On Monday 4th July 2016, Joaquín Algerías left us to join his Lord. He was born in Almócita, Almeria Province in Spain on the 12th April 1944. He was the son of Felipe and Dolores, and the youngest in a family of four brothers and sisters. He studied at the major Seminary of Almería and he was ordained priest on the 11th March 1971.
Visits to the Seminary of Almería by White Fathers such as Manolo Daguerre, Garcés de los Fallos and Fidèle Bariain, among others, plus the entry of Jesús Salas into the White Fathers and the departure to Africa of Fr. Pepe Visiedo as a “Fidei Donum” priest were all signs that God was calling him to be a missionary. In June 1972, Joaquín left for Malawi as a “Fidei Donum” priest and went to the service of the Mission in the Diocese of Mzuzu. In September 1978, he entered the novitiate of the White Fathers in Ottawa (Canada). He joyfully returned to Malawi one year later.
A short time later, Joaquín was appointed to Seville, Spain for missionary promotion work. He took his Missionary Oath on the 5th June 1982 and officially joined the White Fathers. He returned to Malawi in October 1986 where he was to work until October 1999. On this date, he was reappointed to Seville for missionary promotion work but a year later, in September 2000, he was asked to undertake an important new missionary project. The Diocese of Almería had asked the White Fathers to put themselves at the service of African immigrants in Roquetas De Mar who were coming to Spain in increasing numbers. Joaquín was well liked and very happy in this mission.
Four years later, in 2004, Joaquín expressed the wish to return to Malawi at least for a little while. In 2007, he had to leave Malawi and return to work once more with the migrants in Roquetas De Mar.
During his years in Malawi, he gave himself body and soul to the service of the Mission in many different parishes of the Diocese of Mzuzu. He served as both curate and Parish Priest in many areas. He knew the local language, Chitumbuka, very well. He was close to the people especially during his safaris’ of several days to the many outstations. He was also involved in diverse activities both spiritual and pastoral. He took care of the sick and elderly travelling many kilometres to visit them in their villages.
Joaquín was very sociable and cheerful. He loved music to the point where he could play the guitar, accordion, trumpet, and organise musical groups. This put him in an ideal position to animate different feasts and special occasions. He was well liked by all.
Fr. Joya also liked his work. He was demanding both on himself and on others. His days were well organised and he was not happy when the work did not go according to his plan which could lead to tension with local leaders or at Provincial Councils. He was also a man of prayer. He took part in sessions in Jerusalem and in Rome and took time off for a sabbatical year. A very important part of his life was his contact with his home diocese particularly with the Bishop and priests.
It was in his home diocese that Province of Spain started a project for the service of immigrants. He threw himself into this project enthusiastically. He organised a catechumenate and an African choir, which even local people joined, in one of the parishes of Roquetas. This choir still takes part regularly in local celebrations.
In 2010, Joaquín showed the first symptoms of memory loss and by 2011 the early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. In October 2011, he joined the community of Menorca n°3 in Madrid. However, given the progressive nature of his illness, it was decided, in dialogue with his family, to place him in the care of the Hermanitas de los Ancianos Desamparados, a congregation of sisters specialising in the care of the elderly, in Almería.
During these last few years, Joaquín had to accept as best he could the effects and consequences of the degenerative process of his illness. Since October 2015, with the agreement of the Sisters looking after him, he was able to go out every day and benefit from the activities in the José Bueno Alzheimer Centre.
Thanks be to God, Joaquín never lacked visitors especially from the confreres from the Roquetas De Mar community, his friends and from members of his family. He was looked after by the Sisters of the Hermanitas congregation and the staff at the Day Centre.
Despite all this care and effort, Joaquín’s health continued to deteriorate. He lost weight, had no energy, walking became more and more difficult. Then, towards the end of June this year, he developed a persistent fever followed by a urinary tract infection, which provoked his sudden death on the 4th June 2016 at 11.00 in the morning.
The following day at six o’clock in the evening, at the family’s request and following his own wish, his funeral took place in Almócita, his hometown. Members of his family and many of the inhabitants of the village were there. More than 30 priests from the Almeria diocese including the Vicat General and four White Fathers attended. Fr. Jesús Zubiría, representing the Provincial Delegate, presided at the Eucharist. The earthly remains of Joaquín were interred in the family vault beside his parents and other members of his family.
Joaquín was able to end his days as he had lived his life, with enthusiasm, in joy completely given over to God and to his brothers and sisters in the love and service of every day. Joaquín did not go away alone. The admiration, gratitude and prayers of us all who had the chance to know him accompanied him. May he rest in peace!
Jesús Zubiría and Jesús Esteibarlanda