Table of Plenty

March 18-24, 2004
Table of Plenty
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
After-School Program at St. Daniel School Sponsors 5th Annual St. Joseph’s Table

In celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19, the students in the after-school program at St. Daniel School in Syracuse are spearheading a school-wide collection for the needy. From March 8 until March 19, students in grades kindergarten through six will bring in non-perishable items for the St. Joseph’s Table. The food, which will benefit St. Daniel Food Pantry, is displayed on a table in Father Lyons Hall at St. Daniel. This is the fifth year the after-school program has sponsored the table. Elizabeth Placito, after-school aide, initiated the project as a way for students to get involved in helping those who are less fortunate. “Giving to the needy is what we are supposed to do,” Placito said. “This is the whole legend behind St. Joseph’s Table.”

Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father to Jesus, St. Joseph was, according to the New Testament, betrothed to Mary at the time of the Annunciation. Although descended from David, the king of the Jews, he was poor and a carpenter by trade. St. Matthew’s Gospel describes him as a just man and records how after a warning in a dream, he took his family to Egypt to escape Herod’s persecution. His steadfastness as a guardian and husband is the basis for his patronage of fathers of families. The custom of the St. Joseph’s Table started several centuries ago. According to legend, a severe famine in Sicily caused considerable suffering and starvation. The farmers turned in prayer to St. Joseph for help. The famine soon ended and in gratitude the farmers honored St. Joseph by filling an altar with their most prized possession –– food. Then they invited all the poor to serve themselves.

Later the tradition of the St. Joseph’s Table was celebrated in the homes and parishes, done in remembrance of the famine and the Lord answering the people’s prayers through the intercession of St. Joseph. Father Amedeo Guida, parochial vicar at St. Daniel Church, plans to share some information on the history of St. Joseph with the students in the after-school program on St. Joseph’s Day. According to Placito, the students understand the reason behind the table. “They know the food is going to help those in need and they enjoy giving,” said Placito. “They want to participate.” She expects the table to be full by the end of the two-week collection period. “There is always such a generous response from the students,” she said. Edward Barnello, a fourth grader in the after-school program, brought in a variety of non-perishable items to add to the table. “I wanted to bring in food so that the poor people do not starve,” said Edward, as he pointed out the assortment of soups and mixes he brought to the table.

Approximately 40 students in grades kindergarten through six participate in the after-school program at St. Daniel, which runs from September until the last day of school. A majority of the students’ parents are working while the after-school program runs. The program gives them peace of mind. “What we try to do is give parents a sense of security and a safe and fun place for kids to go after school,” said Placito. Stressing academics and enrichment, the program provides students with homework help, structured recreation, and a chance to explore different subjects. Activities include showing the children films on saints, various games and exercises. After-school aide Mary Barnello said that they try to ensure that students have fun while improving their skills.

“We want the kids to learn and have fun here,” Barnello said. Deacon Joseph Celentano, principal of St. Daniel, is proud of all the students. “These are children who are sensitive to the needs of the poor. They express this by bringing in items readily for needs such as these,” Deacon Celentano said. “We are blessed with these kids.”

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