Tailor for God, example for urban youth dies at age 80

Brother Herman (Thomas) Joseph, 1930-2010

Joseph,_Br_Thomas_for_webKnown in the Society of the Divine Word for his bright smile and customary greeting, Brother Herman (Thomas) Joseph, 80, died Thursday, April 15, at Techny, Ill.

"Brother Thomas’s smile could brighten the bleakest winter day" said Rev. Mark Weber SVD, provincial superior for the Chicago Province. "He displayed cheerfulness in all that he did—from working as a tailor in his early years as a brother to helping urban youth find their talents to making rosaries in his retirement years."

Brother Thomas always sought to be active even during retirement. For six years as a Techny resident, he often volunteered to staff the reception desk. He welcomed all guests as brothers and sisters and could frequently be heard saying, "Hello, my brother," and "Hello, my sister."

Born in Belize, Central America, Brother Thomas was one of Matilda (nee Roches) and Geraldo Joseph’s 14 children. The elder Joseph, a tailor by trade, began teaching his son the business when the boy was only eight years old. At age 21, when Brother Thomas began studies with the Society of the Divine Word, he already had achieved master tailor status.

In 1954, he began novitiate in Bay St. Louis, Miss. In 1956, he professed first vows, became a member of the Society of the Divine Word and took the name Brother Thomas. And in 1962, he professed perpetual vows.

Brother Thomas’s varied career included tailoring; administrative work in Conesus, N.Y., and Duxbury. Mass.; and youth ministry in Asbury Park, N.J., and Chicago, Ill. From 1981 to 1989, he was assigned to St. Peter Claver in Asbury Park. While there, he managed dance and art classes, as well as sports teams. As part of the parish’s Catholic Youth Organization, he organized weekly visits to a local nursing home.

These activities helped the youth to stay away from gangs, a ministry that he continued on Chicago’s Southside. From 1989 to 1991, he worked in Our Lady of the Gardens and from 1991 to 2001 at St. Elizabeth.

Brother Thomas was the last living Divine Word Missionary from Belize. His viewing will take place at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center, beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 23. On Saturday, April 24, viewing will begin at 10:30 a.m. His funeral will commence at noon, followed by burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny and a luncheon.

He is survived by two siblings, Elistina and Simeon, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

Return to Main Obituaries page