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Father Joseph (the youngest priest)


 Photo by Elbee Studio| Laura Blake    Reflection by Erin Huber| Director  Drink Local Drink Tap

                                                FATHER JOSEPH reminds me of an intelligent child. He has every quality of someone you would be honored to have as a friend, a mate, a family member, or someone you would be LUCKY just to meet even for a moment in your short time on this planet- I feel lucky.

At 89 years of age, he introduced himself as “Father Joseph, the youngest priest”. He announced this fact at dinner nightly (and every other meal we had the pleasure of sharing with him). At the 9:30pm (dinnertime), Father Joseph would show up perky as a pigeon, always asking how our day was wanting to hear every detail. This is common in the Ugandan culture- actually caring how another person is. We figured that is why everything takes so long to do- people actually take time for each other no matter the level of exhaustion, struggle, age, time of day, and sometimes even sickness.  Genuine smiles and conversation is all we ever experienced from this young man.

Father Joseph will make you smile, like it or not.  Not always intentional, his comments and habits combined with his age and smile made our day better-EVERYDAY. 

Father Joseph  FUNNIES and things that made us smile

LAUGH: Rapper Gear

One night at dinner, after a LONG day of work and filming, we all sat down and were waiting for the others to join before prayer and Matoke. Father Joseph entered the room last and through our exhaustion, I remember looking to (Mwanda) Tom and then (Namanda) Laura busting into laughter. Thank the stars for electricity that night because we got to see Father sporting a “G-Unit” T shirt. Yes, we explained to him that it was a hip-hop rapper clothing company. We escaped explaining who 50 cent the rapper was, kind of.

SMILE: The Radio and Breakfast Matoke

His world knowledge came from traveling as a priest in the Ugandan army years ago (which he fled from) and from traveling to various parishes doing the good work his life has been dedicated to. In his “older young age”, he has been in the very rural village of Mulajji; a place where there is no newspaper delivery or store to purchase one at. Every morning, Tom, Laura and I were at the table waiting for our Matoke (we hoped) and plain hard white bread with powdered coffee we would attempt to help each other filter. Father Joseph would enter the room with his usual greeting saying hello to us in our African names, announcing his young-ness, and making sure we slept well (Sulu Bulungee?). He ALWAYS got excited like a little kid when (if) the Matoke came (even though it is eaten at every meal) and he ALWAYS had a small old timer radio with him. He would listen VERY intently to this radio trying to tell us what was happening in the Ugandan world, but it just sounded like a bunch of Luganda mumbo-jumbo to us! The radio, breakfast Matoke (in addition to the each others’ “excitement” to see Matoke everyday) and Father Joseph ALWAYS made us smile. The radio, Father Joseph, and breakfast Matoke was the cutest site to see at breakfast.

SMILE and LAUGH: The Cats

Every single night after our 9:30pm dinner, the stray cats that supposedly eat the mice would be crying like crazy for Father Joseph. No, they don’t have names, but he loves them very much.  Every night, he made sure they had their small saucers of milk and all of us (including the other priests and brothers) would smile and sometimes laugh at this animal outcry for the youngest priest-it was REALLY loud. Before Father Joseph would give it up (the milk), he would smile happy like a child walking in the pitch dark and make the cats talk to him for a while as he blew them kisses and then he watched them drink (most days we watched from indoors to experience the authenticity of it all). How adorable.

DOUBLE SMILE: The photo above is Father Joseph in a nutshell- you just want to hug him. This 89 year young man was teaching us the secret of staying young marching along exercising.

Father Joseph is incredibly intelligent, kind, simple and deep-he shared much of himself with us. He may have not known what light pollution is or what G-Unit means (good!?), but he sure shared something worth more than any of that non-sense.

…Here’s the kicker

Tom asked Father Joseph while we were filming “what is the ONE rule or philosophy” he has always lived by. He said LOVE.

I started to tear up as Father repeated this many times and then made eye contact with each of us in such a deep way. I remember the dusty rays of light filtering in through the window of his aged office full of books from the early 1900s, bibles, and stray notes written in Lugana. As he caught my eyes in the dead silence, the tears built.  He reminded me of maybe what my own father would have been like at a mere near 90 someday. Father Joseph, what a beautiful man.

I am extremely excited to see him post 90th birthday in January with Tom when we return to get the next phase of work done.

Smile, LOVE, and Stretch…oh, and don’t forget to eat your Matoke.

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