St. Joseph’s Altar makes good on a family promiseMar 15th, 2013 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: Top Story
This St. Joseph’s Day is a special one for Carmel Fertitta— it is the first year that she is doing an altar in her home, after promising her father she’d keep the family traditional alive after his death. Almost 30 years, and many heartaches later, Fertitta is finally fulfilling her promise.
“It feels so good to do this,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind;
now that I’ve fulfilled my promise, I can rest.”
The Sicilian tradition of the St. Joseph’s altar originated in the early 1800s, after farmers suffering
through drought and famine prayed to St. Joseph for his intercession. In thanksgiving for the rains
that came, they offered the best of their harvest on an altar to St. Joseph. The Fertitta’s family St. Joseph’s altar tradition faded out after 1986— the last year her grandmother did an altar. Fertitta and her husband, who live off of Social Security, have spent months saving up and preparing for an
altar that will resurrect the lost tradition.
“We’ve been doing it a little at a time with what we have, but everything has really fallen into place,” she
The home altar, decorated painstakingly by Fertitta and her husband Warren Bracamontes for months,
is dedicated to all of the many loved ones they have lost over the years: Warren’s mother, her grandmother, uncle, father, and young daughter.
A few weeks after Fertitta’s father died, her four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer.
She died two years later, on her father’s birthday.
“You can’t imagine the pain; it still feels like a knife in my heart,” Fertitta said emotionally, gazing across
at the photo of her young daughter, placed lovingly on the altar. “She was an angel, she really loved church and loved the blessed mother.”
Little Gina Marie loved the Blessed Mother so much, Fertitta says, that she requested her picture on
her birthday cake.
“She wanted all of her clothes to be blue like the Blessed Mother, she loved her so much,” she recalled
fondly. “God gave me an angel for six years and he needed her back; I take solace in that.”
So Fertitta hopes that the family altar this year will make her Gina Marie and father proud. Featuring
homemade cookies, breads and cakes, the altar will be presented March 18-19 at 8412 Patricia St., in Chalmette.
On March 18, viewing will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. On March 19, viewing begins at 9 a.m. with feeding
of the saints at noon and public feeding of traditional pasta dishes after 1 p.m. until 8 p.m.