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 | Drew Isbell, the diocesan director of young adult and campus ministries

Following in St. Joseph’s Footsteps to Nazareth

It had been over six years since we lived by family. Eleven or so if you count going away to college. We had two kids, a house in central Illinois, and a great group of friends whose lives were in the same stage as ours. On the outside everything was set up nicely for us. At the same time there seemed to be a deep ache within our hearts. Can you get homesick after over 10 years of being away? It seemed that is just what my wife, Amanda, and I were feeling at the time.

The friends around us were so good to us, but they weren’t family. As our kids continued to grow, we started to yearn for them to have a childhood like ours, having their grandpas and grandmas, aunts, and uncles, and cousins around them. There is something about belonging to a family larger than just your immediate one that brings security and stability into your life. We wanted that for our kids.

The more we talked about it, the more it made sense, and the more I prayed about it the more I felt in prayer that it was the right way to go. This phrase kept coming up in my prayer in the morning each day, “return to Nazareth.” What did that mean? Did that mean home, home? As I opened my Bible in prayer, I read the following passage out loud:

“When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:39-40

Is that where the Lord wanted our kids to grow up? Is that where He wanted them to grow in wisdom and grace? Back home? It seemed to be something I sensed with my wife was being asked of us, so I entrusted it to St. Joseph. Over the next few weeks, I prayed with passages of Scripture where St. Joseph exemplified his care for Mary and Jesus, where he listened to the angel in his dream, for example, to keep them safe from harm from Herod. I started to pray a novena to St. Joseph to help me understand how this was going happen.

As I woke in the morning shortly after the novena ended, I had this sense that I needed to check the Catholic job postings online for Illinois – something I had done from time to time. I remember being somewhat annoyed by the idea because this wasn’t the first time I had this desire to move home. I had checked the job listings in the past, and after a few times just figured it was a dream that was going to go unfulfilled.

As I opened the website, right at the top of the jobs was: director for evangelization for the Diocese of Joliet. I was currently the director of evangelization at my parish in central Illinois. Within the next two weeks, our entire lives changed.

I accepted a job at the Diocese of Joliet. I moved in during the week with my mother back home and would travel back and forth on the weekends and make the two-hour drive back to central Illinois to be with my wife and children. In the same month that I accepted the job, we got pregnant. My wife was working during the week and taking care of our children, pregnant with our third and trying to keep the house clean for showings. After about five months, my wife started to have contractions one day while I was at work at the diocesan office.

I drove those two hours back home, and after a few days in the hospital we packed up the van, and I followed her to move into her parents’ home. With my wife in danger of having our baby too soon, we were on our way back home to stay in her childhood home. So much of my story started to make sense in terms of St. Joseph and continues until today. A few months later, our son was born, and we named him Luka Joseph. Today he is one years old and is a very healthy and happy boy. We bought a house recently after renting for a bit, and we are glad to be in our own town of “Nazareth.”

For me, St. Joseph exemplified total trust in God’s plan. When the angel came to him in a dream to tell him that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, he trusted. When he was told to flee from Herod to keep them safe, he trusted. Each step along the way, he trusted in what God had in store for him. He didn’t rely on his own will but was led by God the Father and because of that was an exemplary foster father to Jesus. May we follow in his footsteps with humility ourselves.