St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church is the second oldest church in Brantford and its history goes back a full 135 years. In 1880, at the site of the current presbytery, the Protestant Church of St. Andrew’s was built. In 1937, the Polish community bought the building and consecrated it to the worship of God as the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph. Since 1947, the parish has been under the jurisdiction and spiritual care of the Congregation of the Resurrection. There are approximately 800 registered families in this community which comprises more than 2,000 faithful. As a response to the promptings of the Second Vatican Council, St. Joseph’s Parish endeavors to prophetically read the signs of the times and to meet the new challenges of our modern age. In order to do this, the parish family has formed new apostolates and pastoral ministries to take care of the spiritual needs of the faithful. These new spiritual initiatives of the past decade are reflected externally in the thorough restoration of both the church and the parish hall where the community worships and gathers for fellowships.
In 2011, our parish family celebrated its 75th anniversary. The solemn Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton – Douglas Crosby. He was assisted by Bishop Matthew Ustrzycki and numerous diocesan and religious clergy. Also present were representatives of governmental and Polish communities and many of the faithful. We sang the Te Deum – We praise thee, O God – in thanksgiving for God’s providential care in overlooking the church of St. Joseph for the past 75 years. The Gala Banquet that followed added much splendor to the celebrations.
Preparations are already under way for our next celebration in 2016, the 80th Anniversary of the church. Our plans include, among other things, a commemorative edition of the parish family album. We have invited the bishop nominate, Wesley Spiewak CR, who will be ordained as the new bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton in Bermuda on October 1st, 2015 to preside over our solemn Mass. Our guest has accepted the invitation, but as of today, a date has not yet been specified. All members of our parish are greatly overjoyed that our church will be able to host the first Polish Resurrectionist bishop. Naturally you can visit the parish website to see an interview with Father Wesley and his curriculum vitae at www.brantfordcr.com/multimedia.
The many hopes and dreams of our physically challenged parishioners and of those who are in the autumn of their lives became a reality in the year of our Lord 2015. After having experienced many difficulties and burdensome obstacles, our commissioned elevator was finally opened for public use on April 2nd. Since that time, people with disabilities as well as the elderly can participate more fully in the life of our parish.
Amongst the many devotions that the Parish of St. Joseph celebrates during the liturgical year, there is one that is especially dear to us, one that has been celebrated by many Catholics in Brantford for nearly 10 years. It is the Corpus Christi procession. Starting out at our church, we walk down some neighbouring streets of the city, stopping at four altars along the way, and end with a solemn benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of St. Basil. Many local priests, altar servers, First Communion girls who toss flower petals, members of various organizations (Knights of Columbus, ladies of Catholic Women’s League, the Rosary Sodality) and parishioners from various churches of the Deanery of Brant participate in this lovely procession which has become a well-loved and well-established tradition. During the procession, Eucharistic hymns are sung and four Gospels are read in English and Polish.
Because of all the new ministries which have recently been formed at our parish, St. Joseph’s Vocation Team has been praying for new vocations. “The harvest is great but the laborers are few” – words spoken 21 centuries
ago by Christ, are especially relevant in North America today where the continent suffers from a lack of priests to work in the vineyard of the Lord. The Congregation of the Resurrection strongly feels the need for new religious vocations in order to continue its mission, therefore all our prayers for this intention are very important. In May of this year, our St. Joseph’s Vocation Team invited some of their peers to attend a youth retreat. To learn more about the activities of this group, you are welcome to watch two short videos posted on the parish website, www.brantfordcr.com, in the media section. In the English version, they are presented under the name “St. Joseph’s Vocation Team” and “Go Glow Youth Retreat”. The Polish version is under the name “Młodzieżowa Grupa Powołaniowa” and “Bądźcie Światłem”.
This year, the Resurrectionist priests and brothers who minister in the Province of Ontario-Kentucky founded a new Lay Associate Program called “Apostles of the Resurrection”.
This program was born out of their desire to collaborate more fully with lay people and to respond to their desire to have a deeper lived experience of “Resurrecting Society”. As Resurrectionists, we invite lay people to live out their vocation to holiness by sharing in our Resurrectionist spirituality and to work with us for the resurrection of our modern-day society by embracing our Charism and Mission in their everyday lives, as well as by participating in our Resurrectionist ministries. In order to commit more fully to this call to holiness, a lay person may wish to become a Lay Associate – an Apostle of the Resurrection.
To our great delight, three of our parishioners have expressed a desire to join this newly-formed Lay Associate Program. If anyone else feels drawn to explore this Program, offered by the Congregation of the Resurrection, please contact a parish priest or visit the Resurrectionist website www. resurrectionists.ca/lay-associate where, under the tab “Apostles’ Handbook”, you will find more information on this topic in English. Some information is also available on the parish website www.brantfordcr.com/Resurrectionist.
Finally, there is yet one other occasion for rejoicing. The parish of St. Joseph in Brantford has been preparing a long time, with indescribable enthusiasm, for World Youth Day. This great event will take place from July 16 to 31, 2016 in Kraków, Poland under the leadership of Pope Francis. All of Poland rejoices as it will host young people from all over the world for the second time. The first time this happened was in 1991, when Pope John Paul II invited and hosted these young disciples of Christ in the national shrine of the Black Madonna in Częstochowa. A group of young people of our parish is really overjoyed to go to Kraków for this unusual meeting with their peers, to share together their faith in Jesus Christ.
Such are the plans and evangelical challenges that are facing the faithful of St. Joseph’s Church in Brantford in the coming years. We trust that with the grace and help of God we will be able to meet them. The participation of young people in the liturgy, celebrating their engagement in community life and taking responsibility for the Church releases among us new strength and energy to build the kingdom of God here on earth.