When you visit St. Ann Catholic Church in Morganza, Louisiana on St. Joseph Celebration Day, you get a true sense of tradition, in the mood of peace, joy and homage, along with the serenity of the day. It is obvious that there is love and much reverence for the patron saint, St. Joseph, The Protector, throughout the entire church congregation. This year on Sunday, March 15 there will be a 10 am Sunday mass, with the blessing of the altar by Father Brent Maher, feeding of the Holy Family, followed by a meatless meal for all in attendance. Everyone is invited to attend.
The History of the Altar and the San Giuseppe Ladies
Before the mid-eighties, several small altars had been erected in homes and in church in Morganza to commemorate the Italian-Sicilian tradition, but finally by 1986-87 some of the Italian ladies, members of the St. Ann congregation, formed the group now known as the “San Giuseppe Ladies.”
Their purpose: To carry on the devotion of their ancestors to St. Joseph. St. Joseph was the patron saint of Italy and was credited for interceding to God for the farmers and fishermen of the time so that their crops and catches would flourish to save them from the great droughts and famine. The people gave homage to him with offerings of bounty from their fields and streams. Thus, the St. Ann “San Giuseppe Ladies” have continued to sponsor this tribute of the Old Country still today.
The first vision that comes to mind of this day is the beautiful altar that is composed each year of flowers, fruits, vegetables, cakes, cookies and other sweets, fish and relics that are reminiscent of St. Joseph and the Holy Family. Although many volunteers have assisted with construction of the altar in the past, one San Giuseppe Lady, Mrs. Marianna Serio Wells, with her husband Clarence “Woots” Wells, by her side, has taken responsibility for constructing the altar at St. Ann in the last few years.
According to Mrs. Wells, because of her Italian roots, she became interested in the San Giuseppe Ladies group at its inception. In the beginning, she served as a “go-for” to assist when she could, but as time has passed, her interest has spread to become more involved and much more passionate. Now, she solely designs and constructs the entire altar. She…“delights in carrying on the devotion of her ancestors to St. Joseph.” There is “satisfaction for a job well done with the realization that more people have prayerful knowledge of the REAL meaning of the devotion to the Patron of Protection of the Family.” This devotion is paramount in the Italian/Sicilian culture. To completely finish this altar project, it is estimated that it takes about 2 weeks. But so many of the items on the altar have to be placed only hours before the mass begins that Sunday morning. Thus, time is always of the essence.
As so many other volunteers do each year, Mrs. Wells has participated in fig cookie making and baking, “haystack baking,” stuffing small bags with blessed bread, a few cookies, and fava beans for good luck, along with a holy prayer card so that each attendee can receive one to take home. Basically, she has been involved in most of the traditional activities that make the day so special. If anyone has any questions or comments, please call Bonnie Francois (225-718-1718).