It all started with a letter…Br Joseph Mukasa’s story

Click on photos to enlarge and view in slideshow

Br Joseph at Mount St Joseph in Cork city.

Br Joseph with Br Godfrey at the 2011 Congregation Chapter in Dublin.

Br Joseph at the Mount of the Beatitudes in the Holy Land, October 2013.

Drummer boys! Br Joseph plays traditional Ghanaian drums with Br Valerius.

I am Br. Joseph Mukasa Dongligee, a Presentation Brother and a native of Kaleo-Nyuguluu – a remote village located in the Diocese of Wa, in the Upper West Region of Ghana. I am 38 years of age with one older sister, Alice. I have just finished my degree in theology and psychology at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland.

How did you meet the Presentation Brothers?

I got my call to the religious life after an encounter with a religious Brother from a different congregation altogether! I was taught by the FIC Brothers at primary school. One Brother in particular among the staff in school impressed me. This prompted me to want to be like him. It shows the power of witness and example!

This whole idea stayed with me for a longer period of time. I aspired to the Order to which my favourite teacher belonged but, fortunately or unfortunately, one day somebody gave me some letters to post and as I looked at the names on the envelopes I saw that one was addressed to the Presentation Brothers whom I have never heard of. I wrote down the address and went and posted these letters. I later wrote to the vocations director of the Presentation Brothers, the late Br. Joseph Wegru (RIP), at that address.

Br. Joseph Wegru who was then vocations director for the Presentation Brothers kept in contact with me. We communicated by letter as there wasn’t easy access to internet at that time. Not only did he keep in touch through letters, he paid visits in person to me both at home and in school. These moments of visits inspired and strengthened my call to become a Presentation Brother.

I was invited to a number of contact days organized by the Presentation Brothers. These were for  young men thinking of following the Presentation Brothers way of life. I felt really energized having met with like-minded young men who were considering the same journey I was pondering.

What did you do before joining the Presentation Brothers?

After completing my technical education, I worked for a short while as an electrician and also as a site foreman for Kalgastin Construction Works.  After a while, I took that bold decision to leap into the unknown for the service of God and God’s people. In 2006, I was received into the Presentation Brothers postulancy.

What was your formation programme like?

There were four of us in the postulancy programme. We knew each other because we met during some of the contact days that were organized by the vocations director. As freshers going through the religious life programme we met some challenges but they were minor. For example, it took a while to get used to the daily prayer book of the Church (the Divine Office). I also had to get used to the routine of rising very early at 5am! This was to help us to get fully prepared for the morning meditation before prayer in the Chapel.

Did you like your formation experience?

Personally, I did not find any difficulty in my formation days. What you need to do in formation is to leave all your old baggage outside the door before you come in. When you enter, you immerse yourself in the Spirit of the Lord who chose you just as He did with Jeremiah even though Jeremiah thought himself too young and unable to speak. Despite that he allowed himself to be transformed and led by the Spirit of the Lord. And so is the case with everyone called. The Lord calls the unworthy and makes them worthy.

The only difficulty one would encounter in religious formation is when one tries to lead the Spirit rather than allowing oneself to be led by the Spirit. Living my life as a Presentation Brother, I have always revisited my formation years because those years made me who I am today.

What was the programme like?

As part of our formation programme, we had lectures and these were geared toward introducing us to the spirit of the founder of the Presentation Brothers, Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice. We also studied the sacraments and the teaching of the Church on faith, justice, care of the earth, etc. We also went for courses that gave us the opportunity to meet and interact with other men and women in formation in other congregations. We all loved these opportunities to meet up as it was a moment of great encouragement to keep moving forward on our journey.

I remain forever grateful to two noble men of the Presentation Brothers: Brother Raphael Toodle (my postulancy director) and Brother Edwin O’ Sullivan (my novice director).  These two Brothers, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, helped to transform me and molded me into the Presentation Brother I am today.

What was your first assignment after profession?

I made my first profession as a temporary professed Brother in 2008. My first community was the Yendi community in the northern region of Ghana. Being the youngest in the community, I was given two tasks: community bursar and caretaker of our computer lab in St. Charles Lwanga’s JHS in Yendi. (This is one of our schools.) It was a bit difficult to perform these two tasks simultaneously. There were times when I was in school only to receive a phone call from the kitchen that something was needed at home. But it all went well and I enjoyed my stay and work in Yendi. I stayed there for a year after which I was asked by my Province Leader, together with my Congregation Leader, to move to Ireland for further studies. Upon consultation and discernment I agreed to move.

What was it like to move to Ireland?

I spent six months in our International Novitiate community in Killarney in Co. Kerry. During my stay in this community I did voluntary work with the Kerry Parents and Friends Association, a centre for people who are physical challenged. I loved every bit of the time I spent in that centre meeting with different people, listening and talking with them.

From Killarney, I moved to the Glasthule community in Co. Dublin. It is in this community that I am based at the moment as I conclude my degree studies. As part of my course, I did a placement with Beaufort Centre, which caters for the elderly, providing them with a meal at a very subsidized cost, and also giving them the opportunity to come out from their homes to meet and chat with other people. My time at this centre helped me to get to know and understand more about the elderly. I also helped in the Parish Church in Glasthule as a Eucharistic Minister.

What advice would you give to any man thinking of joining the Presentation Brothers?

My advice to any young man thinking of joining religious life is to allow himself to be led by the Holy Spirit.  Listen for the voice of God. Deep down in yourself is where you will come to know and understand what God wants you to do with your life. Also pray constantly, invite yourself in to deeper meditation and prayer. Take a step and speak to someone about what you are thinking of doing with your life, but mind you, not all will support you! You would have to be careful with some of the advice you get. Not everyone I spoke to was helpful to me when I was thinking of becoming a Presentation Brother!

Living my life as a Presentation Brother, there has never been a time that I thought I have followed the wrong vocation in life. There is great joy in becoming a Presentation Brother!