Category: Josephite News

Four Josephites honored for 220 years of ministry

A jubilant congregation of Josephites and friends gathered in the chapel at St. Joseph Seminary on May 2 to celebrate the lifetime of ministry provided by four Josephite priests.
Father John Filippelli, Father Frank Hull and Father Charles Moffatt were honored by 60 years of priestly service. Father Robert Zawacki was recognized for 40 years of ministry.

Superior General Father Michael Thompson, SSJ, principal celebrant at the jubilee Mass, noted that the four had collectively offered 220 years of ministry in the African American community. “We offer you are warmest love for your service and dedication,” he said at the conclusion of the Mass. “God gave you the grace to do saintly and extraordinary things throughout your years of priestly service.”

A celebratory luncheon was held at the seminary at the conclusion of Mass.

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Baltimore mom prays for racial healing, solutions to social injustice

Editors: A video to accompany this story can be found at

BALTIMORE (CNS) — Crystal Morris is a busy woman. The 55-year-old West Baltimore resident makes sure her neighborhood church is always open for those who seek Jesus.

Crystal Morris poses for a photo outside the rectory of St. Peter Claver Church in Baltimore March 7. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See MOTHERS-DAY-SOCIAL-AWARENESS April 11, 2017.

Nestled near the corner of Bloom Street and North Freemont Avenue, sandwiched between an elementary school and a catchall grocery, she answers God’s phone calls and doorbells, researches baptismal records, and even washes and irons his altar linens.

Crystal Morris poses for a photo in the rectory of St. Peter Claver Church in Baltimore March 9. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See MOTHERS-DAY-SOCIAL-AWARENESS April 11, 2017.

“This church has been a beacon of hope for a lot of people in our community,” she told Catholic News Service from St. Peter Claver Church’s rectory. “We have people coming in and out of here asking for help with rent, gas, electricity — they come here for food and clothing.”

Poverty is no joke in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. Door after door, window after window, homes are boarded up with a sadness associated with war.

In 2015, residents took to these same streets near the African-American church to feud with police after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died in their custody.

“Some people are not grounded and rooted in Christ,” the mother of three adult children said about social injustices. “I tell my two daughters to keep praying. Pray because God can do anything but fail.”

Crystal Morris, holding Bible, poses March 9 for a photo with her sister Bernadette Johnson, and her two daughters Cierra, far left, and Candace, right. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See MOTHERS-DAY-SOCIAL-AWARENESS April 11, 2017.

Prayer and song, Morris makes sure her devotion is heard during Mass as a choir member.

“She loves herself some Smokie Norful!” her youngest daughter Cierra, 20, said about her mom’s appreciation for the Grammy-winning gospel singer. “She sings all around the house like 24/7.”

“She thinks she’s Whitney Houston!” Candace, her eldest daughter, 23, said jokingly.

Church life and church employment have been a blessing for the Morris family. Crystal told CNS that she thanks God for her time on earth because she, too, has lost friends and family to drug and alcohol addiction, and violence.

“It takes a village,” Morris said when asked about raising kids under these circumstances. “The older women in the parish always had an eye out (for each other’s children) and the kids did not like that. Sometimes they would get a little puffy and give you a look, but they stayed respectful.”

“I think it’s a good thing that mom works at the church,” Candace said.

“We can tell it’s a big part of her, and it feels good,” Cierra said.

Crystal Morris shows the Bible her mother gave her and her sister in 1972. Morris credits her mother for her spiritual foundation in Christ. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See MOTHERS-DAY-SOCIAL-AWARENESS April 11, 2017.

St. Joseph Manor welcomes retired Josephites

Living in retirement but still serving in prayer

By Ariana Cassard

Since Josephite priests and brothers devote their lives to the mission of the Josephite Society, where do they go when they retire?

On a hilltop of land in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Baltimore, St. Joseph’s Manor is home to 17 retired Josephite priests and one brother. Both custodial and ambulatory care is provided for the men, but beyond the physical help they receive, these Josephites find joy in living in community and prayer.

“Josephites are aging, just like any other religious community,” said Father Paul Oberg, SSJ, rector of St. Joseph’s Manor. He considers the Manor to be not a place of surrender at the end of the retired priests’ lives, but as a home in which they can continue their ministry.

Each day at the Manor begins with prayer at 7:30 a.m., followed by Mass and breakfast. After breakfast, some men are taken to doctors appointments, while others spend time reading one of the numerous books in the library.

Once lunch is served, it is followed by free time in the afternoon. At this point, many residents choose to venture out of the building and even off the property. Some spend time indulging in hobbies, such as gardening and painting.

Evenings are spent having dinner as a community and either joining in on special events or logging in more prayer time.

“I try to spend roughly four hours in prayer each day,” said Father Francis Butler, SSJ.

For the retired priests at the Manor, prayer is their main involvement in the furthering of the ministry. They pray for successful ministries, adaptation of the men coming from Nigeria, more vocations and the African-American communities the Josephites serve.

The great benefit of this life is the freedom from responsibility, according to Father Butler. He recalls the days as an active priest and all of its joys, but also the expectation of being available all hours of the day.

The men are given the gift of optional activities, such as “Spiritual Exercise” with Sister Anne Marie, a Daughter of Charity who comes Tuesdays and Thursdays to spend time with the residents. Volunteer Mike Duggan, called the “activity man,” will pick up residents and take them wherever they’d like to go, whether that’s the drugstore or a nearby horse farm.

Visitors and volunteers are vital to the operation of the Manor. Groups from surrounding parishes and organizations devote time to visiting with the men, organizing celebrations, helping with daily tasks.

“Volunteers bring outside joy to the men,” said Father Oberg. “We try to keep them busy as much as we can, but we could use more support.”

Volunteer Jeannie MacDonald has found her time at St. Joseph’s Manor to be mutually beneficial. In 2011, she moved into a house on West Lake Avenue in Baltimore. A neighbor told her about the beautiful Manor down the street and encouraged her to venture onto the property. There she came across a man walking his dogs and struck up a conversation, eventually revealing himself to be the rector. He invited her to come for Holy Hour once a month.

At the time, Ms. MacDonald brought with her many questions. She had married a Catholic man, but it was not something she practiced. She slowly became more involved at the Manor, attending Mass, and then staying for breakfast to talk with the men. It was through their faithfulness that she came to her own faith.

“The first thing that happened was I met these people, and they showed me a side of the Catholic faith I never knew,” said MacDonald. “You can’t be here and go to Mass with these men and not gain faith.”

She was Confirmed in the church at age 63. She now volunteers her time at the Manor four days a week, helping the men with their belongings, communicating with loved ones, taking them offsite to run errands and attend appointments.

“They really are all individuals,” she said, noting her joy in speaking with each resident and hearing about his priestly ministry. Her perception of the church has been completely altered by volunteering her time to these men.

Because no one ages at the same pace, the Manor must be suited for both the retired priests who are still very active and those who are facing tough medical battles. The two registered nurses and one doctor, along with the rest of the staff, ensure that each resident is provided with the best care.

“It’s like a family. When one gets sick, it hurts us all,” said Father Daniel Paul Bastianelli, who moved into the Manor six years ago.

As this population ages, financial obstacles also increase. “It’s a struggle, because the medical costs have skyrocketed,” said Father Oberg. In order to maintain the facility and quality of care for these men, the Society solicits the help of organizations and individuals who can donate resources.

“Because of the generosity of donors, we are able to keep going,” Father Oberg said.

Northwest Philadelphia parishes prepare for National Black Catholic Congress

WEST OAK LANE >> Deacon William Bradley, of Mt. Airy, the director of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Office for Black Catholics, recently led a group from Catholic parishes from around the city to prepare for the National Black Catholic Congress XII.

The session — “A Day of Reflection & Preparation” — took place at the St. Athanasius School Hall, 7105 Limekiln Pike in West Oak Lane, Saturday, March 11.

Also presenting at the meeting was the Rev. Stephen D. Thorne, pastor of the St. Martin de Porres Church in North Philadelphia, the Neumann University chaplain and former director of the Office for Black Catholics. Thorne previously served as pastor of the old St. Therese of the Child Jesus Church in Mt. Airy.

“We should be grateful that we have a St. Martin de Porres Foundation in Philadelphia,” said Bradley, who serves as deacon at the St. Raymond of Penafort parish in Mt. Airy. “We are the only archdiocese that has this type of foundation that will sponsor many to attend this event. They will cover the $350 conference cost. You will have to take care of the airfare and hotel for the conference this July in Orlando.”

The Rev. Sylvester Peterka, pastor of St. Vincent’s Church in Germantown, asked questions about the rooming arrangements.

“Can parish members who attend split the cost by having more in a room?” she asked.

Bradley said single, double, triple and quadruple rooms are available.

Thorne explained what will be new about this year’s Congress XII will be that the parish representatives are being encouraged to create the platform, rather than the bishops and NBCC officials sharing the platform. To this end, there will be a delegate representing each diocese or archdiocese in the country.

In the coming weeks, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who will be attending the NBCC, will be making the selection, according to Thorne.

“The delegate will be a working position,” Thorne said. “This means this person will have to be present at all the sessions. It involves a lot of reading, reflecting, attending sessions and then bringing back the information to the parishes.”

Thorne added the person must be vocal enough to share ideas even amid cardinals and bishops from around the country and world. All expenses will be paid for delegates.

Bradley addressed many questions about how the local delegate would be selected. He said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McIntyre likely would join with him in making recommendations to the archbishop. Bradley urged anyone who was interested in becoming a delegate to get in touch with him by email.

This year’s Philadelphia Pastoral Plan Priorities were developed at the first NBCC preparation session at the St. Cyprian Church in West Philadelphia last November, according to Bradley. They include addressing race and prejudice, the economy, living the gospel and evangelization and outreach. They also stressed the need to address the needs of youth and young adults, the overall NBCC vision, loving one’s neighbor and prayer.

The meeting concluded with the registration information for the Congress XII to be held in Orlando, Fla. Those in attendance were encouraged to pray for the success of the national event and to ask their fellow parishioners what they felt should be the priorities.

The next meeting will be held at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 222 N. 17th St., Saturday, May 13.

By Arlene Edmonds For Digital First Media (courtesy of “The Leader”)

NBCC Interviews Father Anthony Bozeman, S.S.J.

An interview of Father Anthony Bozeman, S.S.J. of St. Raymond & St. Leo the Great Parish. Interview takes place at Notre Dame University at the National Black Catholic Congress Vocations Symposium on May 4-5th, 2010.

2017 March for Life – Washington DC January 27

St Joseph’s in Alexandria, VA hosted 150 High School pilgrims from Fargo, ND for masses during their time here for the March for Life.

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St. Joseph Catholic Church holds Mass and reception for Fargo North Dakota Pilgrims

Photos from the Fargo North Dakota Pilgrims Mass and reception at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Alexandria, VA – January 26, 2017.

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Pilgrims from Fargo North Dakota at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Alexandria, VA - January 26, 2017 (Photo taken by Phyllis L. Johnson) 27

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US Bishops Release Road Map to Improve Race Relations

A new report, released this month, comes in response to racial tensions that the country faced throughout 2016.

Peter Jesserer Smith, National Catholic Register

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On a Wednesday morning in September, more than 500 people packed the pews of Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church to grieve the death of Justin Carr, a young black man they would bury at 26 years old.

Just a week before his Sept. 28 funeral, Justin “Jroc” Carr, a Catholic and expectant new father, while standing between two ministers at a protest over police brutality in front of Charlotte’s Omni Shoreham Hotel, was shot by a young black man whose motives are still not clear. He died after receiving last rites from his pastor, Father Carl Del Giudice.

His mother, Vivian, told the Register that her son came downtown to protest peacefully with one goal in mind: He wanted to draw attention to society’s treatment of African-Americans in Charlotte and the rest of the United States — just as his grandmother had done during the 1960s’ civil-rights movement.

“He was fighting for a cause and for what he believed in,” Vivian told the Register.

The aftermath of Carr’s death and others like it showed many Catholics, particularly minorities, looking toward the institutional Church for leadership on issues of race. The Diocese of Charlotte became one of many dioceses in 2016 that came face-to-face with the realization that the Church needed to do more to actively help society heal its racial wounds and address the root causes of violence in communities.

Thanks to the work of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Special Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities, U.S. bishops and the faithful in parishes have a blueprint, with the January release of a 29-page report.

The 20-member task force was led by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, who presented the task force’s findings to the bishops at last November’s general assembly in Baltimore. Archbishop Gregory is one of eight black prelates in the Church in the United States.

In his presentation, Archbishop Gregory explained that while the USCCB’s past statements on race were an important foundation, the special task force found they were “not sufficient” for the Church, which was being called upon to actively involve itself in communities with its “bold prophetic voice.”

Special Task Force Report

The task force report made general recommendations for both dioceses and the USCCB that outlined how they could make a long-term commitment to addressing the root problems of race relations, systemic racism and violence in communities. Archbishop Gregory stressed to bishops in November that the task force’s recommendations were “ongoing” and not intended to provide “one-time solutions.”

The report outlined how dioceses and the bishops’ conference could take effective action. Among its recommendations were prayer throughout the year, including Masses, Rosaries, ecumenical and interfaith services, and having bishops convene and host local dialogues that could bring together disparate community members, religious representatives, youth and members of law enforcement. It recommended parish-based and diocesan-based initiatives to educate the faithful, clergy and church staff on race relations and related issues, and foster opportunities for them to see firsthand the challenges in their own and others’ communities and understand how the Church can act.

The task force also encouraged both the USCCB and diocesan bishops to identify ways the Catholic Campaign for Human Development could be used to support their efforts.

It also recommended the USCCB expedite a statement on racism in society from the full body of bishops; develop closer collaboration on civil rights between various USCCB offices and key groups, such as the National Black Catholic Congress; and make the National Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities an annual event.

As well, the report conveyed the views of law enforcement representatives, who said the Church could provide a forum for police and community members to talk, encourage police departments to become more transparent, use its voice to hold public servants accountable, and work with law enforcement to care for the neighborhoods surrounding their churches.

The task force report also noted the Church must examine its own actions, including its hiring practices and the impact on the communities of the closing of parishes and schools.

Bishops Empowered

The report was greeted by bishops at the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore, particularly by bishops who have been already engaged in healing race relations and violence in communities.

“I welcome it. It’s exactly what we should be doing as bishops,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told the Register. Baltimore was struck by civil unrest after the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man killed while in police custody. Archbishop Lori explained that “deep and systemic problems” were afflicting the city, and the protests following Gray’s death heightened his awareness that the Church needs to re-engage, listen and work closely with the community to solve these issues. The “pool of resources and wisdom” in the task force report, he said, would aid their own ongoing efforts in Baltimore and help them evaluate where they are going.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, also told the Register that the report’s “objectives are on target.”

In March 2016, Bishop Baker’s diocese co-hosted a major ecumenical and interfaith discussion on racial reconciliation with Samford University. Bishop Baker said that conference helped him understand “the divide is deeper than we thought,” but also showed they could begin to bridge the divide by praying together, developing the art of listening, and having discussion, not debate. He praised Bishop Edward K. Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, who “vocalized major flaws in our culture and in our Catholic response,” as well as Archbishop Anthony Obinna of Owerri, Nigeria, who presented how to reconcile black and white Americans as sons and daughters of the same God, with a theology he called “reconfiliation.”

Bishop Baker explained his own listening sessions between black Catholics and white Catholics showed him how the “white flight” from the city centers harmed racial integration to the point that “we’re really still segregated in many ways by where we live.” Changes in the law, he said, did not mean hearts had changed. He has been encouraging parish partnerships to host events together in order to build relationships that can bridge the divide between black and white.

“My only concern is how slow we are to move on things,” he said.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago told the Register the task force helped convince bishops that the Church “is a respected convener … in the midst of trauma, tragedy, even violence, to sponsor a sense of calm and bring people to their senses again.”

The bishop said the Church has to strengthen its efforts to catechize and raise up the family, while recognizing that it may not get “much cooperation from the larger society.”

However, Bishop Perry, who is the postulator for the cause of Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton, the first black Catholic priest in the U.S., also added that those efforts could have a powerful boost if the Church canonized its first African-American saint from the six men and women already under consideration.

“If we had an African-American saint, it would message to African-Americans that we have finally arrived in the Church, that we finally have something to offer, that holiness is possible from amongst those of our ethnic stripe, that the contribution we have been making to the Church for several hundred years is finally recognized,” he said.

Parishes: A Powerful Force

Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, a consultant on the task force, told the Register that the local Church should not be afraid to get involved in these issues. Parishes in particular, he said, can be a “powerful force” to transform people’s lives and heal communities.

“The Church and pastors are trusted in neighborhoods to bring together different constituencies,” he said. Bishop O’Connell, who has worked with gang members and sheriffs in the Los Angeles area to build relationships, said the parish can likewise provide similar opportunities to build bridges. Above all, he said, it was vital to bring people in the community together to pray.

“We did the work of evangelization by bringing people closer to Jesus,” he said, “bringing them together as sons and daughters of God.”

The bishop said Pope Francis has been calling parishioners to get more involved in their neighborhoods and become more present in the lives of their neighbors, many of whom are experiencing brokenness and a lack of love in their own families. This lack of love, he said, can put an 11-year-old down a path of drugs, gangs and “looking for love in the wrong places to heal pain.”

But the local Church, he said, through its parishes and schools, can really transform a community by helping people to become good husbands and fathers and wives and mothers, heal family ties, and teach them to pray — particularly as a family. A Catholic community that is engaged with a pregnant single mother from the beginning of her “wonderful pregnancy” — because the life inside her is precious in the eyes of God — can create a completely different narrative for a child’s life, as well.

People in their communities, Bishop O’Connell said, need the local Church to take up that challenge.

“They need the love of Jesus and the love of Mary.”

Bishop Burbidge’s MLK Day Visit

Photos from Bishop Burbidge’s visit to St. Joseph’s for MLK Day.

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A Christmas Blessing from the Josephites


During Advent, the church helps us prepare for Christmas.

The Mass readings are familiar. The hymns and carols retell the Christmas story.

We hear about Mary and the baby in the manger. We hear about the Shepherds and the Three Kings and even Angels.

What about Joseph? How does he fit into the story of Christmas?

Joseph is an important person. But he is often silent, in the background, taking care of essential things.

When I think about my Josephite brothers serving in parishes, schools and special ministries in the African American community all across the county I see much of St. Joseph in them.

They lead parish communities, lift up new leaders for our church and communities, they teach the faith with words and deeds. They offer inspiration to children and hope to the elderly.

We Josephites are there going about our work quietly, prayerfully and successfully.

At this Christmas, I want to thank my Josephite brothers for the many gifts that they share with our church, our people and our communities. They inspire us to be filled with hope especially when confronted with significant challenges in the African American community.

I also want to express my appreciation to the thousands of donors who support our ministry throughout the year. Your generosity is a blessing to the Josephites. Your contributions provide for essential needs in parish communities.

Your support gives us the resources to care for the elderly and infirm Josephites who have served for many decades.

Also, your contributions help us to prepare future generations of Josephite priests and brothers who will be joining our ranks in the coming years.

This Christmas I take comfort and joy in knowing that so many are sharing their gifts with us as we minister in the African American community.

Please know that you and your special intentions will be remembered in the Josephite Novena of Christmas Masses.

Because of you, we can join the choir of angels in singing Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to all people.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a hopeful New Year.