Société des Missions Africaines –Province de Strasbourg

VOGEL Joseph né le 8 juillet 1889 à Scheibenhard
dans le diocèse de Strasbourg, France
membre de la SMA le 15 juin 1912
prêtre le 12 juillet 1914
décédé le 3 août 1981

1914-1918 mobilisé
1919-1920 Andlau, professeur
1920-1921 Saint-Pierre, professeur
1921-1922 Bischwiller, professeur
1922-1932 missionnaire au Dahomey
1933-1937 Haguenau, professeur
1937-1974 missionnaire en Géorgie, Californie et Arizona, USA
1974-1981 Saint-Pierre, retiré

décédé à Sélestat, France, le 3 août 1981,
à l'âge de 92 ans

Father Joseph L. Vogel (1889 – 1981)

Joseph Vogel was born in Scheibenhard, Alsace, on July 8, 1889.
He died at Selestat Hospital, Alsace, on August 3, 1981.

Joseph Vogel was one of a large family born to Anthony and Rosina (nee Carl) Vogel, in Seheibrenhard, Alsace. He received his elementary education at the Public (Confessional) School in Scheinbenhard. In early adolescence, desiring to become a missionary priest, he entered Our Lady of Lourdes College, the Society’s Apostolic School, at Keer, near Maastrict, Holland (1903-1909). He then made his novitiate in the SMA house at Chanly, Belgium (1909-1910). Joseph studied philosophy and theology in the Society’s major seminary, at Cours Gambetta, Lyon, France. He was received as a member of the Society on June 15, 1912 and ordained a priest in the chapel of the Lyon Seminary by Most Rev. Dr. Deschelette, on July 12, 1914. Ordained with him on that day was Joseph Wernert who was later to serve in America.

After ordination Joseph served in the German Army for the duration of the First World War, firstly as a Private (1st class) in the Medical Corps, then as a Chaplain. He was posted mainly on the Russian front in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, although he also spent some time in the Alsace theatre and in Romania where he was assigned to a hospital for cholera victims. On the conclusion of hostilities Joseph worked briefly as a parish assistant in Scherwiller, Alsace. He then taught in various SMA schools in the Alsace-Lorraine region – at St. Joseph’s seminary, Bischwiller, Sacred Heart seminary, St. Pierre near Eichhoffen, and St. Arbogast’s seminary, Haguenau (1918-1922). He was then posted to the Vicariate of Dahomey, in French West Africa where he served for the next decade. Dahomey originally formed part of the vast Vicariate of the Bight of Benin. In 1883 had been detached and erected as a separate Prefecture. In May 1901 it became a Vicariate, stretching over the French colony of Dahomey, a part of French Niger territory and a part of Upper Volta. During his two tours of duty – 1922-1932 - he served in two mission districts: Abomey-Calair and Zagnanado. Abomey-Calavi District had been founded in 1898 under the patronage of the Saint Anthony of Padua. When Joseph worked there, mainly under the superiorship of Emile Barril, there were some 10 chapels, some 460 Catholic members and a similar number of catechumens. Zagnanado had been founded in 1895 under the patronage of St. Benedict. As superior of this mission – he was assisted by Michel Cousteix - Joseph presided over a principal station, fourteen secondary stations, one church, fourteen chapels, and over a thousand members and a thousand catechumens. There were some schools and also a plantation for rubber and coffee which was managed by an SMA Brother and was an important source of income for the mission. These two mission districts are now part of the great Archdiocese of Coutonou.

In 1930 Joseph fell into ill-health and returned to Alsace where, after convalescing, he taught in St. Arbogast’s minor seminary at Haguenau. No longer well enough to return to the tropics, in 1937, Joseph was assigned to America to assist in the Alsatian Province’s works among African-Americans. He was posted briefly to St. Odilia’s mission, Los Angeles before being appointed pastor of St. Leo IX Mission parish also in Los Angeles. In February 1940 Bishop Daniel J. Gercke, of Tucson, Arizona, gave ‘charge of the Colored People of his diocese’ to the SMA and Joseph was chosen to make the foundation. He commenced living in the Bishop’s house while visiting the ‘Colored District’ and making contacts there. Later that year he became Founding Pastor of Blessed Martin de Porres parish in Tucson. After eight years in Tucson Joseph took his first vacation, returning to Europe to visit family and friends. On his return, in 1949, he was appointed to the Diocese of Charleston in North Carolina, where he became the Founding Pastor of St. Cyprian’s parish, Georgetown, SC. Here, as in all the SMA mission parishes in the South, there was great poverty. Joseph purchased an Army chapel which he remodeled into a school. The hurricane of 1954 caused considerable damage to the parish buildings and a year later he left Georgetown because of ill-health.

After a brief convalescence Joseph spent his time traveling throughout the South securing information with a view to writing the history of the SMA missions. In April 1956 he traveled to Rome, spending five weeks at the Society’s Mother-house during which he conducted research in the archives. Seven months later, when he returned to America he took up a post as assistant in Immaculate Conception parish, Jacksonville, Florida, remaining there nine months, and then in Assumption Parish, where he stayed until 1960. In April of that year Joseph joined the staff of St. Leo’s Abbey High School, Florida (1961-1962), teaching Latin, Greek, French, German, Ethics, and Religion. In the following year he taught Church History in St. Leo’s major seminary then, after a spell in St. Augustine’s parish, East St. Louis, Illinois, he joined the staff of Ave Maria Seminary, Doylestown, the American Province’s novitiate, taking up his appointment in October 1963. Here he served as confessor for the seminarians and taught the Society History as well as courses in liturgy.

Joseph wrote a number of books and articles. The best known titles were ‘Red and White Roses’, which was a controversial history of the SMA in America; ‘Old Wine in New Skins’; and ‘Scattered Blessings in Ham’s Children’, which was a history of the SMA in West Africa. His biography of the Province’s Founder, Fr. Ignace Lissner caused a considerable stir at the time since it seemed to be particularly subjective and hostile. It had been printed privately rather than published, although the distinction seems not to have been made at the time. However the volume was made available to many people outside the Society. A Plenary Meeting of the SMA’s international superiors issued a ‘declaration on the book of Father Vogel’ which stated that ‘the book was published solely on the initiative and responsibility of the author with no permission from the competent Society authorities.’ The declaration also drew attention to the fact that work contained ‘numerous unfounded judgments on individuals, as well as several errors of fact’.

Needless to say this controversy led to certain deterioration in relations between Joseph and Society authorities, particular in America. Joseph had been a founder member of the Province but feeling now that he was persona non grata, he returned to France living out his years of retirement first in the Maison de Retraite, Lauterbourg and then in the Society’s house at Saint Pierre, Barr. As time passed relations between Joseph and his Province improved and Joseph and the successive Provincial superiors corresponded in a friendly fashion. Joseph was particularly grateful for the copies of the Provincial news letter which was sent to him each month. But some of his comments on the content showed that he was still a man of trenchant views. Joseph suffered from deteriorating sight towards the end of his life and despite frequent surgery little could be done. He lived into the 67th year of his priesthood, dying at the age of nine-two years.

He is buried in the cemetery attached to the SMA House at Saint Pierre, Barr, France