By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
As the Year of St. Joseph continues, The Catholic Messenger explores how the saint’s witness can serve as a model in today’s world. “What we can learn from St. Joseph is the importance of protecting all children especially during this month dedicated to Child Abuse Prevention,” said Marianne Agnoli, Marriage and Family Life Coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport.
Pope Francis declared that the church would celebrate a Year of St. Joseph from Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s decree “Quemadmodum Deus,” naming St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster-father of Jesus, as patron of the universal church.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “For Your Marriage” website offers information and related articles about St. Joseph. Three things that St. Joseph teaches Catholics are silence, action and calmness, observes Paul Morisi in a “For Your Marriage” column he wrote when he was Coordinator of Adolescent and Young Adult Faith Formation for the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“St. Joseph was not a man who sat idly by when God’s call came. He was a man of action, whether it meant marrying Mary in spite of what society might have said about their seemingly unorthodox marriage, taking his pregnant wife to the town of David late in her pregnancy for a census, or fleeing with his wife and newborn son to Egypt. He could have turned away from this situation all together, but he didn’t. When God challenged him, Joseph stepped up to the plate. He did the will of God,” Morisi said.
Joseph “loved Mary and Jesus above himself and his actions reflect that love. Joseph is a model for all Christians, choosing to walk in the Way of the Cross. He emptied himself of himself, in order to be filled with the love of the Father.”
Brooke Hendrickx, Director of Development and Communications with the Child Abuse Council in Moline, Illinois, said St. Joseph “was certainly a mentor, father and had a role as protector.” He serves as a prime example of developing a bond and healthy relationship with his foster son Jesus. “Joseph said yes to God” and showed what it means to be a father with kindness, compassion, caring skills — all parts of being a protector, she said. Joseph can serve as a role model for all men, even men without children. Having a positive adult connection can help keep children on the right track.
Helping keep kids on the right track includes protecting them from child abuse. The Iowa Department of Human Services reports 30,151 assessments for child abuse or neglect in 2020 in the state, Hendrickx said, down from 33,004 in 2019. However, she thinks the 2020 figures might be lower because of the pandemic, which kept some mandatory reporters, such as teachers, from seeing kids in person for several months or more.
She said readers who suspect child abuse or neglect in Iowa for children under age 18, should call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-362-2178 day or night. To report abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect of a dependent adult, call that same number.
The nonprofit Child Abuse Council focuses its efforts on preventing child abuse through a variety of programs, education and treatment, such as basic training classes for new dads through Genesis Health Center and UnityPoint Trinity hospitals. Men teach this class to other men, who learn about the birthing and bonding experience, first weeks at home, family and parenting teams, feeding, diapering and safety.
The council offers resources on how to prevent child abuse, alternatives to lashing out, recognizing child abuse, babysitting and other topics. Visit www.childabuseqc.org for information.
Morisi says, “Joseph invites us to turn the ordinary into extraordinary. He is proof that God looks for everyday people to do his work. We need to follow his example humbly, courageously, and faithfully to fulfill our call as Christians.”