Father Daniel Durken, OSB

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Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: 11 January 1929
Professed: 11 July 1950
Ordained: 19 May 1956
Died: 29 March 2014


Donald Herman Durken, along with his twin brother, Dean Raymond, was born in Pemberton, Minnesota, on January 11, 1929, to Herman and Angeline Elizabeth (Kahnke) Durken. His mother was a homemaker, and his father was employed as a lumberyard manager at Lampert Yards, Inc., in Pemberton and Janesville, Minnesota.

Donald spent his early elementary school years at the Janesville Public School and then at Saint John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minnesota, graduating in 1947. Donald enrolled in Saint John’s University for his undergraduate education, completing a BA in philosophy and classics in 1952. He was professed as a Benedictine monk in 1950, having received the name Daniel. Making final monastic profession in 1953, Daniel began studies for the priesthood at Saint John’s Seminary and was ordained in 1956. Pursuing graduate studies, he enrolled in Saint Louis University and earned an MA in speech education in 1957. Father Daniel spent the next five summers at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., completing another MA in religious education in 1963.

Father Daniel began his teaching career in 1955 as an associate professor of theology at Saint John’s University. He was also an instructor of speech (1957–66) and debate coach (1958–61). In 1957 he was named assistant student chaplain, serving in this capacity until 1959. Father Daniel was a student dormitory prefect from 1957 to 1963. In 1959 Saint John’s University appointed him dean of men, a position he held until 1963. From 1963 until 1969 Father Daniel was novice master for Saint John’s Abbey. In 1969 he spent a year as visiting professor of theology at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. From 1970–71 he served as associate pastor and director of religious education at St. Anselm’s Church in Bronx, New York. In 1971 he returned to Saint John’s Abbey as personnel director until 1978. In the decade of 1978–88 Father Daniel served as director of Liturgical Press, hiring middle managers, introducing computer programming, and renovating its offices and warehouse. Under his leadership Liturgical Press saw an increase in sales. At the end of his directorship, Father Daniel became an editor and staff writer at Liturgical Press (1989) as well as publicist for Saint John’s Abbey.

Father Daniel served as editor for a host of publications: The Oblate (Saint John’s Abbey, 1950–55); Sisters Today (Liturgical Press, 1967–79); Confrere (Saint John’s Abbey, 1968–69; 1971–78); The Bahama Benedictine (St. Augustine’s Monastery, Nassau, 1995–2000); and the Abbey Banner (2001–10).

Besides his many editorial initiatives, Father Daniel was also an author. Through Liturgical Press he produced fifteen audiocassettes on various books of the Bible and other topics from 1979–86, wrote commentaries for Bible and Sunday Liturgy Bulletins (1978–2002), and “Homily Hints” andPrayers for the Faithful” for the Looseleaf Lectionary from 1978–2008. He also edited two major volumes through Liturgical Press: Sin, Salvation, and the Spirit (1979) and Blow the Trumpet at the New Moon, A Sisters Today Jubilee (1980). 

Father Daniel was also a reliable weekend pastoral assistant, with Minnesota assignments at St. Michael’s in Farmington (1972–82), St. Bartholomew’s in Wayzata (1982–86), St. Clement’s in N.E. Minneapolis (1986–2007), plus a number of assignments at various Twin Cities locales from 1956 through 2007. With his training in speech, he possessed a lively imagination for metaphor, a love for alliteration, and a way to connect to the person in the pew. He excelled as a retreat master, directing at least sixteen retreats for students and for monastic men and women beginning as early as 1963.

Father Daniel’s role as teacher went beyond the classrooms at Saint John’s University. For many years he lectured widely in a variety of venues. Beginning in 1975, he taught numerous adult education courses including classes at the U.S. Air Force Chaplains group at Maxwell AF Base in Alabama (1986–87). Father Daniel frequently traveled to the Bahamas, presenting annual lectures on the Bible in parish adult education classes from 1983 to 2001. He provided the same parish adult education outreach for the St. Cloud diocese and for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for many years. He became involved in teaching in the Elderhostel Program at Saint John’s University during the years 1985, 1989, 1992, and 1994, and at the College of Saint Benedict in 1999 and 2001.

Father Daniel served as a member of various committees of Saint John’s Abbey, Saint John’s University, and Saint John’s Preparatory School, and received two major awards: a Faculty Development Appreciation Award (1975) and an Administrative and Faculty Recognition Award for forty-plus years of teaching (2000), both from Saint John’s University.

Father Daniel died on March 29, in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by his sister-in-law, Joleen Durken, a number of cousins and friends and the community at Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family, and friends will celebrate the Eucharist Mass of Christian Burial for Father Daniel on Thursday, April 3 at 3:30 pm in Saint John’s Abbey Church with interment in Saint John’s Cemetery following the service.

Abbot John Klassen OSB

and the monks of Saint John’s Abbey