Father Joseph L. Hamel, MM
Born: July 22, 1939
Ordained: June 8, 1985
Died: March 28, 2012
Father Joseph L. Hamel died on March 28, 2012 at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York. He was 72 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 26 years, as well as a Maryknoll Brother for 26 years prior to his ordination.
Joseph Louis Hamel was born on July 22, 1939 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, son of Joseph and Yvonne Dube Hamel. He had 3 sisters and 6 brothers. Joseph attended St. Anne’s Grammar School and Central Catholic High School, both in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
After high school graduation, he entered Maryknoll Brothers’ Novitiate in Brookline Massachusetts on September 28, 1957 and took his first oath on July 29, 1959, at which time he took the religious name of Brother Pierre. Brother Pierre’s assignments included the St. Louis Seminary and the Japanese Mission in Los Angeles, where initially, he was a bus driver for the primary school and did general maintenance work. After a few years he got involved in pastoral work primarily dealing in youth ministry, retreats, drama, counseling and CYO. Brother took his Perpetual Oath on June 20, 1965.
In November 1972 Brother was given his first overseas assignment to the Peru Region. After language studies in Cochabamba, Bolivia, he was assigned to the Guadalupe mission in Lima, Peru, again working with the youth of the parish and teaching English in the high school. He worked there for six months and in March 1974 was transferred to the Juli Prelature and worked in the rural community of Acora. Thus was his introduction to the ways of the campo and the Aymara people. He also worked with local lay leaders. He returned to Ilave, again working in the campo communities where he lived with lay leaders, gave courses and Bible studies. Brother was assigned for a short period to Chucito, Peru, working in the formation of lay personnel for the Prelature. Unfortunately that project was short lived due to insufficient financial support. However, these experiences gave birth to the idea of a mobile team for formation of lay leaders which was begun in 1980. The experience with the Aymara people moved Brother Pierre to go on for the priesthood. And so in 1982 he came to the United States to begin his studies.
In September 1983 Brother Pierre requested to use his baptismal name of Joseph. Brother received a B.A. degree in Christian Religious Studies from SUNY-Empire State College and a Master of Arts degree in Christian Heritage from the Maryknoll School of Theology in 1989. Father Joseph Hamel was ordained at Maryknoll, New York on June 8, 1985. He returned to his work in Peru among the Aymara people in the Altiplano, helping to train people in subjects such as Scripture and Catechism and also to continue his work with the formation of lay leaders.
Father Hamel worked in Huancane, Peru until the beginning of 1997 when the Japan Region asked the Peru Region to “loan” Father to their Region to work among the Latin American immigrants coming to Japan, the majority of whom were Catholics. In 1999 after two years of language study, Father Hamel was asked to work in Tsu, in the diocese of Kyoto, Japan and simultaneously became a member of the Japan Region.
Father Hamel continued his work with the Japanese Christian community and with a team of other Catholic religious, who minister to the migrants of Mie-Ken in the celebration of Masses for them in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Japanese. In October 2001 he was appointed Second Assistant Regional Superior of the Japan Region, and in 2005 he was appointed First Assistant. In September 2011 Father Hamel moved to St. Teresa’s Residence in Maryknoll, New York.
Wake services were held at 4:30 p.m. on April 2, 2012 at St. Teresa’s, and at 7:30 p.m. in Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll Center where Brother Thomas Hickey read the biography. Mass of Christian Burial was concelebrated in Queen of Apostles Chapel on April 3, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. Father Emile Dumas was Principal Celebrant and Father Kevin Hanlon, homilist. Burial followed in Maryknoll Society Cemetery with Father Jose A. Aramburu conducting the graveside service.