It makes a world of difference to us all that in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Pope Francis surprised us with his proclamation of the “Year of St. Joseph.” Joseph, the father of Jesus of Nazareth, is the most understated figure of the Christmas story, and yet for Christians, he plays a pivotal role in bringing salvation to the whole world. The pope’s official opening of a yearlong celebration of the fatherly saint is a global call for solidarity and a renewed way of being family in the post-pandemic world we all hope will come sooner than later. What is more: He is doing this as a leader of the largest global religious organization in the world, who has a special relationship with other leaders of international organizations in business and politics.
It is no accident that on the same day as his Year of St. Joseph proclamation, Pope Francis also introduced the Council for Inclusive Capitalism along with Bank of America’s CEO Brian Moynihan and 25 other leaders of the world’s largest corporations. The pope and the CEOs want to work together to reimagine our global economic order and the role that capital systems can meaningfully and materially play to include the planet’s poorest citizens. The corporate leaders represent 200 million workers in 163 countries and $10.5 trillion in assets. They seem to be taking seriously the many times this pope has called for a new universal economic order that does not exclude the working poor whose labor generates the majority of global capital.
As one of the world’s global cities, Philadelphia has an economy that contributes extensively to this international flow of capital, goods, and services. Yet, it is the poorest large city in the U.S. The pope’s leadership may be more relevant to us than we are willing to recognize. We should pick up the image of St. Joseph as the ideal of a caring parent and a just and good provider to understand better the bold and long-overdue project of reshaping global capitalism. Philadelphia as a civic and business community needs a year of contemplation on St. Joseph as we reestablish our lives in the post-pandemic reality in our piece of the global economy here along the Delaware River.
When Pope Francis visited our city five years ago and stopped on the campus of St. Joseph’s University, he offered us his blessing on our international interfaith efforts to work for a better world. All the more reason then for us to expand that shared vision beyond the courses we teach on world religions or Catholic social doctrine to the ways in which we educate the future CEOs of global enterprises.
Just as our first Jesuit pope has emphasized the fatherly figure in the Christmas story in this way, the Jesuits who opened the first Catholic church in William Penn’s City of Brotherly Love named it after the patron of a global mission, St. Joseph. The next two churches they opened were named after Joseph’s spouse, Mary, and his child, Jesus. These churches of the holy family, Old St. Joseph’s, Old St. Mary’s, and the Gesu, still stand today looking over our city from Society Hill and North Philadelphia as reminders that we still live with the patronage and example of St. Joseph and his familial concern. And with this unusual Christmas and in this challenging year, it makes a world of difference that we, like St. Joseph, stand with care looking over our city and the whole human family.
Daniel Joyce, S.J., is the executive director of mission programs at St. Joseph’s University.