A Bounty of Blessings: MCA’s St. Joseph Altar

Madison Leze

The St. Joseph’s Altar has been and still is very important to Catholics in New Orleans. This tradition originated during the 1800’s because of Sicilian immigrants who suffered from a great famine, praying for relief from hunger to St. Joseph. Many of these immigrants eventually arrived in New Orleans, where they found their basic needs cared for. Since the immigrants escaped suffering from starvation, they showed their gratitude by setting up a lavish altar to St. Joseph every year on March 19th.

Today, these altars are still made of delicious foods which will later be given to those who suffer from hunger. These altars are created both by families and religious organizations; they can be found all around the city, even at Mount Carmel. MCA’s altar was donated to Ozanam Inn, an organization run by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which offers shelter and food to the needy of New Orleans.

At Mount Carmel, the St. Joseph’s Altar was beautiful and consisted of many Italian foods. Visiting alumna Erica Rodriguez said, “This year’s altar is one of the most elaborate ones I have seen in a couple of years.”

When looking at the table, some icons which caught the eye were the three holy statues that are standing in the back: St. Joseph holding a baby Jesus, Mary holding a baby Jesus, and Jesus. All around the table, there were loaves of bread made into intricate designs and objects, such as a chalice and a fish, to symbolize Jesus. The table also consisted of cookies, spaghetti, fruits, and vegetables too. There were balloons that were hanging around the table, that are red, green, and white, and an Italian flag was hung above the table. Also, there were red, green, and white candles that added a lovely look to the altar. Current Mount Carmel student Niki Bountovinas noted, “The altar this year was very pretty, colorful, and detailed.”

After visitors were done viewing the altar, he or she received a bag with bread, an Italian cookie, a prayer card, and a lucky fava bean. The lucky bean that is given to people is made to be carried with someone at all times, so he or she is always provided them with good luck.

As we give thanks to St. Joseph by creating an altar to provide food to the poor, let us as a Mount Carmel community, give thanks to Mrs. Buras and all the students and clubs who contributed help to the St. Joseph’s altar this year!

Scroll through our photo gallery of the altar below!