Missionary remembered on three continents for his passion for the liturgy

Father Robert Fisher, 1937-2024

Fisher,_Robert_for_webRev. Robert Fisher SVD, 87, one of the first Divine Word missionaries to work in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana, died Feb. 9 at Techny, Ill.

Born to Lawrence Bruce and Georgia Margarite (nee Paris) Fisher in Paragould, Ark., on Feb. 6, 1937, he was the eldest of his father’s three sons and his mother’s six children. His father died when he was nine years old. A few years later, his mother married Herman Leo Kasper.

The young Robert Fisher entered Divine Word Seminary in East Troy, Wis., in 1951. He professed vows in 1957 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1965.

Recognizing his academic abilities, the Society of the Divine Word sent him to Rome, where he earned a licentiate in sacred theology from Gregorian University and a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Anteneo of Saint Anselmo. Upon completion of his dissertation, he was sent to teach at St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Miss., while he waited for his first overseas assignment.

Wherever he traveled, Father Fisher relished learning about the local culture. While in Rome, he mastered the art of Italian cooking. When in London, he frequented the British Museum. In Ghana, he spoke the Akan and Twi languages. In the Philippines, he wore a polo barong, an embroidered shirt made of natural fibers.

His first assignment abroad took him to the Philippines, where he taught theology and liturgy at Divine Word College in Tagaytay and the Archdiocesan Major Seminary in Vigan, Ilocos, Sur.

While in the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia in Vigan, he served as co-chair of the Commission on Worship. During his tenure, the commission developed a program on the liturgy for priests and a course in catechetics for laypeople to help implement Vatican II changes.

After three years in the Philippines, Father Fisher was assigned to the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana. There, he and three other missionaries attended to the pastoral and administrative needs of 20 mission outstations and several schools.

He lived and worked in rural areas, known as the bush country, where the territory lacked telephone service, electricity and running water.

He also taught at St. Peter’s Seminary in Cape Coast, Ghana, and fulfilled pastoral roles at Good Shepherd Church in Tema, St. Peter in Nkwatia-Kwahu, Blessed Sacrament Church in Ntronang and St. John’s Church in Akim Ofoase, where he built a chapel and a convent and converted the old convent into a maternity ward. He also built a medical clinic in Oshima.

While in Ghana, he was appointed dean of the Western Akim District in the Diocese of Accra. He also served as administrative attaché at the nunciature (akin to an embassy) of the Holy See in Accra. In 1981, he was chosen as a liturgical advisor and master of ceremonies for Pope John Paul II’s visit to the African nation.

In 1983, an estimated million people, “returnees,” descended upon Ghanaian cities with little more than the clothes on their backs. They had gone to Nigeria in search of better economic conditions but were expelled by the Nigerian government. As chairman of the Accra-Tema Ecclesiastical District Committee of Catholic Pastors and Pastoral Workers, Father Fisher helped to organize meal programs for tens of thousands of returnees.

In 1984, Father Fisher returned to the United States. He was professor of theology and philosophy at Xavier University in New Orleans and later taught ethics and served as Catholic chaplain at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas.

While in Prairie View, he was pastor of St. Martin de Porres Church. He also served mission parishes in the Diocese of Victoria (Texas), including St. Ann in Point Comfort, St. Joseph in Port O’Connor and St. Patrick in Seadrift.

In 2005, he became director of St. Augustine’s Retreat Center in Bay St. Louis. When Hurricane Katrina flooded the property in autumn that year, Father Fisher was forced to swim for his life.

Bay St. Louis had taken a direct hit, so while the building was being restored, Father Fisher was again assigned to the Diocese of Victoria to serve St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in El Campo, Texas.
In addition to his pastoral and academic accomplishments, Father Fisher wrote “West African Religious Traditions: Focus on the Akan of Ghana” (Orbis Books, 1998) and co-translated “The Church at Prayer: Introduction to the Liturgy” (Desclée Co., 1968).

He moved to Techny in retirement in 2017.

Father Fisher’s parents and sister-in-law Anne Fisher preceded him in death. He is survived by five siblings: James L. Fisher, John (Don Streb) Fisher, Kay (Mike) King, JoAnn (Charles) VanPelt and Frank Kasper.

The visitation for Father Fisher will be held on Friday, Feb. 16 beginning at 9 a.m. in the Divine Word Residence Chapel at Techny, followed by the Mass of the Resurrection at 10:30 a.m. He will be buried at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny. His funeral will be live streamed at:

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Father Fisher can be made for the care of elderly and infirm missionaries and sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.