Ode to Brother Joe

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Lew, I remember “Brother Joe” so well. I was a trustee of Universidad Francisco Marroquin forty years ago, when we had very modest accommodations indeed — but Joe’s modesty was deeper still. Even his voice was soft and deep — just like his spirit, which radiated all those he met.

What a gift Brother Joe was to generations of Latin Americans who were intent on building a culture of freedom and prosperity for their fellow man — and Joe was constantly there to remind them of their responsibility to one another, and to their fellow man.

The late Manuel “Muso” Ayau, Marroquin’s founding father, had a brilliant eye for talent. Soft-spoken, like Joe, he was also a realist. Two years ago he warned me about the rising tide of corruption and violence (don’t they always go together?) in Guatemala. “Don’t come!” he told me, when I was considering teaching for a semester at Marroquin. “It’s too dangerous.”

Since then, the criminal Zetas — a Mexican gang more corrupt even than the U.S. taxpayer-supported Mexican government (and that is saying something) — are overrunning Guatemala’s sparsely-populated north and terrorizing her people. Brother Joe knew all this, and studiously ignored it, fearlessly serving to the end the students and the truth that he loved.

May he rest in peace.

7:51 am on April 5, 2011