“O St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus Christ and true spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray for us and for the suffering and dying of this day/night.”
The short prayer above focuses on one of St. Joseph’s specialties: Among his many titles, he is patron of the dying. The prayer is the official prayer of the Pious Union of St. Joseph, which marks its 25th anniversary in the United States this year.
In 1987, the late Father Germano Pegoraro of the Servants of Charity started the union in this country, and by 1992, the union was established in Grass Lake, Mich., at the invitation of Bishop Kenneth Povish of Lansing, Mich.
That same year, the Pious Union started building a shrine to St. Joseph, which today draws more than 40 busloads of pilgrims on his March 19 feast day. Every day the head of the Holy Family is honored by members of the Pious Union of St. Joseph around the world.
There are more than 1 million international members.
The Pious Union was founded in Italy by St. Louis Guanella, who was canonized in October 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.
Father Guanella founded two congregations — the Servants of Charity for priests and brothers and the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence for nuns — to care for the mentally handicapped, poor and aged. They still do.
Father Guanella worked with St. John Bosco.
With his own special devotion to and unswerving trust in St. Joseph, St. Louis formed the Pious Union after Pope St. Pius X asked him to pray for the abandoned and neglected people of Italy.
“Your idea has been inspired by God,” the Pope told him.
St. Pius X (who was born a Joseph, Giuseppe Sarto) canonically established and declared the Pious Union a “Primary Confraternity” in 1914.
He wrote: “We desire to make known how much we appreciate this most praiseworthy association, and we wish our name to be the first inscribed among the members of the same.”
With the Holy Father as the first official member, the Pious Union quickly grew.
In America, it continues to grow. This year the shrine will expand and double its worship area.
It includes a Calvary Shrine and Lourdes Shrine to further help people pray for the sick, suffering and dying.
“We all suffer,” says Sister Margaret Schissler, a Daughter of St. Mary of Providence and program director of the Pious Union of St. Joseph and the shrine in Michigan. “It’s not just physical.
“We lose relationships, jobs, fail a test. Any loss in our life is a suffering. You’re not going to be without suffering.”
But God gives the grace to deal with suffering.
In the case of the dying, the shrine has a beautiful painting by Father Pegoraro of St. Joseph dying, with Jesus and Mary at his bedside.
The Pious Union also promotes the Holy Cloak Novena in honor of Joseph — 30 days of prayer which represents the 30 years Jesus lived with Joseph.
“Joseph is patron of the universal Church and guardian of families,” said Sister Margaret.
“He took care of the Holy Family. Who else better to pray to than him? He’s going to take care of our family too.
“And there’s no better saint to pray to for peace, tranquility, guidance and wisdom.”