Remembering Father Damian

May 11, 2015

Father Damian DuQuesnay, age 96, who had been the oldest living monk in the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida, left this earth for his eternal home on Friday, May 8. Greatly loved and admired by colleagues, students, faculty, and staff, Father Damian was a remarkable man of faith.

A funeral Mass for Father Damian will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 15, in the Abbey Church. There will be a visitation starting at 10 a.m.

Born on July 24, 1918, in Highgate, Jamaica, he graduated from Jamaica College Prep and Saint Benedict College (now Benedictine College) in Atchison, KS, in 1943 with a B.S. in zoology. He received his M.S. from Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, in 1951.

He was ordained into the Holy Priesthood on the Feast of Corpus Christi Day, June 20, 1946, by Bishop Emmet Michael Wash in the unfinished Abbey Church. Father Damian was the first Jamaican to ever wear the habit of a Benedictine.

Father Damian’s abiding love was apparent to all with whom he came in contact. He loved the rule of Saint Benedict and his brother monks of Saint Leo Abbey.

“Father Damian was an exemplar human being, a good monk, and a mentor to many,” said Abbott Isaac Camacho, O.S.B. “May he rest in peace.”

“Father Damian is one of the giants in the history of Saint Leo University, all the more so because of his modesty and humility,” said Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., president of Saint Leo University. “By his example he was a teacher his entire life. He loved science and the wonders of the natural world.” He also loved the students he taught in the science labs of Saint Leo Preparatory School, Holy Name Academy, and Saint Leo College. While at Saint Leo, Father Damian taught biology, histology, and zoology. He was always fascinated with animals and started an aviary at the abbey.

His faculty colleagues speak of his academic knowledge and his skill as a teacher and administrator in the highest terms of respect and admiration. “Above all, Father Damian loved our Blessed Lord with a simple, unquestioning faith that puts us in the mind of Saints,” stated Dr. Kirk. “How many of our students, passing this gentle, elderly monk working in the Abbey garden or administering the Blessed Sacrament in the Abbey Church had their own faith rekindled? Only God knows.”

In 1957, Father Damian was appointed abbey prior and also served as novice master and brother master. After his retirement from the Saint Leo faculty, he was chaplain to Holy Name Monastery, a responsibility he held for four decades but eventually relinquished at age 90 due to his limited mobility. He was the abbey botanist and remained faithful in his daily prayers and devotions right up until his death.

“We were so blessed to have him living and praying in our midst. We continue to be blessed to have the memory of his example of faith to sustain in the days ahead,” concluded Dr. Kirk.