Headshot of Josef in 1984

Br. Josepf in 1984

A huge heart. A booming laugh. A love for dancing. A gift for liturgical design. These were just some of the memories shared by those who knew and loved Br. Josef Anderlohr, OFM, as they gathered for his Mass of Christian Burial on March 30 at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati.

Born to German immigrants, Josef Sr. and Pauline, in Mishawaka, Ind., the friar’s pride in his German heritage continued throughout his life. Province Nurse Michelle Viacava, who cared for Br. Josef in recent years at St. John the Baptist Friary, said, “Josef remembered the words to German songs and loved when I spoke to him in German. He was sassy and ornery and made us laugh every day. I really want to thank the friars and his nephew (Joe Baillie) for the opportunity to take care of him. He will be greatly missed.”

Br. Josef in 2001

Joe, who gave the eulogy at Br. Josef’s funeral liturgy, noted that he doesn’t have many early memories of his uncle, but does remember him as “a kind presence in our home. I know that he was really helpful to my mom (Loretta). I could see how connected they were.”

“Later in life, it seemed he was always with us for the weddings, the holidays, the celebrations of any kind, and we loved having him around,” Joe added. “Always with the gentle tease, the shoulder when you needed it, that sense of humor and that great explosive laugh of his. And that catch phrase question of his out of nowhere: ‘Are you behaving?’”

Br. Josef dancing at St. John the Baptist Friary

“It always seemed to me that once Uncle Joe found the Franciscan path, somewhat late in life in his 40s, and devoted himself to it, that he had finally come home, that he had finally found what he’d been looking for,” he continued. “The whole family came to attend his solemn vows ceremony and we have very fond memories of that celebration.”

Among the highlights of Br. Josef’s time in ministry were his years at St. Francis Seraph Church (SFS) and Friary. He was assigned to SFS as pastoral associate in 1994, and named guardian at the friary five years later. Br. Josef’s training and experience in liturgical design were a gift to the parish when it came time for the renovation and redesign of the church, a landmark in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

“There he took the house of God and painted the walls blue, reintroduced the paintings from the original church that were held in the attic, created new stained glass for the friars’ chapel,” Provincial Minister Fr. Mark Soehner noted in his homily. “He made the house of God a home for the people of God, a place of worship, where the homeless and the housed became sisters and brothers to each other.”

Josef gets a haircut from the province nurse

Br. Josef receives a pre-Christmas haircut from Province Nurse Michelle Viacava. Photo by Toni Cashnelli

Parishioners and friends from SFS were among those in attendance at the celebration of Br. Josef’s life, including Diana Klinedinst and Martha Schueler, who served as a lector for the first reading. Diana recalled that her friendship with Br. Josef began when her sister-in-law, Molly Ashmore, was battling cancer. “He was just there with her when she needed him and was really our family’s anchor when she was going through treatment,” she said.

Martha expressed her gratitude for Br. Josef’s support when her husband, Robb, passed away, and the friar’s involvement in planning his funeral. “He was such a good friend to us and such a comfort,” she said.

Both women also made note of Br. Josef’s sense of humor, shared holiday and birthday celebrations and lively meals together. “He loved to give everyone hugs and kisses and loved to dance,” Martha said.

Michelle spoke of Br. Josef’s care and compassion for others and fun-loving nature, too. “I really believe he had a huge, huge heart,” she said. “Yes, he could be stubborn at times, but there was a big heart underneath that. I could be having my worst day or sad about one of the friars who was sick and Josef would sense that and come to my side. His purpose really was offering comfort to people who were suffering.”

Friar talks to Josef's nephew

Br. Tim Sucher chats with Joe Baillie, Josef’s nephew. Photo by Eileen Connelly, OSU

“Josef also loved our walks outside and he would point out all the wildflowers. That went back to his time working in a greenhouse and as a florist,” Michelle added. “He really did love singing and dancing and always had a big smile when I played the accordion.”

His fellow friars also shared their memories of Br. Josef, including Fr. Fred Link, who recalled a pilgrimage they made together to the Holy Land. On the Sea of Galilee, their boat stopped, dropped anchor and they heard the Gospel proclaimed. “That touched Josef immensely,” Fr. Fred said.

Later, he added, they visited the Church of Dominus Flevit, where Jesus wept over the future fate of Jerusalem. “Josef broke into sobs,” Fr. Fred recalled, “and when he could speak again, he said, ‘I don’t know what came over me.’ That says something about his heart. He was able to open his heart to Jesus in a way that moved him to tears.”

“I remember meeting Josef when he had just made simple vows,” Fr. Mark said during his homily. “He was sent to St. Mary Magdalene Friary in Chicago for a tumultuous year of formation as simply professed. During those few months of living together, I found Josef to be full of humor, a jokester at times, who enjoyed pointing out the obvious

Friar reads the petitions at the funeral Mass

Br. Brian Maloney, confrere and friend of Br. Josef, reads the petitions. Photo by Eileen Connelly, OSU

incongruities in our way of life. He was known to do some kind of German jig, wearing some of the attire you might find in the German Alps. He was a contrarian, an onery guy, someone who could make us laugh.”

“He also loved to decorate with flowers,” Fr. Mark added. “Whenever we had a festive occasion, our tables were graced with some floral display. It made that dinner and those that followed, special, memorable. It brought grace to an otherwise boisterous, loud, dull group of dudes who were transformed into more civilized gentlemen. Josef had ways of making a house, a friary, into a home.”

In words of comfort to those mourning the loss of Josef, Fr. Mark said, “God is rejoicing over this brother who made the house of God a home for many people. And God is making a home for him today.”

Br. Tim Sucher, current guardian at SFS Friary, recalled the challenge, and some deception, involved with moving Br. Josef to a new home—St. John the Baptist Friary—when the time came that he needed additional care. “My job was

Friars at Mass of Christian Burial

Friars, along with Br. Josef’s nephew, Joe, bring his casket into church. Photo by Eileen Connelly, OSU

to get him there and it was best not to tell him why,” Br. Tim explained, noting that Br. Josef’s belongings were packed up during Mass and taken to the friary before he arrived. Br. Josef was greeted by Michelle, and Fr. John Bok, who was serving as guardian at the time, and received a tour of what would be his new home. As Br. Tim and Br. Josef stood in the friary courtyard, Br. Josef said, “I’m not mad at you. If I had known what you were planning, I probably would have had a good hissy fit.”

SJB Friary truly became a home for Br. Josef, as it is for all the friars who reside there, thanks to the compassion of Michelle and her staff. Joe passed on a touching story of his sister, Kathy, and sister-in-law, Joanie’s, visit with Br. Josef in March, shortly before he passed away: “Joanie shared a moment from their visit to Cincinnati as they were packing up at the hotel. The friary nurse called and put Uncle Joe on speaker so they could say goodbye. In a bright and lucid moment, Uncle Joe said, ‘Are you girls behaving?’ His last words to them (were) a profession of love.”