Over the centuries, Saint Joseph has been known by many names and titles: Patron Saint of the Universal Church, of Workers, of Fathers, of the Unborn, and of a Happy Death, among others. Yet on this Saint Joseph’s Day 2023, his role as Patron of Migrants takes on particular significance.
We know little from the Gospels about Joseph. Despite this, one thing is certain: he was a man on the move who led his young migrant family to new, unfamiliar places. Three times the Gospel describes Joseph leading his family on a journey: first to Bethlehem with his pregnant wife to participate in a government-mandated census; later with his wife and newborn child, fleeing persecution and violence for safety in Egypt; and later in calmer political times, returning with his family to their home in Nazareth.
Through all these journeys, it is certain that Joseph and his young migrant family experienced the difficulties and hardships of living in a foreign land, learning another language, and being treated as an outsider and undesirable. Yet throughout these trials, Joseph was able to cross long distances and keep his family safe with steadfastness, surety, and hope.
Over the past year, tens of thousands of asylum seekers — adults as well as families with children – have fled dire conditions in their home countries and crossed the United States’ southern border in search of safety and a better life, finding their way to municipalities like Chicago, El Paso, Houston, Washington D.C. and New York. In response, Catholic Charities agencies — like my own in New York — have assisted thousands of these modern-day migrants by helping them integrate into local communities, navigate the legal system and find shelter, food and health care.
A Patron is someone who supports a person in need in concrete ways, as a protector and guardian. It is my prayer this day that Saint Joseph Patron of Migrants — who himself knew the hardships and heartbreak of leading a young, migrant family to safety — will enkindle in our hearts and in our hands the openness to provide hope and material aid to the displaced among us.
Tom Dobbins Jr. is the Director of Social and Parish Engagement for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, a Producer for the “JustLove” radio broadcast on Sirius/XM’s Catholic CHannel 129 and a Board Member of the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors.
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