Saint Joseph Day Pilgrimage: Companions on the Journey

By Mary Seamans

As the sun rose over Christ Our Shepherd Center in Greensburg, more than 70 pilgrims gathered in the St. Joseph chapel to receive a blessing from Bishop Larry J. Kulick and board buses for the Diocese of Greensburg’s St. Joseph Day pilgrimage.

The faithful participated in the journey to Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Greensburg, and the four St. Joseph parishes in the Diocese — in Derry, Everson, New Kensington and Uniontown — for a variety of reasons. 
We bought our home 37 years ago on the Feast of St. Joseph and thought this was the perfect way to celebrate the day,” said Jane Strittmatter, a parishioner of St. James Parish, New Alexandria.

“I wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Israel last year, but wasn’t able to do so because of the war, and now that I came on this pilgrimage, it means much more than I ever could have imagined,” said Gerri Dornin, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish, Irwin.

“Sometimes my Lent gets busy, and finding time to get close to God is a challenge,” said Charlie Blythe, a parishioner of St. Agnes Parish, North Huntingdon. “This pilgrimage allowed me to take the time to talk to God more intimately.”

Many of the pilgrims had a special devotion to St. Joseph. “My father was Joseph, my brother was Joseph, I had three Aunt Josephines and an Uncle Joe, my daughter is Cathy Jo, my niece is Nancey Jo. We just have a deep devotion to St. Joseph and a deep love for him,” said Geraldine Stump, a parishioner of St. Anne Parish, Rostraver.

“I grew up in a large family of 14 children, and my parents had a strong devotion to St. Joseph,” Strittmatter said. “They needed to raise the roof to add extra bedrooms to our house, and they even called the new bedrooms St. Joseph Hall!”

“I have the St. Joseph prayer on my phone, and whenever I am in adoration or by myself, I read it,” Blythe said. “He was a real man, and he took care of his family. It was quite a responsibility, and he stood up to it very well.”

Jeff Peterinelli, a pilgrim from St. Paul Parish, Greensburg, and a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, was one of the six members of the Color Corps who carried an icon of St. Joseph into each church.

“It has been an honor to witness the people in the Diocese coming out to support the Bishop and supporting this extremely important feast day of St. Joseph,” he said.

Dornin said, “Every stop, every church, there was something more meaningful. My favorite part was when we first walked into the first church, and we saw the bishop walking in with the Knights of Columbus at the ends of the pews. It was amazing to see what honor and respect we have in  our faith.”

The first stop of the pilgrimage was St. Joseph Parish in Derry, where Bishop Kulick gave a reflection on St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death, and funeral directors and

Father Christopher J. Pujol, Episcopal Master of Ceremonies and Parochial Vicar of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish, participated in a panel discussion on funeral and estate planning.

“The idea of praying to St. Joseph for a happy death was something I never realized,” Blythe said. “They explained what we need to think about before we die. This is something we don’t like to do, but should be done. Particularly the whole concept of cremation.”

The second stop was a celebration of a Solemnity of St. Joseph Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.

“The Mass was overwhelmingly beautiful with so many people,” Dornin said. “And seeing the children there meant so much to me. Just the idea of how many children we have in church is amazing.” 

Peterinelli noted, “It was great to see the grade-school children from Aquinas Academy. To hear them during the ‘Our Father’ put a little lump in my throat because they were so into it.“

The 2,600 Catholic school students in the Diocese watched the Mass via livestream from their classrooms, where Bishop Kulick reflected on St. Joseph, Patron of Families and Fathers, and promulgated his pastoral letter, Donum Veritatis: The Gift of Truth. He also dedicated the Diocese to the protection and guardianship of St. Joseph.

At the third stop, St. Joseph Parish in Everson, pilgrims, parish volunteers and students from Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School, Connellsville, and St. Sebastian Regional Catholic School, Belle Vernon, helped to unload donations from beneath the buses and add them to a St. Joseph Altar. This age-old custom allows pilgrims to offer the fruits of their labors in thanksgiving for the intercessions of St. Joseph. Bishop Kulick reflected on St. Joseph, Patron of Immigrants, and blessed the donated items.

“It was very meaningful to see the massive collection of food and supplies donated for the needy in the Diocese,” said Blythe.

The last stop was St. Joseph Parish in Uniontown, with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction and a reflection by Bishop Kulick on St. Joseph, Patron of Vocations and Protector of the Eucharist.

“The most amazing part of the pilgrimage was to see the full churches on a Tuesday afternoon, and all day. Every church was packed,” Blythe said.

Dornin added, “I learned so much through this pilgrimage, and I was so blessed to have the opportunity to do this.”

Summing up the pilgrimage, Strittmatter said, “We need St. Joseph as a protector and an example of a father figure. We need good workers. We need protection from spiritual dangers. And with this many people coming together to pray, it’s got to be powerful!”


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