Homeschool program for Religious education

Our Lady of Grace in Howard Beach has offered a homeschool program for Religious education for the past several years, so we were ready when faced with COVID restrictions! The whole program is based on the homeschool model this year, and our parents have really embraced the role of catechist for their children. This has become such a special time for families to deepen their faith while teaching their children about the life of Jesus and His love. Quiet time is set aside for these teachable moments, away from the pressure of remote learning and Google classrooms.

Our pastor, Fr. Marc Swartvagher, invites parents to virtual meetings every week so that we may “see” each other. Parents have this opportunity to ask questions about how the material should be presented, and Fr. Marc is happy to answer them. He also hosts a meeting with a prayer for both parents and children, and those have been wonderful! We’ve prayed the Rosary together in October, talked about and showed our favorite saints in November, and discovered the meaning behind the well-known Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in December. We are looking forward to our upcoming Lenten prayer service in February.

Our 2nd graders are preparing for First Holy Communion and spent special time with Jesus at Holy Hour. They had the option to attend in person or watch the live stream at home to learn more about the Eucharist and adoration. Fr. Marc explained it so beautifully for those attending for the first time. We are hoping to have more of these experiences with the rest of our families!


For more information contact us at our website.

St. Joseph’s Table

The St. Joseph’s Table altar at the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles.


While looking into how a family can celebrate The Year of St. Joseph at home, I stumbled upon, “St. Joseph’s Table”. I found this to be interesting mostly because I never heard of it. The feast day of St. Joseph is March 19th. This falls in the middle of Lent. As I continued to read I understood why the “table” was mostly pastries and bread. There is no meat at the table because it falls during Lent. 

Tradition comes from medieval times in Sicily. The story goes that there had been a great drought and famine on the island. The people prayed to St. Joseph for his intercession. When the sky opened, and rain finally came the people knew St. Joseph had answered their pleas. Their crops grew. After the harvest to show gratitude to St. Joseph and to honor him for answering their prayers they celebrated. The celebration included everyone. A table was prepared with special foods in honor of St. Joseph. The food was also shared with all the people, especially the poor and hungry. 

The tradition has changed in many ways, usually if celebrated at church, the celebration would be after mass. Some parishes were known to have actors dress as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They would bring offerings during mass and at the celebration, they would sit at the table. With Covid, sharing with others and gathering has made it difficult. That does not mean that you can’t celebrate at home. You can continue a tradition if this is done in your family or adopt the tradition if this is your first time. 

Involve your children or teens and anyone in your household. What a better way to tell the story of St. Joseph the foster father of our Savior chosen to protect Mary and Jesus. He was chosen to witness the birth of the Christ child. While very little is spoken of Joseph in the bible he plays an important role. He is another example to our children to have faith in God’s divine plan. This is the perfect family project. Teaching your children through tradition and symbolism. The quality of family time together is also great. 

There are 3 main points to this tradition: 

Veneration—special recognition of St. Joseph. Honoring the silent foster father of our Lord Jesus. He protected our Mother Mary and our Saviour. 

The Table—an altar and a communal celebration for gathering 

The Poor—The purpose of the foods is to help those in need. 


St. Joseph’s Table at home 


The create the table/altar at home you will need a three-tiered display. This can be made out of boxes and cover with a white linen tablecloth or sheet. The three tiers represent the Holy Trinity. A statue or picture of St. Joseph is placed on the top tier. The other can have flowers (especially Lilies). You buy them or make flowers out of tissue paper with your children. The other two tiers also have candles, pastries, and bread. Some people add wine symbolizing the wedding feast at Cana; pineapple symbolizing hospitality; and other fruits. 

You can make pastries with your children, and decorate the table together. How simple or ornate your “table/alter” is totally up to you. 

The items below are traditionally made from bread, but they can be made from cookie dough or even small pictures. How you display each symbol is completely up to you and your family. 

A Cross: The ultimate symbol of our Lord’s suffering and salvation. 

Breadcrumbs: Represents sawdust, since St. Joseph was a carpenter. 

Fava Beans: They can be served in a frittata or garlic sauce. If you have dry beans, they can be roasted and blessed. It became very popular as the “lucky bean.” Legend has it that you will never be broke if you carry one. Some people believe that if you keep one in the pantry, there will always be food in the kitchen. 

Baby Jesus: The baby Jesus to whom St. Joseph was the foster father. It can be a statue or a picture, even a drawing/coloring page that your younger children worked on. 

St. Joseph’s Staff: Legend has it that St. Joseph’s staff blossomed into a lily, a symbol both of life and death. 

St. Joseph’s Purse: This symbol is a reminder to give alms to the poor during Lent. A small pouch with coins for symbolism or even a jar where spare change can be collected and given to your parish at the end of Lent. 

A Sheaf of Wheat: Wheat is a reminder that when a single grain of wheat falls into the ground it bears much more food at harvest time. 

St. Joseph himself: He is always represented in profile and hunched over with a cane, symbolizing that he was (according to tradition) an old man, while Mary was a much younger woman. 

St. Joseph’s Beard: Is the sheaf of Wheat turned upside down, it is another reminder of Joseph’s wisdom and old age. 

Heart: A symbol of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

The Crown of Thorns: This is in remembrance of Christ’s passion and a reminder of the day’s feasting among Lent’s fasting, Lent is still a season of sorrow—and hope. 

In a time when we need to church, and we want to continue to pass our faith to our children the “Table” is a wonderful place to start. 

Happy Feast of St. Joseph! 

Total Consecration to St. Joseph

From the Office of Marriage, Family Life and Respect Life Education 

Just as Jesus and Mary entrusted themselves entirely to the care and protection of St. Joseph as the head of the Holy Family, so too can we follow their example. “Jesus, living under the roof of St. Joseph and being his Son, gave us a personal example of total entrustment to St. Joseph” (Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC). 

Why Consecration to St. Joseph? When one makes an act of consecration to a saint, it is made ultimately to God through the help of the saint. We know that Joseph was a lowly carpenter, betrothed to Mary, a just man, ever ready to carry out God’s will. Blessed Pius IX declared St. Joseph “Patron of the Catholic Church.” Venerable Pius XII proposed him as “Patron of Workers.” Saint John Paul II called him “Guardian of the Redeemer.” St. Joseph is universally invoked as the “Patron of a Happy Death.” After Mary, the Mother of God, no saint is mentioned more frequently in the papal magisterium than Joseph, her spouse. (Pope Francis, Patris Corde). 

Ideally, families and groups could organize themselves to make the consecration together. Fr. Calloway’s book includes material for six weeks of group meetings leading up to the consecration. On the final day, a simple ceremony could be planned where the group recites the consecration prayer together led by their pastor or parochial vicar following the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

To make a 33-day consecration, we recommend that you use the new book Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. 



O Glorious Patriarch and Patron of the Church! O Virgin Spouse of the Virgin Mother of God! O Guardian and Virginal Father of the Word Incarnate! In the presence of Jesus and Mary, I choose you this day to be my father, my guardian, and my protector. 

O great St. Joseph, whom God has made the Head of the Holy Family, accept me, I beseech you, though utterly unworthy, to be a member of your “Holy House.” Present me to your Immaculate Spouse; ask her also to adopt me as her child. With her, pray that I may constantly think of Jesus, and serve him faithfully to the end of my life. O Terror of Demons, increase in me virtue, protect me from the evil one, and help me not to offend God in any way. 

O my Spiritual Father, I hereby consecrate myself to you. In faithful imitation of Jesus and Mary, I place myself and all my concerns under your care and protection. To you, after Jesus and Mary, I consecrate my body and soul, with all their faculties, my spiritual growth, my home, and all my affairs and undertakings. 

Forsake me not, but adopt me as a servant and child of the Holy Family. Watch over me at all times, but especially at the hour of my death. Console and strengthen me with the presence of Jesus and Mary so that, with you, I may praise and adore the Holy Trinity for all eternity. Amen. 

Greetings from the Youth and Young Adult Office

Hello everyone!

My name is Fr. Emil Parafiniuk, and I am very happy, because of the fact, that I am starting my service in the Diocese of Brooklyn!
I am 38, and I was ordained as a priest in 2008 in the Diocese of Warszawa-Praga, Poland. I had been a vicar for 3 years and after that, I was a Director of the Youth and Young Adults Office in my Diocese. I was responsible, in my diocese, for the “Days in the Diocese” – the first stage of WYD in Cracow too. In 2016 I was nominated as a Director of The National Office for World Youth Days and Executive Secretary of the Youth Ministry Council (Polish Bishops’ Conference). I was involved in vocational work too, as a coordinator of European Vocations Service (and Executive Secretary of the „Vocations” Section in The Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe – CCEE).

As you can read, all my priestly life I have worked with young people and youth ministries. Of course, I have some other interests too – I love traveling, meeting people, discovering new cultures, new places, and especially, new cuisines. I am interested in traditional and social media and new technologies. But also, I like to drink a good coffee while working – with no sugar, no milk.
Pope Francis said in Cracow:
“But in life, there is another, even more dangerous, kind of paralysis. It is not easy to put our finger on it. I like to describe it as the paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa. In other words, to think that to be happy all we need is a good sofa. A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe. A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in massage unit to put us to sleep. A sofa that promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of video games and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen. A sofa that keeps us safe from any kind of pain and fear. A sofa that allows us to stay home without needing to work at, or worry about, anything. “Sofa-happiness”! That is probably the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis, which can cause the greatest harm to young people.”


So, I have decided to get up from my “sofa” and start a new mission. I have chosen the Diocese of Brooklyn in the USA. New culture, new environment, the new style of the Church, new challenges.
Bishop DiMarzio has accepted my application – and I am here with you! Maybe not in person yet (because of the travel restrictions), but now I am just waiting for a possibility to travel.
I would like to share my experience, to learn, and to work not for you – but with you.
I am very grateful for a very warm welcome, which I have experienced from Fr. Joseph Gibino and all the Staff of the Secretariat for the Evangelization and Catechesis.
I want to work with you for and with young people of the Diocese of Brooklyn, with all my abilities and all my energy. I want to share with you all this amazing hope, which comes from the Holy Spirit.
I want to be at your disposal – especially in these crazy times. Now, we can see that we have a lot of difficulties. Let’s make these difficulties into challenges! Why? Because difficulties make us unhappy and said – challenges are motivating us for better work in the Lord’s Vineyard!

I am very happy because of the opportunity to work with you – now It is possible online only. But we know very well, that Gospel and Holy Spirit do not know borders and distance.
I am praying for you – please, pray for me!

Fr. Emil Parafiniuk

Aumente y profundice su conocimiento de la fe

Para aquellos interesados en profundizar su fe, estas clases son para usted. Tenemos una clase virtual en vivo. Se reunirá semanalmente. Esto le da la oportunidad de discutir su fe y aumentar su conocimiento en áreas específicas. 

Estas clases también lo ayudarán a comprender la fe que luego puede usar para ayudar a sus hijos con la educación religiosa. 


Clases en febrero de 2021



Clases en marzo de 2021






Para registrarse, vaya a 

Si tiene alguna dificultad para registrarse, comuníquese con Maria Palsencia en 

Virtual Lenten Reflection

With the Year of St. Joseph in mind, the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis will host our first Virtual Lenten Reflection on March 19, 2021. 

Follow the same basic plan that we created for the Advent Virtual Reflection. We have created something unique for Lent and for the Year of St. Joseph. Our Speakers will reflect on the powerful statement: St. Joseph in the shadow of the Cross 

The Stations of the Cross, homilies, and presentations will be done in five (5) different languages, English, Spanish, Creole, Polish and Korean. 

Our Special Guest speaker will be: 

• Bishop Raymond Chappetto 

• Bishop Octavio Cisneros 

• Bishop Witold Mroziewski 

• Monsignor Steven Malagreca 

• Rev. Lianjiang (Peter) Bai 

• Rev. Cosmas Nzeabalu 

• Bishop Gregory Mansour 

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn. The Marionite church is in communion with Rome, The Eparchy is under the direct jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Marionite Rite. 

The Very Rev. Joseph Gibino, Vicar for the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis has expressed many times to the staff the importance of being a universal church and evangelizing in the native language of the people. While we acknowledge that there are other; languages in our communities we knew we needed to start somewhere. 

We hope to continue to provide moments of reflection and prayer to all the people of the Diocese of Brooklyn/Queens. 

How Families Can Participate in Year of St. Joseph’s Indulgences

On December 1, 2020, Pope Francis announced a special year dedicated to St. Joseph starting from December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, as well as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. 

Below is a summary of how families can receive the special indulgences granted by the Holy See for the Year of St. Joseph.

The plenary indulgence is granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer according to the intentions of the Holy Father) to the faithful who, with a spirit detached from any sin, participate in the Year of Saint Joseph on the occasions and in the manner indicated by this Apostolic Penitentiary: 

• Meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Our Father 

• Participate in a spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on Saint Joseph 

• Perform a corporal or spiritual work of mercy 

• Recite the Holy Rosary in families and between the husband and wife 

• Entrust their work daily to the protection of Saint Joseph and to all believers who invoke with their prayers the intercession of the worker of Nazareth 

• Pray the litany of Saint Joseph (for the Latin tradition), or the Akathistos to Saint Joseph, in its entirety or at least part of it (for the Byzantine tradition), or some other prayer to Saint Joseph, typical of the other liturgical traditions, for the persecuted Church and for the relief of all persecuted Christians. 

• Pray any lawfully approved prayer or act of piety in honor of Saint Joseph, for example, “To you oh blessed Joseph,” especially on: o March 19th (Solemnity of St. Joseph) 

o May 1st (Feast of St. Joseph the Worker) 

o December 26th (Feast of the Holy Family) 

o The Sunday of Saint Joseph (according to the Byzantine tradition) 

o The 19th day of every month 

o Every Wednesday (a day dedicated to the memory of the Saint according to the Latin tradition) 

• The gift of plenary indulgence extends particularly to — o The elderly 

o The sick 

o The dying 

o All those who for legitimate reasons cannot leave their home 

Who, with the spirit detached from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling, as soon as possible, the three usual conditions, in your own home or wherever the impediment holds you, pray an act of piety in honor of Saint Joseph, the consolation of the sick and patron of a good death, confidently offering God the pains and difficulties of his life. 

The Catechetical Institute’s Online Formation Ministry Formation

At the Franciscan University of Steubenville



Young adults have a lot to bring to the table of evangelization and catechesis. They are or could be our catechetical leaders or youth ministers of tomorrow. If you are interested in learning more the Franciscan University might be for you. There are various areas of catechesis that are covered by Franciscan University.
The Diocese of Brooklyn has a special collaboration with Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Catechetical Institute!
We have chosen to partner with Franciscan University in order to give authentically Catholic resources that help to form those within your parish or school who are forming others. The catechists, RCIA teams, parish catechetical leaders, school teachers, and parents of your parish or school will have unlimited access to the Catechetical Institute’s online workshops in the comfort of their own homes.

The flexibility of the Catechetical Institute allows a diocese to choose the capacity in which to use these resources. Whether the diocese chooses to use the formation workshops as a part of the certification process or as an on-going formation for their staff and volunteers, all the workshops available on our learning platform are available to every person.

Everyone can sign up for $4.99 a month. The courses are eligible for Living and Leading by Faith credits. The following tracks are;
• Catechist (CT) Track
• Catechumenal Ministry (RCIA) Track
• Parish Catechetical Leader (PCL) Track
• Youth Ministry (YM) Track

If you have any questions, please Joann Roa at

Encountering the Father’s Heart of Saint Joseph

By Christian Rada

In Pope Francis’ new apostolic letter Patris Corde, he expounds upon the qualities of Saint Joseph’s fatherhood and how his fatherhood was an icon of God, the Father’s heart for us, His children. During this Advent season and during this Year of St. Joseph, may our hearts be led to reflect upon the Father through the fatherhood of St. Joseph!

One of the most astounding and mind-boggling works of the Eternal Father was to send His Only Son Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and to allow His Son to become a little Baby, who was vulnerable, weak and totally dependent upon a human mother and a human father, Mary and Saint Joseph. Indeed, Saint Joseph was and always will be the earthly father of Jesus! This was the will of the eternal Father for all eternity. And of course, Saint Joseph was the best of all earthly fathers. He is an example for all men, especially fathers.

Saint Joseph was a faithful son of the Eternal Father. God reveals in Saint Joseph that a father is a man who is obedient to God in an uncomplicated, sacrificial, and steadfast way. Saint Joseph was a faithful and loving spouse. Joseph trusted in the angel’s words to him and lovingly accepted Jesus as his own son. He provided a protective home for Mary and Jesus and accepted his call to be a husband to Mary and a father to the Son of God, even when he believed himself unworthy to do so. “Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception, and to show special concern for the weak, for God chooses what is weak” (PC, 4).

Saint Joseph was present to his child and to his wife. God entrusted the Holy Family to Joseph and worked through his creative courage to guide and protect the Holy Family. “Arriving in Bethlehem and finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world” (PC, 5).

Saint Joseph was willing to sacrifice for his family. Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation. Joseph’s work as a carpenter provided a means for the Holy Family to thrive and to remain hidden in Bethlehem. Joseph taught this work to Jesus. “Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work” (PC, 6).

At the conclusion of Pope Francis’ letter, he added a prayer to St Joseph, which he encourages all of us to pray together. Let us pray for the grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to God’s commands

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.

How Can I Increase My Knowledge of My Faith?

Have you ever been asked a specific detail of your faith and found yourself unsure of the answer? Does your understanding of Catholicism give you confidence to defend your faith or educate your children? For these reasons and possibly others, many have wondered how to learn more but unsure exactly where. The Diocesan Office of Faith Formation wants you to know that it’s not just for the Parish Religious Education programs, but they also offer help, guidance, and classes in the faith that range from those that want to become Catholic to those that just want to learn more.

The Living and Leading by Faith program has long been established as a faith formation program for adults seeking more knowledge, curiosity over catholic traditions, or wanting a way to get closer to Jesus Christ by knowing and understanding more. The program has evolved and has changed names, but in the end, the same course purpose still exists to evangelize and share the knowledge of our faith.

We have had an online course available since 2013, which grew at a slow pace over the years. It wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic that more people turned to online learning because we could not come together in a classroom. The core pillars of our faith, Creed, Life in Christ, Prayer, and Sacraments, are needed to understand our faith.

Go to and skim through our various choices of online classes. The Initial component of Living and Leading by Faith starts with Creed, Life in Christ, Prayer, the Sacraments, Introduction to the Bible, and Ministry of Catechesis. Or you might choose to explore other courses like History of the Church or the Gospels. Our online classes have video, vocabulary, printed text, and it is in small manageable chapters. You can start and stop anytime and pick up right where you left off. We even have a collaboration with Catholic Distance University for FREE online classes.

The responsibility to expand what we know of our faith, grow closer to Jesus Christ, and do what He has asked, to go forth and evangelize. We hold those three things in our control. The Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis wants to help you on this path.

If you have any questions on where to start your journey, contact our office.

Young Adults can contact our Director of Adult Faith Formation, Joann Roa 718.965.7300, ext. 2440 or

Couples and parents can contact our Director of Marriage, Family Formation, and Respect Life Education, Christian Rada 718.965.7300, ext. 5541 or