Husband, father, laborer and immigrant – that is how retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq described St. Joseph to more than 500 Haitian Catholics who gathered to honor the patron of the universal Church on his feast day.
The Haitian-born bishop was the main celebrant and homilist of an evening Mass in Creole at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights, March 19. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio presided.
Much like other ethnic communities in the diocese, “The Haitians have a special devotion to St. Joseph,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “Tonight, for the first time, they wanted to gather in the co-cathedral named for St. Joseph to celebrate his feast.”
Among the concelebrants were several Haitian-born priests, including Father Saint Charles Borno, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila, Prospect Heights, and newly named diocesan coordinator of ministry to Haitian immigrants.
One of the first to arrive for Mass was Josephine Elizee, from St. Jerome, East Flatbush, who admired a statue of St. Joseph holding the Christ Child on the altar.
Most of her family bears the first or middle name of Joseph or Josephine in honor of the saint, Elizee said proudly, explaining, “Haitian people are very religious.”
“It’s all about faith with St. Joseph. Everything he did was because he believed in God,” said Bethyna Brizard, who sat a few pews away with her mom Ruth. “For me, he’s a saint of miracles and the saint of my alma mater.”
A graduate of St. Joseph’s H.S., Downtown Brooklyn, she says she’s called on St. Joseph for help throughout her life, particularly when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I’m a survivor because he stood by my side. Anything you ask of St. Joseph, he never lets you down,” she said.
Upright and just, a skilled worker and family man who protected “the two greatest treasures of the Church,” were some of the ways Bishop Sansaricq described the saint.
St. Joseph found joy in obedience to the Lord, he told the faithful, and stands as a model of righteousness in every age and place.
“As a young priest I offered my celibacy to St. Joseph,” the bishop said. “His life is a mirror with many reflections … that can inspire us.”
Michele Guerrier of St. Therese of Lisieux, East Flatbush, found inspiration in the bishop’s homily, especially when he spoke about Joseph as an immigrant. He modeled courage, faith and fortitude when he moved his family to Egypt.
“Out of fear for his family, St. Joseph fled into Egypt just as many Haitians” immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s and ’70s, she recalled. “Like Joseph, Haitians had to flee their homeland and trust that God would provide.”
And just as St. Joseph managed to survive in a country whose language was not his first, large numbers of Haitians “came to the U.S. not speaking English and totally dependent on God.
“St. Joseph is a model for us,” Guerrier said. “We try to live as a model of faith for others.”
In doing so, Bishop Sansaricq encouraged the Haitian congregation to embrace “righteousness in every area of life, really obeying the laws of the Lord and walking in honesty and justice” in every aspect of life.
Sister Juvenia Joseph, F.D.M., from St. Jerome parish lead the congregation in a litany to St. Joseph. It was an honor for the Haitian nun who says she draws inspiration from the saint “to be faithful, to be confident and to accept the will of God in my life.”
After the final blessing, dozens approached the statue of St. Joseph on the altar to offer silent prayers of thanksgiving and petition. Among them was Marie Dort from St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise, Crown Heights, who placed her hand over the saint’s for a few moments.
“He’s a family man,” she told another devotee as she started to head home. “I have a child with no father and so I pray to him day and night.”