Inspired by the unrivaled humility, unquantifiable father qualities, unequalled dedication to duties and impeccable charity, the Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis on the 8th day of December 2020 dedicated the year 2021 to the foster father of Jesus: Joseph. This dedication came with the release of his apostolic letter: “Patris Corde”, where the Pope admonishes that Christians should by imitating the qualities of St. Joseph learn to love especially in the family setting in the same manner that St. Joseph loved. This injunction was to be a guiding principle for the year: from 8th December 2020 to 8th December 2021. Dioceses all over the world eventually inaugurated the year of St. Joseph in their respective dioceses while praying Joseph to help shape their respective families like he did his own family of Nazareth.
Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu was not left out in this inauguration of the year of St. Joseph and dedication of the year to this silent but powerful Saint. The Seminary family thus, inaugurated the year of St. Joseph during the 2020/2021 academic year and since then had been offering prayers to St. Joseph.
Taking the year of St. Joseph to another level, the Seminary created a new house with the name of St. Joseph and then, organized a weekend program for the sensitization of Seminarians and formators on the qualities and virtues of St. Joseph. The Seminary dedicated the 12th and 13th of November 2021 to St. Joseph. On the first day, the Seminary in a round table discussion discussed topics related to the virtues of St. Joseph while the Second day was for a Holy Mass in commemoration of St. Joseph.
Speaking on the tender loving father quality of Joseph during the round-table discussion, one of the discussants made it clear that Joseph was able to perform his role perfectly because he understood God’s tender love and mercy. The fatherly role of Joseph to the family was accentuated with tenderness, love and sacrifice. His tender loving nature could be observed even from the seeming controversial circumstance that surrounded the conception of Jesus by Mary and the precarious status of abject poverty. This quality, he said teaches us that tenderness should transcend difficult situation and economic status. We can still be tender even when things are not going in our favour.
Joseph as a father in the shadows is one of the most prominent qualities of Joseph. Speaking on that, one of the discussants enthused that St. Joseph is a silent witness to the responsibilities of fatherhood and faith. This silent witness to responsibility exalts his example of fatherhood and its essential role in the flourishing of humanity. By being the one into whose custody God entrusted his most precious treasures and dutifully and lovingly performing his duties as a father silently against all odds, St. Joseph has given us a new paradigm for fatherhood and encourages all fathers to do the same.
Joseph as an Obedient and accepting father was never to be disputed by all. Joseph’s life was characterized by constant obedience to the will of God and acceptance of his new status as the guardian of the most precious treasure. From keeping Mary as his wife, to flying to Egypt, to relocating to Nazareth and even the naming of Jesus, Joseph showcased his unrivaled obedience to the will of God which he calls us all to imitate.
Speaking on Joseph as a creatively courageous father, one of the discussants observed that creative courage emerges in the way we deal with difficulties that come to us every day. This is made visible either by accepting defeat or by continuing to fight the difficulty till it is totally eliminated. Creative courage in us tells us the best and the most fruitful way of handling difficulties in life. Joseph was an epitome of courageous creativity. On arrival in Bethlehem and finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, as best as he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the son of God to come into the world (cf. Luke 2:6-7). Again, Faced with imminent danger from Herod, who wanted to kill the child, as a creatively courageous father, Joseph knew the best way to protect the child was to take him out of the view of Herod. Joseph expects us to use our creative courage to wriggle out of any situation we find ourselves.
In all, St. Joseph is an amalgam of different virtues and qualities which when they are emulated and replicated in our different families will lead to a happy family just like the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We are all encouraged always to be calm in situations, obedient, work for the common good even when we are not recognized and then be an example for others.
St. Joseph weekend came to an end with a family Mass on 13th November, 2021, where the Chief celebrant and homilist Rev. Fr. Dr. Eugene Odo preached that it is our duty to promote St. Joseph just like we promote Mary either by appending Joseph to our names or changing our names to Joseph. He went forward to preach on the theme “Being a father like Joseph and a son like Jesus.” On being a father like Joseph, he pointed out that Joseph is among the three persons being regarded as just in the Bible; the others were Noah and Moses. This is because Joseph did the will of God at all times. On being a son like Jesus, he remarked that Jesus stayed under the authority of His parents and was obedient at all times. He then advised all to stick to the will of God in their lives and to remain obedient to superiors. With the Mass, the St. Joseph weekend was brought to a conclusion.