On May 1, Catholics across the state of Louisiana celebrated the first official “St. Joseph the Worker Day” – honoring Jesus’ earthly foster father, while also honoring the important contributions of laborers from across the state. The special day was established last year with Louisiana Senate Resolution 116, which was passed in the State Senate on May 25, 2021, and unanimously adopted one week later, on June 1.
Inspired by Joseph the Worker as a model for all working men and women, Resolution 116 points to virtues such as patience, peacefulness, prudence, protector, provider, and prayerfulness. The resolution uses historical points and sacred scripture to ultimately call for the elevation and celebration of all of Louisiana’s working men and women each year on May 1.
This year, more than 100 Louisiana workers, leaders of the faith community, and dignitaries joined together for the St. Joseph the Worker Prayer Breakfast on Friday, April 29, in celebration of this resolution and this new designation. The inaugural celebration was hosted at Buck and Johnny’s “Glassroom” in downtown Breaux Bridge, LA. The event acknowledged the important contributions of military, educators, first responders, health care providers, energy workers, barbers and beauticians, fishermen and farmers, auto mechanics and restaurant workers, finance, banking and insurance industry workers, administrative staff, and religious clergy.
Former Lieutenant Governor Scott A. Angelle delivered a special tribute to the most important vocation of all, motherhood. Two area priests – Fr. Nicholas DuPré, pastor of St. Joseph Church and St. Louis Mission Chapel in Parks, Louisiana; and Fr. John Joseph Bourque, CSJ, from the Community of Jesus Crucified – offered blessings and words of inspiration.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards penned a letter of welcome to attendees at the St. Joseph the Worker Prayer Breakfast, recognizing citizens who model the dignity of a strong work ethic and who show kindness to others. He thanked them for their faith and honor to St. Joseph, who has been described as an obedient, loving and courageous father, and cited Matthew 1:19, which “attests that he was a righteous man.”
John L. Weimer, Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, was unable to attend the breakfast but sent his warmest wishes and thanks to the state’s working people, explaining,
My parents operated a family-owned Mom and Pop service station until my mother tragically passed away, leaving my father to raise five children, aged 9-3, on his own. I grew up working in that service station as a kid. I learned the value of hard work, the virtue of honesty, and how vitally important it is to treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their station in life. I also learned how gratifying it is to be of service to others and to help resolve someone’s problems.
Chief Justice Weimer went on to tell of his own experience during college and law school, working menial and often dangerous jobs on the rigs offshore and on the boats plying the rivers and bayous of Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico – often working 30-day shifts. “I will never forget the hardworking and brave individuals I met,” Weimer said, “who spent so much time away from their families in order to supply this nation with the energy to prosper.”
Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills Jr., a Catholic who submitted Senate Resolution 116 last year, said of the resolution, “I have personally witnessed an authentic passion and zeal in spreading this model for working men and women across the State of Louisiana. I am grateful to be a part of memorializing St. Joseph the Worker Day in Louisiana for generations to come.”
Louisiana Speaker of the House Clay Schnexnayder attended the celebration and shared his own story of the integrity of work, as a mechanic himself. He pointed to the value of hard work, saying,
Although the genesis of this resolution is based on a Catholic worldwide movement – it has indeed birthed a new day for Louisiana to focus, celebrate and give honor to our work force, regardless of religion, race, creed or political parties. I fully support and it’s long overdue.
Since the fourteenth century, the Catholic Church has honored St. Joseph as the husband of the Virgin Mary and legal father of Jesus each year on March 19, traditionally thought to be the day of his death. In 1870, he was declared patron of the universal church by Pope Pius IX. In 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted a second feast on May 1, honoring St. Joseph in his role as worker because, as the pontiff explained, “no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated [by the Spirit] than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with him in close intimacy and community of family life and work.” The pope chose the May 1 date to directly counter the “May Day” celebration for workers sponsored by the communists.
May 1 is also a major celebrated holiday in Europe, known as International Workers’ Day or, in some countries, as Labour Day or “May Day.” The holiday was established in 1889 by Second International, an organization of socialist and labour parties. It was celebrated by anarchists, labor activists, and leftists in general around the world, commemorating the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago and the demand for an eight-hour working day.
The passage of Louisiana’s resolution honoring St. Joseph the Worker was the result of a collaborative effort by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, Jennifer Picard Angelle (owner of Hugs from Heaven, a company which produces cloth dolls of Jesus and Mary to comfort children), Fr. Michael Champagne (Superior of the Community of Jesus Crucified), former Lieut. Governor Scott A. Angelle, and Louisiana Senator Fred Mills, Jr. The organizers hope that this year’s inaugural celebration will encourage and spark additional events state-wide in the coming years.
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