Father Denis Dougherty, O.S.B.

Father Denis Dougherty, O.S.B.

On Saturday, 28 April 2018, at 7:48 a.m., our beloved confrere, Father Denis Dougherty, O.S.B., succumbed to a fairly sudden convergence of numerous physical circumstances that had brought him to the hospital twice in recent weeks. At age 89, Father Denis was still the very active and much-beloved pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Springfield, Missouri. In mid-April, he was hospitalized for a series of difficulties arising from an infection and the effects of prostate cancer which had been diagnosed and treated last year. During this most recent hospitalization, the doctors discovered that the cancer had spread, and Father Denis’s medical condition began to deteriorate quickly and significantly. Bishop Edward Rice, Msgr. Thomas Riedy, other priests, and scores of parishioners visited Father Denis in the hospital. When his doctors confirmed the gravity of his condition, Abbot Benedict and Brother Placid traveled from Conception to Springfield, and many of his nieces and nephews made the trip from Omaha and Sioux City to be with Father Denis in his final days. Father Denis was placed under hospice care for his last few days and surrendered his earthly responsibilities in peace. Father Denis was a Jubilarian of both priesthood and monastic profession. Father Dominic Ibok, who has been assisting in the parish in recent months, has provided excellent pastoral care for the parish during Father Denis’s recent and final illness.

Donald James Dougherty was born on 27 February 1929 to Jesse J. and Helen M. (Chicoine) Dougherty of Sioux City, Iowa. His brother and only sibling, John, was 19 months his elder. Donald was baptized at St. Boniface Church and confirmed at Blessed Sacrament Church; in spite of difficulties that attended the early years of the Great Depression, his family life was stable and loving. The young Donald began his formal education at the parochial school of Blessed Sacrament Parish; in 1943 he advanced to Trinity Catholic High School, from which he graduated in 1947. Don then enrolled at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where he studied for two years. While at Creighton, he began to consider the possibility of a religious vocation; a friend there introduced him to Conception Abbey, some 130 miles southeast of the University. After making visits to the Abbey, Don enrolled at Conception Seminary College. He completed his undergraduate program and entered the novitiate of Conception Abbey in 1951. Upon making first monastic vows a year later, he was given the religious name Denis in honor of the great bishop and martyr of France. He proceeded with theological studies here at Conception; he made his profession of solemn vows in 1955 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1956.

Then began his long and varied ministry in service to Church and community. He was briefly assigned to the Catholic Indian Missions at Fort Yates, North Dakota but was directed to take up graduate studies at Saint Louis University in 1957. He received an MA in Sociology in 1959 and took up teaching responsibilities at Conception Seminary for a year. He then went on to further studies at the University of Missouri in Columbia from 1960–1964, earning his MEd and Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. His return to teaching brought numerous ancillary assignments: resident counselor for seminarians; Director of the Apostolic Program; and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services as well. In 1972, he took a position at Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Missouri, serving as Counselor and Assistant Professor. He was appointed Director of Counseling Services at Rockhurst in 1976.

In 1978, Father Denis shifted the focus of his work away from education to pastoral ministry. He became pastor at Saint Columba Parish, Conception Junction, Missouri, in which capacity he served until 1986. While at Saint Columba, he also directed the Benedictine Counseling and Consulting Institute in Saint Joseph, Missouri (1978–1979), which he reorganized and relocated as the Benedictine Counseling and Consulting Institute and Professional Family Counseling Center in Maryville, Missouri (1979–1986). He then became the pastor of Saint Gabriel Parish in Kansas City, Missouri, a position he held until 1999. After a well-earned sabbatical year at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, he was named pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Springfield, Missouri.

Perhaps Father Denis’s most apparent trait was boundless enthusiasm. Whether as pastor or teacher, he engaged his work and his charges with full attention and devotion. But his enthusiasm was always supported by a profound charity of heart: his formal education in the Social Sciences was motivated by a firm conviction that the followers of Christ were bound together in love. He exercised that love in the most practical terms: pastoral ministry and counseling, yes, but also programs of relief to the poor and neighborhood betterment. Logistic details may not have been his greatest strength, but human contact most certainly was.

Father Denis is survived by his monastic confreres, and by his sister-in-law Shiuvaun (Murphy) Dougherty, nephew Martin (Laurie) Dougherty and niece Patsy Dougherty, all of Sioux City, Iowa; by nieces Mary Therese Lennon, Sheila (Dan) Richter, Diane (Tom) Crowley and Molly (Greg) Eckert, all of Omaha, Nebraska; niece Kathleen (Shennen) Saltzman of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota; and niece Ann (Andy) Warren of West Des Moines, Iowa. Father Denis had 27 great-nieces and great-nephews.


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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph