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4/8/2014 9:10:00 AM
Cathedral, named for Mary, increases honors for her husband
                                 Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed LangloisFr. Peter Nhat Hoang holds book of blessings for Msgr. Patrick Brennan as he blesses cathedral hall and icon of St. Joseph held by Wilma Sawyer with icon writer Br. Claude Lane.  
                                 Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Fr. Peter Nhat Hoang holds book of blessings for Msgr. Patrick Brennan as he blesses cathedral hall and icon of St. Joseph held by Wilma Sawyer with icon writer Br. Claude Lane.
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

St. Joseph is getting his due at Portland's St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

On the saint's feast day March 19, Msgr. Patrick Brennan blessed the cathedral meeting room under a new name — St. Joseph Hall. Prominent in the newly-named social space is a statue of the saint, which Msgr. Brennan also sprinkled with holy water. Last, the priest blessed an icon that shows St. Joseph embracing the boy Jesus; that piece will hang in the next room, the cathedral's round-the-clock eucharistic adoration chapel, which will also be named for St. Joseph.

New enthusiasm for the quiet saint, Jesus' earthly foster father, began a few years ago when the cathedral started celebrating the saint's day with Italian traditions like pastries, bread blessing and a festive meal. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, that year's St. Joseph dinner was turned into a benefit for recovery.

During the blessing, Msgr. Brennan called the hall — used for socials and adult education, among other things — "a place where we will come to know one another and give witness to our lives in Christ."

The Knights of Columbus from the cathedral painted and cleaned the room and paid for durable metal signs that note the new name.

Subhuti Dharmananda, a Knight of Columbus, donated the wooden statue, which is thought to be 50 or 60 years old. He bought it on eBay from a company that saves religious art when parishes close.

"He is so peaceful and meditative," says Dharmananda, formerly a Buddhist, viewing the face of the statue. "I thought it was ideal."

St. Joseph arrived in Portland ensconced in bubble wrap and padding and was kept in the office of Father Peter Nhat Hoang until blessing time came.

"I miss him," Father Peter says, admitting a devotion to the saint. "He is a quiet guy but he is always there, a behind-the-scenes man.  

The icon, about the dimensions of a large book, was written by Benedictine Brother Claude Lane, longtime iconographer at Mount Angel Abbey. He says because of the small size, he zoomed in on the faces to make them more prominent.

"Get a sense of the people. That is the idea," he says.

Brother Claude's model for the face of St. Joseph was none other than Mary, from a venerable icon.

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