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Reflections of St. Joseph

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The church pronounced the year of St. Joseph as an opportunity to grow closer to her patron saint, as well we should. Yet it’s also a chance to more deeply appreciate the men among us who emulate St. Joseph in so many ways — something I’ve tried to do in reflecting on the recent deaths of two great men I knew personally.

Earlier this year, God called home Matt Parowski and Neil Ludwig. Each evokes St. Joseph in different ways that are probably familiar to you, too.

For some time, I had the wrong perspective about St. Joseph. The limitless patience, tireless work, and fortitude he demonstrated all struck me as distant, unrelatable, and even impractical to practicing the faith. What can the story of these unattainable feats do for me in my life, I’d wonder.

Last year, I participated in a dedication to this preeminent saint through reading of and meditation on "Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father," by Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception Father Donald Calloway. I gained an appreciation of the true magnitude of St. Joseph’s accomplishments and that he’s actively participating in our spiritual lives — we just need to invoke his name and assistance.

Which brings me to these wonderful men who were lately mourned and celebrated by so many.

Several years ago, Matt Parowski was an active and beloved parishioner of St. Rita Church in Alexandria, where he was a vocal presence in establishing a men’s fellowship. His optimism, bright smile and wry humor could light up the room and leave everyone with new spiritual lessons to ponder. He and his wife, Alicia Joy, and their children were greatly missed when they moved to Front Royal and joined a parish closer to their new home, where I’m sure he had a similar impact. They showed incredible courage and the peace of Christ during his five-month battle with an aggressive form of blood and bone cancer, which Alicia Joy chronicled with regular updates and prayers for, as she put it, "health or heaven." Matt passed away at 43 years of age on Pentecost Sunday, survived by his wife and their five young children, for whom a GoFundMe campaign was launched.

When the power went out across central Iowa, no matter the hour, Neil Ludwig got to work, which is what he did for decades and did well. After five years of service to our country in the U.S. Coast Guard, he joined Iowa Public Service, which is now MidAmerica Energy, as a repair lineman. To me, he was simply Uncle Neil, a tall, lanky man with a gentle presence, love for motorcycles and an easy, abiding manner. Work and his four children doubtlessly tested him occasionally, yet I can't recall him losing that peace. Retirement brought more golf, coffee with friends (which they dubbed "schools of higher learning") and visits to his three grandchildren, with a toolbox in hand for projects around the house. Neil’s spouse, Jean, his companion of 54 years and friend since childhood, was by his side at every step of his illness, leukemia, which took his life last month at 77 years of age. 

These men in their own way bore tremendous witness to St. Joseph. They led by word and deed. They lifted others up at least as much as they inspired me. Thank God for their example.

You know Matt and Neil. In your life they bear other names and carry different crosses, yet the same spirit of apostleship, family dedication and love for Christ runs through them. 

May we always cherish these reflections of St. Joseph who walk among us and praise God for having known them. St. Joseph pray for us!

Schweers is the executive editor of content for the Catholic Herald. He can be reached at editorial@catholicherald.com

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021