Louisiana Senate Declares Annual ‘St. Joseph the Worker Day’ Statewide
Beginning in 2022, Louisiana will recognize May 1 of each year as St. Joseph the Worker Day
In 1955, Pope Pius XII added a new feast day to the Church calendar: He declared May 1 as the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. The feast corresponded with the Communist-inspired International Workers’ Day (May Day), and served to remind the world that Christianity finds dignity in labor. The spirit flows to men from the heart of Christ, Pope Pius XII explained, “but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work.”
Now, 66 years later, the state of Louisiana has joined with the Catholic Church in honoring St. Joseph as a model for workers. Beginning May 1, 2022, Louisiana will recognize May 1 of each year as St. Joseph the Worker Day. The State Senate also formally recognized the Year of St. Joseph, as declared by Pope Francis in his apostolic letter Patris Corde(With a Father’s Heart), and expressed their appreciation for all working men and women in the state.
State Senator Fred Mills submitted Senate Resolution 116, which called for the state “to recognize May first of each calendar year as St. Joseph the Worker day in Louisiana; to commemorate the ‘Year of St. Joseph;’ and on May first of each calendar year, to recognize and appreciate the dignity of all working men and women in Louisiana.”
The resolution was passed May 25 and enrolled June 1. Senator Mills, who is Catholic, said of the resolution, “There is an authentic passion and zeal in spreading this St. Joseph devotion in Louisiana that I have personally witnessed. I was grateful to be a part of memorializing this effort at the state level for generations to come!”
The resolution outlined reasons why Louisiana should adopt a St. Joseph the Worker Day, drawing on Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Patris Corde, as well as an 1870 directive from Pope Pius IX, who proclaimed Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. It cited the Litany of St. Joseph, which was introduced by Pope Pius X in 1909 — highlighting Joseph’s titles, privileges and heroic virtues, and citing Joseph’s important role in protecting the Child Jesus, as described in the Scriptures.
The resolution described Father Michael Champagne’s “Exodus 290 St. Joseph Pilgrimage” — a 290-mile pilgrimage within the state of Louisiana which encouraged the faithful to retrace the same distance Joseph traveled in the Bible, which is approximately 290 miles, by visiting 14 churches in the Diocese of Lafayette that are dedicated to St. Joseph, and culminating at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, the seat of the Lafayette diocese.
The resolution explained, further, that Father Donald Calloway, Father Michael Champagne and others had urged Pope Francis to declare a Year of St. Joseph — and that the Holy Father had done so Dec. 8, 2020, which was the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
How Did Such a Catholic Bill Pass in a Secular Society?
Father Donald Calloway, a member of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, is the author of Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father (Marian Press, 2020). Father Calloway was candid about his surprise that the resolution gained momentum. “I didn't even know that it would be a possibility,” he said. He credited Louisiana native Jennifer Angelle with coming up with the idea, then carrying it forward. “She’s a powerhouse of energy to get things done,” he explained. “She began having conversations with people I didn't know, then she said, ‘Let’s write this up.’”
Jennifer Angelle, who initiated the project, wrote most of the text, inserting the appropriate political language such as “Whereas,” and Father Calloway, together with Father Michael Champagne, Superior of the Community of Jesus Crucified and creator of a pilgrimage honoring St. Joseph within the diocese of Lafayette, helped to proofread and to fill in details about St. Joseph.
Jennifer and her husband Glenn Angelle own and operate a company called “Hugs from Heaven,” which produces cloth dolls of Jesus and Mary to comfort children. Part of the goal of her company is to give back, and with that commitment, she began purchasing copies of Father Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph to give away.
“Through Hugs from Heaven,” Jennifer told the Register, “we’ve given away over 500 of his books to those who expressed interest or who couldn't afford a copy of their own.”
The couple created a Facebook group called Louisiana Consecration to St. Joseph, where they continue to promote Father Calloway’s mission for St. Joseph. There has been a groundswell of interest, Jennifer reported, and to date more than 1,000 people have participated in the online Consecration.
Jennifer Angelle took her proposed resolution to her friend, State Senator Fred Mills. Senator Mills is a devout Catholic, as is Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. In fact, Jennifer reported, in her area people sometimes call the Lafayette diocese “the second Holy Land” because the area is predominantly Catholic, more than in the rest of the United States.
That Catholic population, and the respect engendered by the Catholic Church in the area, undoubtedly contributed to the resolution’s positive reception in the State Senate.
Looking to the Future
While Resolution No. 116 was officially approved only this month, it will bring celebrations on May 1, 2022, and every year thereafter.
Angelle, acknowledging the wide-reaching effect of the Resolution, said:
“This is far beyond anything I could do alone. It’s the work and perseverance of the Holy Spirit. We are simple people in a small town, taking small steps live our lives better each day — not perfect, but continually trying to share our God-given gifts where we can. Being part of this movement brought much comfort through some tough months of COVID.
“St. Joseph’s life magnifies virtuous living and the fruits, seen and unseen, that result. That’s inspiring to me!
“But Father Calloway gets all the credit for his ‘yes’ to doing the laborious research, ensuring publication and his tireless promotion on the global scene. His gift is in teaching and encouraging all to be brave and to lean into the faith. He is a true leader unafraid of getting in the foxhole of spiritual battles — knowing people need more than just preaching but actual tools to help overcome — ‘dragon slayers,’ as he says, armed with the spiritual swords! This book and devotion became a spiritual asset during a tough time in the world — providential timing! With over a million copies sold in the last year, there is no doubt he is turning people’s eyes to Jesus in hope, mercy and love.
“People recognize and are drawn to [Father Calloway’s] genuineness, and this groundswell caught fire here in Louisiana — and it meshed perfectly with the work of other local Catholic leaders like Father Michael Champagne and Bishop Deshotels, Senator Fred Mills along with pro-life Governor John Bel Edwards and his wife First Lady Donna Edwards — and we like to think God’s light burns extra bright in the people of Louisiana! We recognize genuine goodness and are quick to cheerlead! The message of St. Joseph is an essential part of the greater glory story of Divine Mercy of the Marians.”
Jennifer spoke for her husband and herself when she expressed her gratitude that they were able to collaborate with Father Calloway, with local leaders, state officials and bishops, to do their small part in Louisiana to tell the story. “We are humble,” she said, “yet stand very proud to be the first in the USA — and we want to encourage other states to do the same!”
Father Calloway shared Angelle’s enthusiasm for the resolution, and expressed hope for the future. “People are recognizing that we are having a lot of problems in families,” he said.
“There’s difficulty within the family unit,” he said, “the building block of society. Bringing attention to St. Joseph demonstrates that there’s something really important about fatherhood, about being a good man. In this challenging work situation with COVID, people are realizing that there is a connection between family and work. If we combine these two things, maybe we can get back to where we were before COVID — and that would apply nationwide.”
“The key part,” he continued, “is that the whole world knows that we’re in the Year of St. Joseph. Many people are familiar with the Pope’s declaration. Now Louisiana is leading the way, and maybe other states can ask themselves, ‘What can we do? What could we implement in our school or our workplace?’” It's his hope that other, like-minded projects will emerge.