Joseph Herman Condobrey - St. Augustine's Very Own.
Joseph Yao Herman Condobrey was born in Gbi-Kpeme to Yohannes Kosi Kondobrey, also known by the last name, Agbo, of Gbi-Kpeme; and Abra Adzima of Gbi-Abansi. He was baptized at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Gbi-Bla, by a young Catholic priest, then known as Father Herman. His marriage to his only wife, Louize Gogo Kludze, was blessed at St. Augustine also. Joseph was popularly known as Herman, Dorator (Dora's dad), and by his nickname, Yao Sompoe. Many also referred to him simply as Hamemga: Head Christian / Church President. This was particularly the case in his older years, having been one of St. Augustine’s most outstanding head Christians.
A trader who turned to farming in his mid-years, Joseph shared boundaries with his church - his house in Gbi-Abansi, situated just a few feet from the rectory. The father of seven raised his children in the Catholic faith and ensured that his grandchildren were baptized into the same. He was so passionately attached to his parish that he ensured his grandchildren born in Accra and elsewhere were brought home to St. Augustine for their baptisms. The first of six children, Herman spearheaded the christening of his siblings and their children - naming most, if not all, of them.
Herman was a strict disciplinarian who abhorred church-hopping and would admonish any member of his household who dodged Sunday mass. "Get out of Herman's house, you little devils," he would snap at his most stubborn grandsons, when no amount of scolding would work. Years after his tenure, his son, Francis, became one of the parish’s head Christians. Herman’s older son, Fabian, built for the parish its last hearse - a custom-made four-wheel coach which carried caskets religiously to the cemetery, from the early 1980s, until the parish’s burial grounds moved to its current location.
Herman’s house was frequented by Catholic priests of and beyond his parish. Decades later, many, including missionaries who had relocated to their native lands, would recall how welcomed they always were to dinners prepared by his wife. "Mrs. Condobrey's fufu and light soup was super," a frail Father Cornelius Priems, at 92, said to Herman's niece, Georgina Condobrey Agbley, whom he chanced upon in the Netherlands in 2012.
The 120th birthday celebration of St. Augustine Church brings back fond memories of this faithful servant of God. He was the man in
the house behind the rectory, who went down on his knees at the sound of the church bell, to say a little prayer every time. It is not surprising that Togbe (grandpa) Herman, in the little eyes of his grandchildren, was a Father Abraham, like the one from their beloved Bible stories.
May his soul and those of all the faithful departed continue to rest in the Lord.