“Organic” How-to Book Coming Out Soon on St. Joseph Altars
St. Joseph Altars
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
December 2, 2021
ROCKFORD—How does a former Methodist end up writing a book on St. Joseph altars?
Well, she married a Catholic and eventually converted, and her three children all have Italian godparents. Her son’s godfather was born in Italy, and more and more she was exposed to Italian culture.
But for Laura Padron, it was, bottom line, a matter of being “fascinated with the altars and St. Joseph, the silent saint.”
“I was the silent one once it came to this,” she says. “I couldn’t talk about altars of the past.”
“How to Build St. Joseph Altars: A Feast for the Soul” is in production at Fulton Publishing at press time. 
Hopes are for it to be published by Christmas or early next year.
The Observer will report once it is completed and ready for purchase.
It will be available on Amazon and from Fulton Publishing.
But the Rockford area has been something of a hub for St. Joseph altars, and many area Catholics could provide both a sense of history and practical advice about creating them. 
Padron enlisted their help, and now she has completed a book that she says is “not academic; it’s an organic, generic, simple how-to” book about St. Joseph altars.
Padron started viewing completed altars at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in 2012. That decades-old parish altar annually spans the length of the entire church basement with murals and tables overflowing with artistically-designed breads and cakes and cookies, fruits and more. 
In December of 2017 Padron attended an Advent event at her parish, St. Bridget in Loves Park, bumped into her pastor and asked about doing a St. Joseph altar there. He said yes, and she recruited fellow parishioner Jill Kapala to help.
“If I had $1 for every Italian woman who said, ‘You don’t have any idea what you’re doing (and) how much work it is …’” Padron says with a laugh. Fortunately, she and Kapala were encouraged to contact Rosie Scalise Sheridan who mentored them through that first altar at St. Bridget’s, which, though much smaller than St. Anthony’s altar, was a success.
“People plan (some) altars for a year,” Padron says. “You definitely need three months to plan … just to assemble the altar at St. Anthony’s takes a week.”
Very small altars can take a day to set up, she says, noting that most are done with specific intentions in mind: “happy or sad occasions, for protection of marriages, and … a lot (were) prevalent around wars, with prayers to bring soldiers back home.” 
She describes the set-up process as “fellowship and new friendships and smiles on the faces.”
St. Bridget’s 2020 altar was shut down because of COVID-19 one-and-a-half days before it was to open. The 5,000 cookies and 100 pounds of pasta was brought to area agencies that serve the needy. Some hope to create one in 2022, on or near St. Joseph’s feast day, March 19.
Padron, a nurse practitioner, moved to California a bit over a year ago to be closer to her daughter and respond to a work invitation. But for three months, she didn’t work because of the pandemic.
“So, I had a lot of time to think about life and grow closer to St. Joseph,” she says. “I was driving to church one day, and it hit me like a rock: ‘Write a book and preserve the tradition.’”
People back in Rockford “were tickled pink to help me,” she says, naming some well-known Italian Catholics from the area who have written chapters, contributed recipes and photos and otherwise provided supportive assistance: Gene and Shirley Fedeli (history), Bernie Marinelli and others (cookies), Jan and Jack Schiro (froscias – Sicilian for frittatas), Jill Kapala (children’s altars), Colleen and Joan Gullo (who head St. Anthony Parish’s altar), Rosie Scalise Sheridan (home altars and finding mentors), Carl Ambruoso … and the list of helpers goes on.
Padron hosted a luncheon Sept. 17 to thank a roomful of contributors, giving most of the credit to them.
“If I have an inch of talent, it is in operations. I am operationally putting it together,” Padron says, adding that tackling the project means she is “brave or silly, one of the two.”
The book, “How to Build St. Joseph Altars: A Feast for the Soul,” includes the history, altar structure, traditions, recipes and over 300 pictures, plus “what to do, how and when to do it,” she says, calling it “a sort of an A-Z” of St. Joseph altars.
The goals of the book include honoring St. Joseph, raising awareness of St. Joseph altars, and “hopefully bring people closer to God,” Padron says.
“Those traditions will be gone if no one really preserves them.”
Viva San Giuseppe!
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