“There is no solitary or independent mission,” the Very Rev. Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, told Br. Joe Lappe, MIC. “This is Christ’s mission, and he sends you into the world as a sign that the Father’s love is real.”
The next step in Christ’s mission for Br. Joe commenced on Aug. 16, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Before God, the Marians, and friends and family, he professed his perpetual vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, thereby becoming a full member of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. He is pursuing the priesthood.
During the ceremony, Fr. Kaz, the Marians’ provincial superior, emphasized that Br. Joe, like all of the Marians, is an essential part of God’s plan for the community. Looking around the Shrine during his homily, Fr. Kaz said:
I was thinking of the imagery of the human body, and I was thinking of the Shrine, and I said, what would the Shrine be without windows? They’re non-essential. Or what would the Shrine look like without the statue of Our Lady, without her visible manifestation? And what would the Shrine be like without the image of Divine Mercy? It would not be the same. As such, each person in the community is an element of the structure, a manifest of some dimension of God’s voice, God’s grace, God’s love.
View Fr. Kaz’s homily:
Following Br. Joe’s profession of vows, Fr. Kaz presented him with the Profession Cross and hung it around Br. Joe’s neck.
“It’s a symbol of my new family and my commitment to them chosen by God,” Br. Joe said after the Mass of Perpetual Vows.
Each present Marian then warmly embraced Br. Joe, welcoming him into the Marian Congregation.
Brother Joe, who is affectionately called “Jojo” by some of the Marians, is a modest man from humble beginnings. He attributes his liking of corny jokes to having been born and raised on farmland in Carroll, Iowa (the “corn state”). He admits he’s never been a fan of public speaking, but, as his mother, Jan Lappe, said, he always “speaks from the heart.”
Before he made his first vows with the Marians in 2011, Br. Joe said God was always present in his life. He was raised Catholic by parents Joe and Jan, and belonged to St. Mary’s Parish in Willey, Iowa. His mother, Jan, said that he was a “good kid” who cared for others, especially his three younger sisters.
“Joe was always a kid that, if we left him to watch his siblings, we would know they were taken care of,” she said. “As a family, we have been blessed.”
After earning his B.A. in sports management at Iowa State University, he worked at a basketball camp for several years, which he said he enjoyed. In 2006, he took a top job at Wells Fargo, but his heart wasn’t in it.
“It paid well, but it was unethical,” he said. “And then there were always things in my life that were nudging me toward the Marians.”
For instance, when his mother received a Marian Helper magazine, Joe’s curiosity was piqued: He opened it up to read an article about St. Joseph and a Marian spiritual retreat in Steubenville, Ohio.
“I suddenly knew where I was supposed to go,” Br. Joe recalled, “so I took my savings and bought the ticket.”
At the retreat, he heard Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, speak. Brother Joe said that’s when he heard about the Marians’ devotion to Our Lady, promotion of Divine Mercy, and praying the Rosary, he felt that his life was meant to be dedicated to the Marians.
With the goal of joining the Marians in mind, but having quit his Wells Fargo job, Br. Joe worked overtime as a delivery man for Jimmy John’s Sandwiches to fund the necessary education. He made his novitiate at the Marian Scholasticate in Washington, D.C., and his postulancy at the Marian House of Studies at Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio.
Brother Joe said it’s a credit to his family — both the Lappes and the Marians — that he made his perpetual vows.
“My parents raised me to believe, and the Marians enabled me to prepare to say ‘yes’ to God,” he said.
Brother Joe continues his theological studies at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.