The 2022 Italian American Heritage Society sponsored St. Joseph Altar took place on March 20th, 2022, at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Birmingham, Alabama. This event, honoring our patron Saint Joseph was a huge success! Over 300 people attended this old, Sicilian tradition that dates back to the late 1800’s. The tradition honors St. Joseph for his intervention in a famine that happened in Sicily.

During that time, the people prayed to St. Joseph for rain to relieve a draught that caused no crops to grow. In fact, the only crop that grew was the fave bean, which at that time was used as fodder for livestock. The rain did fall and people built altars with their new bounty of food to thank St. Joseph for his intervention. Today, St. Joseph Altars are built to thank St. Joseph for favors granted or to ask for his intervention.

The three tiers of the altar represent the Holy Trinity, and the altar is decorated with fruits, vegetables, breads, cookies and Italian dishes. After the Altar is blessed, the people are invited to partake of the food. Donations are made and the money is given to those in need. This year, monies collected were given to the Bishop’s Diocesan Fund to the People of Ukraine. Food that was left over was given to First Light, a women and childrens’ shelter, and canned goods collected were given to the Birmingham Catholic Center of Concern.