar to that held in 2021.

 Working on St. Anthony of Padua Parish rectory garage and door.

 Coordinating the final steps of the Holy Family  Parish building project.

 Restoring St. James Parish’s rectory railings.

 Converting a family room into a chapel for the Immaculate Heart Sisters’ Rockford convent.
In 2010 the men made the decision to serve year-round and focus on projects in the Rockford Diocese.They began to meet monthly for prayer and business. Later, when they changed their name, they began to call themselves “the Joes.”
Their mission statement reads: “We restore, maintain, and enhance facilities to worship, learn and live our Christian faith. What we receive as a gift, we must give as a gift.” The organization is affiliated with, and organized under, the Diocese of Rockford. They have a chaplain approved by the diocese.
St. Joseph and Sons’ projects have included numerous repairs and renovations for Catholic entities including the Poor Clares Corpus Christi Monastery, St. Elizabeth Catholic Community Center, several area parishes and Bishop Lane Retreat Center. 
At present the Joes number between 40-50 with about 15 who are regularly active.
St. Rita parishioner Brian Peterson has been involved with the group for six or seven years. 
He says he appreciates being a “Joe” to be able to give of his talents and efforts and to give back to deanery ministries. 
Being a Joe is “rewarding,” he says, adding that “it makes you feel proud and humble.”
His second reason for being a Joe is, he says, the relationships and friendships with “like-minded” men. 
“There’s no higher quality group of men,” Peterson says, adding that camaraderie “fills holes” in his Catholicism by providing “such great examples” of men. The follow-up gatherings of beer and laughter fill some social gaps also. 
Joes who spent the weekend of July 31-Aug. 1 working at Bishop Lane Retreat Center gathered with their wives Aug. 11 for food, fellowship and celebration of their accomplishments at the retreat center.
That work weekend had included extra hands: three dads and 15 boys, mostly seniors, from Boylan Central Catholic High School, who earned service hours as they worked. 
They stayed at the retreat center, participating in prayer and discussions around  a bonfire with Father David Finn, spiritual director at the high school.
At the gathering, Father Finn reported that it was his eighth year shepherding the students through a Joe’s project and “it was probably my best year there ... they did an amazing job.” 
He noted a young man who admitted he had thought it would be boring, but who had concluded that “it was truly an amazing event.”
He added that “a dad shared with me on Sunday, as I was moving mulch, that the students said, ‘Wow, that was amazing that 
Father Finn was working with us. Did you see him sweating?’” 
Laughing, the priest said, “Of course I was sweating; it was hot out there.”
Two honors were awarded at the evening celebration.
Current chaplain for the Joes is Father David Beauvais who was honored for his commitment to the group and his attendance at the meetings and job sites. He was gifted with a jacket with the St. Joseph and Sons’ logo and the “World’s Greatest Chaplain” emblazoned on it.
Mike Derry was described as a Joe who comes to every project, and whose truck has everything, every kind of tool, in it. He was honored with a magnetic sign, “Mike’s Mobile Tool Box” to put on his truck.
Both honorees were also awarded with a gift certificate for dinner at Bill and Liza Derry’s home. Bill was the group’s “coach” for many years.
Part of the evening included photos of the 2021 Bishop Lane projects. The Joes shared stories about moving dirt, replacing wood, gutters and downspouts, taking down a 70-foot tree, moving more dirt, a wasp nest built behind the 12th Station of the Cross, a paint supervisor who was fond of delegating tasks, power washing benches, moving dirt and mulch and stone including a “slightly-off calculation” of how much stone was needed, and finally Bill Derry’s generosity in letting a long line of students take turns driving his red Corvette as the weekend wound down.
There was also a confession. The Joes received compliments for matching the Italian marble used to landscape a Marian statue. 
“To be honest, it was the only stone that Menard’s had in stock,” they admitted, prompting laughter and an assertion that it was the Holy Spirit at work.
Indeed, the Holy Spirit certainly assists St. Joseph and Sons as they work to make the Rockford Deanery a better place, along with God’s gifts of hand-on skills and their efforts of extensive pre-planning and willing labor.
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