Freeport St. Joseph
Canadian Tradition Moves South
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
July 1, 2021
Adopting a northern devotion to St. Joseph part of parish’s way of honoring patron
FREEPORT—A practice by St. Andre Bessette caught the attention of St. Joseph, Freeport, parishioner Cynthia Saar. 
And with some help from her pastor, Father Timothy Barr, she shared the tradition with several others at the parish earlier in this Year of St. Joseph.
Brother Andre (1845-1937), a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, became internationally renowned as a miracle healer. In 1904 he was given permission and funding to build a small chapel on Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec. 
The small chapel expanded four times in the following decade, and the congregation decided to fulfill his request to build a basilica in St. Joseph’s honor. 
The resulting St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is Canada’s largest church and a National Historic Site.
A devotional practice in France inspired this holy brother to take a little oil from a lamp that was burning in front of a statue of St. Joseph and offer it to sick people, telling them to rub it on their aching body and to pray to St. Joseph for relief.
That tradition continues at the Canadian oratory today. 
A basin of vegetable oil is fixed in front of a statue of St. Joseph. A wick floating on the surface burns night and day as a kind of perpetual votive lamp. 
The oil is put in bottles and made available to pilgrims who can purchase it onsite or via the oratory’s online store.
The oil, says the website, “is not a treatment. Nor is it a preparation with curative powers, to say nothing of a magical practice. It must be viewed as a gesture of faith.”
This year, Freeport’s St. Joseph Parish gathered a couple of dozen parishioners, including from nearby St. Mary Parish in Freeport, to prepare and to consecrate themselves to St. Joseph on his March 19 feast day. The days of preparation were done via Zoom with the help of the book, “Consecration to St. Joseph” by Father Donald Calloway, MIC.
“We put together a (gift) package with the book,” says Saar, who discovered the holy oil online. Father Barr purchased some and included the consecration participants as some of the recipients of the oil. 
Those packages were filled with holy cards, medals and the holy oil. There also were little St. Joseph statues, novenas, a St. Joseph litany and rosaries. 
Packages were tailored for individuals, for example, with red, white and blue rosaries for veterans. Another gift was a small medal saying “being a dad like Jesus had” for fathers and grandfathers.
St. Joseph medals were given to each participant at the March 19 consecration. The medals came from Rome via the web, and Saar explains that the seller took them to the Vatican to be blessed by Pope Francis.
In the meantime, St. Joseph Parish in Freeport has additional decorations this year, including panels featuring points in St. Joseph’s life that  originally graced a side altar in the church.
The panels, used in decorating the church, show St. Joseph’s marriage to the Blessed Mother, his death, and the Nativity. They used to be painted, but were sandblasted after the original high altar was removed.
Two St. Joseph statues are also on display at the parish. One is on loan, and carpentry tools were placed at the base of that statue, Saar says.
The other belongs to the parish and is mounted on a wall.
Future parish activities are in the works
Events in the works include the “Seven Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph,” to begin early in July. 
Father Barr speculates that it may be on Facebook or YouTube and will include a rosary and a talk about the saint and the devotion.
Saar is hopeful the parish will be able to offer little pilgrimages to the other St. Joseph churches in the diocese — including two others in the Freeport Deanery, in Lena and Apple River.
Additional plans at the parish include a virtual St. Joseph table in support of the Madonna Renewal Center, a recipient of parish fundraisers throughout the Year of St. Joseph.
Another consecration to St. Joseph will begin Nov. 24 and end on Dec. 26, the Feast of the Holy Family.
Father Barr wrote in the parish bulletin after the March 19 consecration that “St. Joseph has blessed our community and many of our parishioners personally. Many can already feel the protection of this great patron. We have learned so much from the depth of this thirty-three day consecration. In fact, some parishioners wanted the presence of St. Joseph felt by making sure we would have a statue of St. Joseph as a reminder and an inspiration to prayer. 
“We look forward to living our lives with the Holy Family with St. Joseph leading us on to Jesus with all the virtues and goodness this great foster father has shown us by his example. St Joseph, Pray for us!”
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