Br Joseph Wilkerson, CO

Posted on Aug 23, 2011

Br Joseph Wilkerson, CO

Brother Joseph died at The Oratory on March 20, 2014 after  50 years of service.  Please remember him in your prayers

I was born in Havana, FL on July 14, 1942 to Rudy and Aletha Wilkerson. I was the sixth of ten children. After my mother died in 1959, it fell to me to help my father by looking after two younger brothers and two younger sisters. While I felt called to religious life, I put off pursuing my vocation until Dad could manage.

I entered the Rock Hill Oratory on February 22, 1962. I suppose living with nine siblings prepared me for community life, for I immediately felt at home at the Oratory. I found I adjusted well to the life of daily prayer, Mass and other community exercises. The Oratory is a close-knit family.

In my forty-eight years here, I have found the gifts God gave to me were able to be put to good use in a variety of ministries the Oratory entrusted to me. During all these years, I’ve felt honored to belong to the Oratory, which since 1934 has touched the lives of thousands in significant ways. I would like to share with you some of the ministries to which I have been able to give my time and talents.

In my formative years, I drove a school bus (actually a van) taking children to St. Anne’s School and delivering them back home. I was certified as a catechist teaching the faith to children in Rock Hill, Chester, Lancaster and Fort Jackson Army base.

For twenty-three years I assisted Father William and his staff at the Oratory Religion Camp for two weeks each summer at Kings Mountain State Park.

When I was assigned to Ministry to the Sick and Elderly, I earned certification in Clinical Pastoral Education at Baptist Hospital in Columbia from 1986-87. In that ministry I made daily visits to the area hospitals and nursing homes. I saw people at joy-filled moments like the birth of a baby or recovery after surgery. I also witnessed people’s vulnerability attempting to console those at bedside vigils, as a loved one was dying. Being a Brother, of course, I carefully observed when a priest was needed to administer sacraments and made those arrangements.

A very demanding but rewarding ministry was called “Project Share.” Following the challenge of Isaiah, the prophet, who urged sharing our bread with the hungry, I would deal directly with the needy. The Oratory’s front door bell rang incessantly as the unemployed needed rent to ward off eviction, or money to restore power which had been cut off due to non-payment of bills. Often we provided food for hungry children. In this ministry, I saw the struggles especially of the elderly who really did have to choose between food or medicine. I felt so full of happiness when I would send an elderly diabetic to the drug store to pick up insulin the Oratory provided.

Due to the ever-increasing population of York County, a few years ago I relinquished the hospital ministry to concentrate on the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I also have a long list of shut-ins to visit. On these visits I see the peace and joy in these wonderful people as I give them Holy Communion. Their faith and appreciation inspire me.

I also serve on the Oratory’s hospitality team. I greet retreatants, welcome visitors, and see that they are comfortable. Often over an extended breakfast or lunch, I can perform the ministry of listening to our guests.

There are still other ministries I’ve been privileged to do, such as my three years assisting at St. Anne’s Parish from 1977-1980. But I’m running out of space.

I’d like to conclude by saying it has been a joy meeting so many great people. Since Oratorians spend their entire lives at the one Oratory, I have the great gift of long-lasting , indeed life long friendships.

I get a little teasing from my brother Oratorians. A few times each day we pray for you, our benefactors and Friends of The Oratory. Each gets to pray aloud his intentions. Rarely are our benefactors not mentioned. But in the unlikely oversight, I announce “For the Friends of the Oratory and all our benefactors, we pray to the Lord.”

Without your help our ministries would be curtailed. Thank you making my years of ministry possible. God bless you all.

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