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The design and construction of the 2020 St. Joseph's Altar at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Zachary will be under the direction of Jacob Zumo, a local artist known for his religious and sacred art and who has strong ties to the Sicilian tradition.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Zachary will host a St. Joseph’s Altar at noon March 22 in the Parish Activity Center, 4826 Main St. (Lee Street entrance).

The Rev. Jeffery Bayhi, church pastor, will bless the altar at noon, and the Lenten meal prepared by various ministries of St. John’s will begin.

The design and construction of the altar will be under the direction of Jacob Zumo, a local artist known for his religious and sacred art and who has strong ties to the Sicilian tradition, a news release said.

Continuing the example set by the Sicilians long ago, the St. Joseph Altar is the result of efforts from many parishioners. It is a parishwide effort to build, decorate, gather, prepare and serve food. The combined ministries of St. John’s work together to create this local event.

According to legend, St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of Sicily, saved the people from the effects of a devastating drought and famine in the Middle Ages. Because of answered prayers, the altar was started as an annual event. Following tradition of early altars, there will be a tableau of the Holy Family, the release said.

St. Joseph altars came to Louisiana in the early 1800s when people from western Sicily immigrated to the state and many Catholic churches prepare one annually, a news release said. Altar breads in various religious shapes will be displayed and represent some part of the legend. Palm leaves symbolize the Blessed Mother. The crook and ladder signify St. Joseph and the cross represents Christ’s passion and death. The breads are sometimes dried, toasted with sugar and sprinkled atop spaghetti. The crumbs are symbolic of St. Joseph’s sawdust.

According to legend, it is lucky to visit a St. Joseph Altar. During the Sicilian famine, people were reduced to eating fava beans, a food normally fed to the animals. Therefore, a single fava bean is given to each altar participant. The bean, when carried in one’s pocket, will prevent the person from going broke.

In addition to the symbolic foods, the altar will feature donated baked goods, fruit, wine, fish and bread to be shared by those attending. Each attendee will receive a gift of cookies, St. Joseph bread, a prayer card and a fava bean.

There will be a display of photos of parishioners serving in the military and memorial candles honoring loved ones. Altar candles will be available for purchase for $10 each on www.jzumo.com or purchase can be arranged by calling the church office at (225) 654-5778. Special intentions can be added to the candles at time of purchase.