Father John Patrick McDarby, OSB


Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

Born: 10 December 1927
Professed: 11 July 1947
Ordained: 24 May 1953
Died: 13 March 2012

John Patrick was the third of five children born to Neil and Virginia (Galvin) McDarby in Auburn, DeKalb County, Indiana, on December 10, 1927. His father worked in Auburn at the Cord Corporation. He grew up in a middle-class family, but all that came to end with the arrival of the Great Depression. His father developed stomach ulcers that turned into cancer, and died in 1936. His mother went to work managing a woman's clothing store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, leaving the children in Auburn until she could bring them to Ann Arbor and later moving to Detroit.

While in Detroit John Patrick went to Gesu Catholic School which had a high scholastic standing. Here he developed a taste and love for religious knowledge and history. He entered high school at the University of Detroit and was interested in pursuing a career in teaching and music. With the arrival of World War II, his two brothers joined the armed services and his mother was called to St. Louis to take care of her father who was dying. John Patrick then went to St. Louis and continued school with the Jesuits at St. Louis University High School. In his senior year Patrick was thinking of entering the Naval Academy.

But in January of 1945, he made a retreat at Whitehouse Jesuit Retreat House. It was a powerful spiritual experience and he decided to pursue religious life. His class moderator, Father Divine, told him to research the various major orders to discover which suited him best. Abbot Delatte's commentary on the Rule of Benedict revealed to John Patrick the prayer and community life of the Benedictines. His parish priest, who knew Saint John's Abbey, encouraged John Patrick to write to the abbot. Abbot Alcuin Deutsch, OSB, responded to his letter and asked him to see Fathers Casper Keogh, OSB, and Walbert Kalinowski, OSB, who were attending St. Louis University at the time. Father Caspar advised him to transfer to St. John's University. When John Patrick arrived at the train station in Collegeville, he saw the abbey church come into view and found it a welcoming sight.

John Patrick spent his first year in college at St. John's and entered the novitiate in 1946 receiving the religious name of David (changing it to J. Patrick in 1968). He professed his first vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1947, and continued his education at St. John's, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1949. After completing his theological education in the seminary he was ordained a priest on May 24, 1953. As a deacon, Patrick had become a prefect and English teacher in the Saint John's Preparatory School. He continued in these positions until 1955.

After his three years in the Prep School, Father Patrick was sent to the University of Chicago for graduate studies in American Literature. Nineteenth century American literature is something he was passionate about. "That period of literature, which was the time of the Romantics, had great effect on my life. The Romantic notions of human nature, freedom, honesty were very important to me." In 1956 he was appointed to the English faculty of Saint John's University.

He returned to Chicago for a final year of study and then returned to teach here for 38 years of college teaching. Patrick's involvement with the University was lengthy and varied. He became a faculty resident for 21 years; spent a year as consultant on calendar and curriculum matters to a consortium of New Hampshire colleges; worked on committees that proposed and instituted the 4-1-4 university calendar (including the January Term, and the Core Curriculum Program). In 1985-86, Patrick had a sabbatical in which he spent "a delightful year of renewal in Italy, Israel, Greece, Egypt and Ireland." As a faculty resident he helped the identity and pride of the program that paid attention to student life concerns and academic progress. His talents in cooking were appreciated by the students on his floors. From 1971 to 1985, he was faculty resident in Saint Patrick Hall along with his two cats, Clyde and Edna.

While Patrick was a good pastor to his students, he also did weekend parochial ministry and summer parish residency, hospital chaplaincy and prison ministry. In 1984 he became part of the chaplain team for St. Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota, until his failing eye sight made it too difficult for him to continue in 1998. Patrick was made Professor Emeritus of English in 1999 for his work as department chair and 43 years of teaching. Patrick was an outstanding teacher and beloved by his students. He had a special love of etymology of words and their meaning.

Patrick edited the in-house monastery newsletter, Confrere, from 1994 to 2008. After breaking a hip in the summer of 2006, he moved to Saint Raphael's Hall but continued his work on the newsletter. Father Patrick died on 13 March 2012, in the retirement center at Saint John's Abbey. He is survived by his sister, Nancy, of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, nieces, nephews and the community at Saint John's Abbey. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Father Patrick on Saturday, March, 17, at 10:30 AM in Saint John's Abbey Church with interment in Saint John's Cemetery following the service.

We ask each community member to offer two Masses according to the manner of his participation in the priesthood of Christ. We commend our brother, Patrick, to your prayers.

Abbot John Klassen OSB and the monks of Saint John's Abbey