Reverend in heaven on earth
Father Joe Egle believes in his Lord and in the healing power of herbs
His real name is Josef.
That’s the last thing they told him 50 years ago in the Pathfinders. As ever, everything is a bit different in the life of Father Joe Egle.
If you google Joe Egle, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Focus, NZZ and Die Presse will be jostling for the top positions in the rankings. They all have already reported about this unusual servant of God. His refreshing nature and his multiple interests, some of them surprising for a clergyman, make him a sought-after ambassador far beyond the valley.
In Montafon itself, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t know the pastor of Gaschurn and Partenen. When not tending to his priestly duties, he can sometimes be found in action as a ski instructor and mountain rescuer. He has devoted a lot of time to the hobby that has brought him a little fame: From herbs he has collected completely on his own, Egle makes a high-quality liquor, which he considers to be not so much alcohol and more a medicine.
This passion began at home in Koblach where, as a farm family, they couldn’t afford any medicines and they were hardly available at the time anyway. Mama Egle found replacements in the local herbs and plants. Thus there was primrose tea for colds, fenugreek salves for boils, and the juice of slugs dissolved in sugar to calm whooping cough. The parental role model aroused the interest of Josef – at the time still young – to the extent that he has now been preserving the herbs, roots and berries in liquor for many years.
He gets the raw materials in nature, where the Reverend can be found almost every day. Since a pastor’s free time is already tight, he gets up early as a rule. "I'm usually coming down from above when the others are going up," says Joe Egle, who is fascinated by the diversity of nature. On the relatively short path from Gaschurn to his second Parish in Partenen, one specialist has counted 36 different medicinal herbs. Joe Egle personally collects these and a few others with so much detailed knowledge that a few years ago he even published a book titled “Elixirs from nature - infusing spirits with medicinal plants".
If need be, the popular cleric also brings his full physical force to bear. For pinecone liquor that is desired far and wide, "I have to regularly climb to great heights, because the cones can only be obtained in the upper part of the trees," says Egle.
About 50 different varieties are available at the slightly improvised (parish) farm shop. What interests Joe Egle in the finished liquor is not the alcohol itself. He prefers a glass of red wine for dinner. "My concern is to preserve the effect of the herbs as long as possible." It is said to make a good tea, but the curative effect is limited to just a certain period of time. “A herb liquor can still be used even after three generations."
So that he will be as perfect as portrayed by the acknowledged expert, his brother helps him. Together, they manage, for example, to make the mentioned pinecone liquor so that it keeps the airway clear in case of a cold – and produces its cardiotonic effect. Anyone observing the vital pastor cannot help but suspect that he is testing the potency of his little waters in the correct dose on himself.
Joe Egle came to Montafon after postings in Dornbirn, Rankweil and Klostertal in the avalanche winter of 1999. The valley has brought him under its spell from the very beginning: "Mountains, water, rest, fresh air – we have heaven on earth here." He is satisfied with his flock, "because one is still mindfully dealing with nature here". To further protect and preserve this gem is an urgent task in times where people are happy to bring their own identity into question in the pursuit of profit.
For Joe Egle, dealing with guests is also part of the uniqueness of the Montafon. He is convinced that "The quality of the encounter makes the quality of the destination”. "People like our personal manner, our openness and practicality." Remain genuine, simple and straightforward – then the people from around the world will come to the Montafon for a long time yet.
So says the director Joseph Vilsmaier, who has been friends with Joe Egle since the filming of “Schlafes Bruder”. Which not only led to his daughter being christened by Joe Egle. In the film “Bergkristall” also produced by Vilsmeier, the Reverend has a cameo appearance as a sacristan... He's obviously good for small surprises in all situations.