Student participate in immersive Saint Joseph Day experience

By Jennifer Miele
Chief Communications Officer/ Managing Director of Evangelization

An elaborate altar dedicated to St. Joseph is built annually inside Rizzo’s Malabar Inn in Crabtree, and this year, students from Queen of Angels Catholic School in Irwin got to experience it firsthand.

The third and fourth-grade classes were invited for a visit to learn more about the religious and ethnic traditions surrounding St. Joseph, the patron saint of Sicily. Legend has it that many centuries ago, Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph to end their drought and famine. When the rains came and crops prospered, their prayers were answered. To show their thanks, Sicilians built an altar of food to serve the poor in honor of St. Joseph.

“This is a tradition that my family has had for decades, and I want to pass it on to the next generation,” said Rizzi DeFabo, co-owner of Rizzo’s Malabar Inn. “I hope someday these children remember the importance of St. Joseph in all of our lives.”

“One of the things I love about our Catholic faith is that we have so many traditions that are tactile. They help us to share faith through all of our senses,” said Father Daniel J. Ulishney, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in North Huntingdon.

He accompanied the children to the visit and took them on a tour of the altar, which included:


  • Breads shaped like the crown of thorns, some with five eggs in them representing the five wounds of Christ.
  • Lemons representing the bitterness of sin.
  • Ornately decorated Pysanky eggs, symbolizing the new life we have in Jesus.
  • Images of St. Joseph and a statue of sleeping St. Joseph. The custom from Pope Francis tells us to place a prayer intention under it, and let him sleep on it, as we ask his intercession in our lives.


The children were also treated to a cooking lesson and had the opportunity to make pasta, then try some for themselves.

“Being here is a great honor,” said fourth-grader Noah Hampton. “Getting to make pasta not just in a regular old kitchen, but in an actual restaurant, kind of seems like something people only get to experience 1 in 100!”

Students and staff at the school honored St. Joseph in their own way, collecting more than 1,000 items to donate to the needy, including food boxes, cleaning supplies and home goods.

“The children were really involved in this effort because they are always looking for ways to serve their community,” said Principal Jennifer Filak. 

The entire celebration was a spiritual experience for the children.

“St. Joseph was a very good earthly father to Jesus. He cared for him, he loved him, he was patient and kind, and he was very loving,” said fourth-grader Elizabeth Dixon.


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