Br Joseph Asare

I received news yesterday that Br Joseph Asare died yesterday, 6th March 2018, in Holy Family Hospital, Techiman. He was aged about 93.

Here he was in 2014. By then he had cataracts and was almost blind. He wasn't able to get out much for the past few years and was looked after by a student, Aboagye, who slept in the room next door.

His passing brings back many memories. I first met him not long after I arrived in Ghana in 1997. He was then living as a hermit at Abono on the crater rim overlooking Lake Bosomtwe. I was introduced to him by Br John Owusu. I can still remember that day clearly. We had a community outing and Br Joe sat us down on twelve stones laid out beside his house, representing the Twelve Apostles. He was effectively squatting - although with someone's permission I think - in the abandoned buildings of the Geological Survey. At that time the land was being encroached by Pentecostal prayer groups who kept up an almost constant hubbub. He was feeling squeezed out and we invited him to come and stay at Kristo Buase, which he did. This must be my earliest photo of him:

This was taken at the Christmas workers' party in the monastery about 1998. Star Beer was a tradition then - three bottles in the course of the afternoon. Br Joseph seems to be joining in too, although later on he drank only Malta.

Here he is a little later when I had just become Superior of Kristo Buase. That's Br Basilio on my right and the presence of Br Cyprian of Pluscarden and Fr Luis Regalado of Christ in the Desert dates it to about 2001. Br Joseph wore a Franciscan Cappuchin habit which a friend had posted him from Belgium. The Franciscans weren't altogether happy about this but he did have a Franciscan sort of charism. He lived with us for about twenty years but never showed any real sympathy for the Benedictine tradition. He enjoyed company and was held in some awe by the villagers, not only for his bushy patriarchal beard but for his phenomenal knowledge of the power of herbs and trees. It was about this time that he healed a woman with a beruli ulcer. She had been in danger of amputation of the leg but to the doctor's amazement she was completely cured. He used to dose himself with various concoctions too, sometimes with something other than the desired effect.

The dog at my feet in that group shot was Guigo, my faithful companion for twelve years. Br Joseph also admired him. We had lots of dogs then. Here's Tiger, one of our alsatians, making a jump for Br Joseph. They must have weighed about the same but Br Joseph had no worries about him - some of the villagers shinned their way up trees when Tiger approached. We had bought him as a guard dog after being attacked by armed robbers on Christmas Eve.

Br Joseph had wanted to live in a cave in the rocks, but the sandstone was permeable and damp and couldn't easily be adapted. Well into his seventies he did a lot of the heavy work digging out sand from a rock shelter which I had wanted to make into a chapel.

Instead, after repeated requests that we honour our promise to give him a hermitage of his own, we built a house for him. He never really reconciled himself to its size, but not knowing how long Br Joseph would be with us, we had designed it to be later adapted as either a quiet guesthouse or the nucleus of small monastery for Benedictine nuns. In the event Br Joseph lived there for fourteen years.

Rest in peace, Br Joseph! We learnt a lot from you, and you brought the wisdom of age to a young community.

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St Margaret and the Sacred Heart Church, Lerwick

Roman Catholic Diocese of Aberdeen

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