By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, has made a lasting impression on many people, including several who shared reflections at the conclusion of the Year of St. Joseph last month.
Around 40 people gathered at Holy Family Parish on Dec. 8 to share a small meal and hear stories. The “Year of St. Joseph was remarkable,” said Father Nicholas Akindele, the parish’s parochial vicar who also serves at St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport and St. Peter Parish in Buffalo.
Father Akindele, inspired by his own interest in St. Joseph and Pope Francis’ announcement of the Year of St. Joseph, offered a consecration to St. Joseph, similar to the consecration to Mary that the priest offers each year. During the closing event, he invited people to come forward and share what has happened in their lives in the past year, especially their experiences linked to St. Joseph.
Fidele and Wilfred Agvofin of Holy Family spoke about her journey with cancer. Following the birth of her youngest child this past summer, she learned she had cancer in more than one part of her body. “I was not afraid. The doctor said his fancy stuff. But he told me I was strong.” Doctors previously diagnosed Fidele with thyroid cancer when she lived in Togo. She had surgery there. A second opinion confirmed cancer, again. She visited Father Akindele and they prayed together. He gave her oil of St. Joseph and a novena to pray.
Father Akindele said the oil of St. Joseph offers hope to the sick and came about through St. Brother Andre Bessette of Canada who was inspired by a devotion in France. The religious brother took oil from a lamp burning in front of a statue of St. Joseph and offered it to the sick, accompanied by prayers for St. Joseph’s intercession. It is not a treatment or a preparation with curative powers. “It’s all about faith,” Father Akindele said.
Fidele put her trust in God and felt comforted by the oil. On Aug. 31, the day of surgery, she felt happy and unafraid. The doctors prepared for surgery, but did not find cancer. She underwent other tests before Thanksgiving that confirmed she did not have cancer or any other illness. “I felt the love of God.”
Ebi Neiketen, from Nigeria, learned that she might have cancer following her annual mammogram. “No. Not me. I belong to God,” she told the doctor’s office. She went for a second opinion, which backed up the first opinion. A Christian, but not Catholic, she visited with Father Akindele who gave her the novena and oil of St. Joseph. Doctors in Iowa City did not find cancer. “It’s not secret,” Ebi said. “God is with me.” A follow-up three months later showed no signs of cancer or other health issues.
Holy Family parishioner Kathy Smith said she learned more about St. Joseph the Worker and the concept of happy death. St. Joseph helped her find her calling for her career — something she did not expect, she said. “I didn’t realize that until now.” She encouraged others in attendance to pray for St. Joseph’s intercession. “He will help you. Don’t hesitate. Pray.”
Chris Heidgerken of Holy Family appreciated the fact that St. Joseph did not abandon Mary when he learned she was pregnant. He traveled with her looking for a place for Jesus to be born. St. Joseph, as the foster father to Jesus, taught him and helped raise him. “Joseph can be an inspiration to everyone today,” Chris said.
David Hamling of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf shared that he and his wife Catherine had dealt with her breast cancer. After that challenging time, he wanted some time away and took a motorcycle camping trip to Texas. On a gravel road in northeast Missouri, he lost control and was thrown from his motorcycle. “Then it happened,” he said. “Mary made herself known.” He said he did not see a vision, but knew she was there, telling him, “all is well and everything is being arranged.”
David believes Mary found him to be a vessel to help others. “I was broken (clavicle, ribs and scapula) so I wouldn’t go anywhere.” However, he helped the people he encountered in the Quincy, Illinois, hospital — from the nurse to the janitor to the therapist — helping them move along in their faith journeys and life’s dreams. During a follow-up scan, doctors found a mass on David’s thyroid. At Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, doctors prepared to do a biopsy; there was no mass, he said.