Sarah Hanley

Fathers have always played an essential role in all of our lives – just look at St. Joseph’s life and legacy. St. Joseph was a crucial member of Jesus’ family – protecting him, defending him and loving him unconditionally despite the fact that he was not his biological son.

As we prepare to celebrate another Father’s Day, this year’s is particularly special, because we are also celebrating the year of St. Joseph. Let us remember his strength, his guiding hand and his wisdom.

In December 2020, Pope Francis’ penned an apostolic letter titled Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”) in preparation for this year honoring St. Joseph. In his letter, Pope Francis describes St. Joseph’s fatherhood according to seven aspects: as a beloved father; as a tender and loving father; as an obedient father; as an accepting father; as a creatively courageous father; as a working father, and as a “father in the shadows.”

Let’s take a closer look at how each of these traits were characterized by St. Joseph himself, and how fathers today can follow his lead.


A beloved father: Not only did St. Joseph love Jesus as if he were his own son, but Jesus loved him. Although Jesus understood his father dwelled within heaven, Jesus accepted, loved and appreciated Joseph for the man and the father figure that he was during his time on Earth. During the Father’s Day season and always, we show our love and appreciation for our own fathers and father-figures.

A tender and loving father: Attentive, wise and kind, St. Joseph provided every opportunity he could to Jesus, even teaching his son the art of carpentry so they could share this craft together. Today, fathers and father figures must model St. Joseph’s attentiveness and compassion, supporting and loving their own children through all their endeavors.

An obedient father: One could imagine the initial surprise that came to St. Joseph when Mary told him an angel had visited her and bestowed a child, the Son of God, within her. However, St. Joseph’s unyielding faith and obedience to God’s wishes gave him the grace to accept this unique situation and adapt. This important lesson can be adopted today in so many ways. Parenting is a journey with many unexpected twists and turns, but we must accept God’s plan for us and entrust our lives to him.

An accepting father: However, St. Joseph not only accepted these circumstances, but Jesus himself. He welcomed him into his life as his own son, and until he died, always saw him as such. Today, there are many individuals who take on the role of father-figure in a person’s life. Be it brothers, uncles, grandfathers and more, these individuals step up when they are called to, and we view them just as fondly as our biological fathers.

A creatively courageous father: St. Joseph’s bravery is truly something to be admired. He was faced with so many unexpected situations in his lifetime — he was asked to be a father to a child who was not his, he had to protect his family from dangers that unexpectedly arose around them, and much more. Yet in all of these challenges he encountered, he obeyed God and acted as a father and husband should. We pray that our fathers today will lead by St. Joseph’s example and choose courage when faced with adversity.

A working father: St. Joseph always set a good example for his son. For as long as Jesus could remember, St. Joseph was working to provide for his family through carpentry. Jesus viewed St. Joseph as a hardworking man who cared for the wellbeing of his family. Today, we encourage all fathers to show the same work ethic and commitment to family that St. Joseph did.

A “father in the shadows”:  As we’ve seen, St. Joseph acted as a father-figure to Jesus in every sense. Pope Francis refers to this as a “father in the shadows.” In his relationship to Jesus, St. Joseph was the earthly “shadow” of the heavenly Father. What he means by this is, he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way. Fathers today can imitate this “shadow figure” throughout the lives of their children — showing their physical and emotional availability to them, guiding them through good and bad times, yet allowing them to create their own path.

CFGP strives to embody a legacy similar to St. Joseph’s. We work to express love in all our work with both clients and donors, understanding that their unconditional love for the church is what led them to us. We remain committed to these values and pray to St. Joseph for his guidance this year as we continue our work of growing philanthropy according to the teachings of his son, Jesus Christ. To learn more about CFGP and our work, visit

From all of us at CFGP, we wish you a happy and blessed Father’s Day during this very special year in our faith.


Sarah Hanley is the president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia. To learn more, visit or call 215-587-5650.