By Paul Thompson
March 18, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – For those who continue the St. Joseph’s Table legacy, it’s all about tradition.
The tradition began generations ago, in Sicily. In the throes of a severe drought, the townspeople prayed to St. Joseph, hoping he would appeal to God to bring much-needed rain to the area. If the rain came, the people promised, they would hold a special feast in his honor. So it is that on March 19 of every year, parishes with Italian roots put together St. Joseph’s Tables.
In Kansas City, the tradition is upheld by the St. Anthony and Holy Rosary Catholic Churches, among others. St. Anthony’s Father Paul Turner told the Northeast News on Saturday, March 18 about how the parish interprets the St. Joseph’s Table origin story.
“They prayed to St. Joseph for rains, and they got a good crop that year, so they promised that the poor would never go hungry,” said Turner. “That started a tradition of creating a lot of food on the feast day of St. Joseph, March 19.”
At St. Anthony (3208 Lexington), the public is invited to view the table – and purchase a variety of baked goods – until 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night. Then on Sunday morning, following 9:00 a.m. mass, the table will be blessed, a traditional Pasta Milanese meal will be served, and more cannolis, cookies, and specialty Italian doughnuts. At Holy Rosary (910 Pacific), the St. Joseph’s Table is open for viewing from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on March 18. Pasta will be also be served at Holy Rosary from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on March 19.
All of the proceeds from food sales at the annual event at St. Anthony go to benefit a variety of charities, including area schools, boy scout troops, and service organizations. And there is plenty of food to go around. Volunteers from all over come to the church to donate their time, effort, and baking expertise. Turner, for one, said that he’s heartened by the dedication of those who work to the St. Joseph’s Table a reality.
“I like the spirit that’s underneath it; they want to give thanks for the benefits that they receive,” said Turner. “They give untold hours to make all of this happen. For the last eight weeks or so, there have been people down here four days a week baking cookies, preparing all of the decorations, getting everything ready to go.”
To those who so generously offer to help, the St. Joseph’s Table tradition is a hallmark event that serves to bring families closer together. Anna LaPuma recalled how her mother used to corral the family into helping put the table together every year at St. Anthony.
“She would say, ‘Come and pick me up,’ and I would be working at the hospital. I’d say, ‘Mom, I’ve got to go home, I’ve got stuff to do,'” remembers LaPuma. “She’d say, ‘Well, when you ask St. Joseph to do something for you, he’s going to say he’s got too much to do.'”
“She just really enjoyed doing it,” LaPuma added. “A lot of times she walked from Prospect to come to the church here.”
Since her mother’s passing, LaPuma and several members of the family have pitched in as a token of remembrance.
“When she died 11 years ago, I promised I was going to help as long as I feel good,” LaPuma said. “So I came, and then I got my sister to come, and my other sister, then my sister-in-law.”
By 2017, it has become akin to a family affair.
“It kind of keeps us together with my mom, too,” said sister Nicoletta Oliver. “It just keeps her fresh in our memory.”