“Go to Joseph:” The Parish “Gateway to the Grand Canyon” welcomes pilgrims for one more month before the end of the year of Saint Joseph


By Tony Gutiérrez, The Catholic Sun

WILLIAMS, Arizona – About 5 million tourists pass through this small town just east of Flagstaff known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon,” its other claim to fame being the last town on Historic Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40 But for another month, Catholic tourists and others can also be pilgrims.

On June 22 of this year, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted officially declared Williams’ only Catholic Church – St. Joseph the Worker Parish – the official place of pilgrimage for the Diocese of Phoenix during the Year of St. Joseph. ending on December 8 of this year, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Pastor P. Thielo Ramirez “and his parishioners were more than happy to welcome pilgrims. From all I can tell, they have done a great job in showing Christian hospitality, ”Bishop Olmsted told the Sun in an email. “The Year of St. Joseph offers a golden opportunity to learn from the Foster Father of Jesus how to be servants of the Son of God in the ordinary circumstances of our lives, whether in a carpentry workshop or wherever we work and support our families. “

According to the decree, “for the spiritual well-being of the people of God and to promote greater devotion among the faithful to Saint Joseph”, the pilgrims who visit the parish and kneel before the altar and the statue of Saint Joseph and “pray with fervor” are also granted to him a plenary indulgence, once the three usual conditions have been met: to go to Confession and to Holy Communion, interiorly detached from sin, and to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.

According to the Code of Canon Law, an indulgence is “a surrender before God of the temporal punishment for sin, the guilt of which is already forgiven” (992). A plenary indulgence is a remission of any penalty and can apply to oneself or to a deceased person.

“We receive a lot of visitors who come to mass, which is a great testimony. I thought it would be a great opportunity while they are here to make it an official place of pilgrimage and to receive the graces that go with it ”, said Fr. Ramirez, who is pastor of Saint Joseph, with St. Anne Parish in Ash Fork and St. Francis Parish in Seligman.

When Fr. Ramirez was diagnosed with COVID-19 last year, he found himself reflecting on the example of the patron of his parish, noting that Saint Joseph has no words recorded in the scriptures but that he was great “because of his listening in silence”.

“The greatest thing I could do for my people was to bond, to pray, and to uplift my people in prayer. Everything had to be rooted in this silence, in this intimacy with our Lord, ”he declared.

Pilgrims’ journey

As pilgrims walk inside the narthex, they are greeted by a “rustic” stature of Saint Joseph the Worker holding carpentry tools. As you enter the church, the Saint Joseph altar is located to the right and just in front of the sanctuary. This statue represents Joseph as the fastest father of Jesus, holding him in his arms and carrying a staff topped with lilies, a symbol of his purity. In front of the statue is a vase of flowers, a copy of the decree, a guest book and copies of the Litanies to Saint Joseph and other prayers that pilgrims should pray when they venerate the statue.

“The beauty of the saints is that they always point us to the Lord, not just to themselves,” said Fr. Ramirez. “I think all of these statues and images are very important in our spiritual life because our minds tend to wander, and we need all of this help.”

Parishioners Pat and Sue Beckham moved to Williams last June from Oregon, and he immediately got to work helping his new ward prepare to welcome pilgrims. He and other parishioners moved the statue – which stood near the tabernacle – to its temporary location.

“I am delighted to be a part of it,” he said. “If anyone wants to pray there, I will be happy to do so with them. It is a good thing to do. It was truly insightful to realize that Saint Joseph is a big part of our Christian heritage.

Pat has a deep devotion to Saint Joseph and considers him a “great model of a father” and “a man whom I would like to be like. When I hear stories about him, I think that’s the way God wanted fathers to be.

In the attic of the choir is a giant stained glass window of the Holy Family which – with the light of the attic on – can be seen from outside at night. Joseph has his arms wrapped around Mary and Jesus. Above them is another window – a circle containing the traditional image of St. Joseph: a lily and a carpenter’s square, although the square is made of metal.

“It’s a very modern representation of a carpenter’s square,” noted Fr. Ramirez. “The idea is that even today, in modern times, Saint Joseph has something to say about family life, listening to God and being a virtuous and strong man.

Carol Delander, a former parish secretary who has attended Saint Joseph for 45 years, provided the guest book for the pilgrims to sign. As of November 5, the church had received 129 pilgrims who signed the book.

Of those who provided their locations, 73 were from the Diocese of Phoenix and five were from the Diocese of Tucson. For those in the diocese, 41 came from the valley, 10 from Mohave County, two from Yavapai County and the rest from Coconino.

Thirty-nine pilgrims came from out of state, the vast majority – 21 – from California. Other pilgrims came from Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas.

“They come from across the state and out of state. As a tourist town we have a lot of tourists attending Mass here, so we are really honored that this is happening as well, ”said Delander. “We want to welcome people to come.”

Example of Saint Joseph

A table in the narthex features a collection of light blue T-shirts depicting a line drawing of Joseph holding Jesus. Parishioner Lea Echeverria designed the shirt as a way to promote the pilgrimage and as a parish fundraiser.

Bro. Ramirez said he chose a simple design “to show the simplicity of Saint Joseph, and really the simplicity of our life here in Williams. We are a bit isolated. We entertain a lot of visitors, even, in a simple way. I wanted something very simple to showcase our life here.

Echeverria started designing and making t-shirts as a hobby when the COVID-19 pandemic began, she said. With her newfound talent, she approached Fr. Ramirez.

“I just really wanted to do something to give back because it’s such a small ward, and I wanted to volunteer my time and do something good for them,” she said. “People can buy the shirt and take it with them, and people can connect with their memories when they visited the parish.”

Echeverria, who grew up in Flagstaff, has attended St. Joseph’s School with her husband and three children for 15 years. She also turned to the patron of the parish for intercession and guidance.

“Over the years, being married, I have always had a devotion to Saint Joseph, simply praying for my husband and asking him to help guide our family,” she said.

In his apostolic letter proclaiming the Year of Saint Joseph, Pope Francis underlined Joseph’s identity as a father, which is found in his title “Patris Corde”Or“ With a father’s heart. ”

“Above all, we men can learn from Saint Joseph to be fathers,” said Bishop Olmsted. “Wherever he was, in exile in Egypt or in his carpentry workshop in Nazareth, Joseph courageously – but lovingly – protected, worked and cared for the Son of God and his mother. May we men follow his example.

Pilgrimages are intrinsically associated with travel, making Williams a great place, says Fr. Ramirez, noting that even in the area, people sometimes travel two hours to get to the grocery store, see a doctor, or visit their home. family and their friends. Ultimately, a pilgrimage is a journey to Jesus Christ, he said.

Almost every time that Saint Joseph is represented in the Holy Scriptures, he is “on the move”, Fr. Ramirez added. In fact, Saint Joseph took Mary with him to Bethlehem, fled to Egypt, returned to Nazareth and was finally seen during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover.

“This physical journey to something else helps us to journey inwardly to the Lord – the sacrifices that come with it, the hardships, the inconveniences, all of those things that we can offer to the Lord and allow our hearts to become more loving and loving. in a more intimate union with Him ”, declared Fr. Ramirez.

More resources on the year of Saint-Joseph


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