Gez Ford of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, talks about St. Joseph as a man, father and individual – including what he was like in person or even his likelihood of cracking “Dad jokes.” Screenshot photo
Gez Ford of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, talks about St. Joseph as a man, father and individual – including what he was like in person or even his likelihood of cracking “Dad jokes.” Screenshot photo
" [St. Joseph] is a model of holiness for every generation. " Gez Ford St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton

Inspired by Pope Francis’ call for a Year of St. Joseph, a virtual retreat for young adults across the Diocese of Trenton and beyond featured a host of speakers who helped relate the example of St. Joseph to the daily lives of young adult Catholics.

The March 12-13, titled “Not Your Average Joe,” explored the patron of the Universal Church and included online, interactive gatherings; recorded talks and “on-your-own” reflections, and Mass celebrated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, which was livestreamed.

“In my mind, [St. Joseph] is the greatest of all the saints,” said Gez Ford, musician and retreat leader from St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton. “This is an example of the type of person I want to be.”

In his talk, “Living Our Role as Protector of the Vulnerable,” Ford spoke about the call for all to live as “apparitions of St. Joseph to the world.” He also challenged young adults to visualize St. Joseph as a man, father and individual – including what he was like in person, how skilled he was at work, or even his likelihood of cracking “Dad jokes.”

Ford also reflected on St. Joseph as “the ultimate protector,” one charged with protecting Mary and Jesus. “He would need to be a strong and powerful figure,” Ford said, noting the tremendous responsibility that God bestowed upon Joseph.

Highlighting St. Joseph’s example in his own life, Ford reflected on his past and a turning point in the relationship with his father.

“When I came toward the end of my old life, a life of debauchery fueled by alcohol and drugs, I decided that there was a huge gaping wound to recognize between me my father,” Ford said, recounting a time when he went to visit his father and offer forgiveness for his dad not being the best parent.

In turn, his father spoke about his own father’s shortcomings, as well as Ford’s shortcomings as a son.

“There are moments of grace that invade our lives,” Ford said, “and oftentimes they come at a pregnant pause where you are confronted by a truth that you can’t deny, and you have no words or reactions.”

Ford reconciled with his father, and the two agreed to walk together on a journey of healing with each other and with God.

Listening to the Lord

In the keynote address – a live, interactive web session the evening of March 12 – Father Jason Hage presented on “The Dreams of St. Joseph: Listening to God’s Call.”

Father Hage, director of vocation promotion for the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., centered on how like St. Joseph, young adults are called to respond to the Lord’s call.

He reflected on the discernment of spirits described by St. Ignatius of Loyola, offering advice about the importance of awareness and understanding. He encouraged attendees to take time to examine what is happening in their spiritual lives, and to reflect on spiritual stirrings and seek understanding to determine what is of God – and what is not.

“Do I listen to this dream, do I listen to this angel, saying take this woman into your home?” he asked, channeling the thoughts that St. Joseph likely had following his visit from the angel, and his call to vocation. “Clearly you can see the wrestling that must have been going on deep down in Joseph’s heart.”

Father Hage spoke about the competing forces that can pull individuals to and from God, and the importance of discernment in how best to stay on track when moving closer to God.

Seeing God in Work

In another talk presented by Father John Paul Walker, pastor of St. Mary Parish, New Haven, Conn., young adults were challenged to consider the integration of faith in their work lives.

“If it is true for most of us, that the piece of that journey known as work is going to stretch many decades, probably the single biggest portion of our life … that means it is a part of our life that God very much wants to be part of,” he said. “Something as large and significant as our time spent in human labor – the Lord absolutely wants to be there.”

Father Walker also spoke about engaging in work as a way of imitating God’s act of creation, adding the importance of following God’s call to rest following that work.

“Both work and rest are imitations of God,” he said. “[Rest] is not just a good idea, it is not just something for our mental and psychological well-being, it is a part of the command we have from God.”

Other talks during the event – which drew about 75 registrants and was sponsored by the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries – included “A Feminine Approach to St. Joseph,” “Devoting Ourselves to God Through the Intercession and Model of St. Joseph,” and “Praying with St. Joseph Through Art.”

Ford urged attendees to recognize and follow the example that St. Joseph sets for faithful of all ages and backgrounds.

“Whether you are called to single life, married life, a consecrated life, [or] to the priesthood, St. Joseph fits into every single area,” he said. “He is a model of holiness for every generation, for every person in every generation.”