Father David Driesch always heard the call from God to enter religious life. Through years of learning about various religious orders, and trying to find the right fit, Father Driesch has ultimately found his home with the Norbertine community at Daylesford Abbey. Additionally, he found he was called to another type of ministry — to help others as a volunteer firefighter.
Father David Driesch grew up just west of Pittsburgh, PA. While he always felt the pull towards religious life, Father also felt obligated to care for his parents, so he stayed close to home for much of his life serving as a diocesan priest for the diocese of Pittsburgh. Although he attended Duquesne University, which is run by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Father Driesch did not feel called to the Spiritan community. After college, Father Driesch entered the seminary at Saint Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, PA from 1978 to 1982 and became a Catholic priest. But throughout his ministry as a diocesan priest in Pittsburgh, Father continued to feel called to religious life. During his journey through finding his home to fulfill his calling, Father taught Religion served as campus minister and frequently chaperoned dances at Seton-LaSalle High School from 1986-1990. In addition to teaching and his life as a priest, he found his way to becoming a volunteer firefighter. Father’s journey into the world of volunteer fire fighting began with a parishioner who knew Father had his bus driving license. The parishioner knew that the local fire company needed someone to drive the fire engine and began to press Father into volunteer service. Initially, Father politely declined, but the parishioner persisted, showing up at the rectory one day with the application. Father could no longer resist!
Father Driesch began volunteering with the Hopewell Fire Department, which also provided mutual aid to the neighboring town, Aliquippa, PA, a steel mill town outside of Pittsburgh. He attended high school with the fire chief at the department (who would later become the chief in Pittsburgh), though they were a few years apart in school. Father Driesch considers working with this chief one of the most profound experiences in his volunteer firefighter career. He described the chief as a “no-nonsense former Marine.” On one call, the chief pulled him off the fire they were attempting to extinguish to ask him to pray more as he was not currently “praying hard enough.”
Between his life as a diocesan priest and fighting fires, Father Driesch continued to feel a pull towards life in a religious community. He was drawn to a more monastic life. Around 2001, Father began actively looking at Catholic religious orders across the United States. He visited various Benedictine monasteries around the country, but never found the exact fit. However, he did not give up, and continued to explore.
The Holy Spirit intervened when an opportunity arose to visit Daylesford Abbey. Father Richard Rohr would be speaking at Daylesford Abbey, and Father Driesch decided to make the trek to Chester County, PA. Upon seeing “Daylesford Abbey” on Rohr’s calendar of events, Father Driesch spoke with his parish’s current Youth Minister, another Pittsburgh area native who attended Immaculata University. When talking with her, Father asked if she was familiar with Daylesford. It turns out she was and, for years, had been sharing with Father Dave stories about priests from Daylesford. But he never made the connection!
The rest, of course, is history. Father Driesch found his fit at Daylesford Abbey with the Norbertines. In particular, he was drawn to the fact the Norbertines at the Abbey are Canons Regular. As such, the Norbertine’s are committed to chanting the Divine Office as a community and celebrating the Eucharist and serving the Catholic church in various ministries. Father Driesch resonated with the Norbertines’ common life and common prayer. He saw himself living in community and sharing a life at a common table. Father joined the Abbey in 2012.
Father recently served as the Prior of the Abbey. He also previously said Mass at St. Katherine of Siena parish in Wayne, PA before serving as Prior. Currently, he says Mass at Cabrini University in Wayne, PA. Father has continued his service as a volunteer firefighter! Upon joining the Abbey, Father Driesch met a volunteer firefighter who worked with the Paoli fire department. In their conversation, Father revealed he had experience and a CDL license. He also learned the fire department was looking for a chaplain. Father Driesch was encouraged to join the department, with someone going as far as to bring him an application directly.
He still goes on about 20 or 30 calls each month. He has his own pager and responds to calls as he can to help out. Father Driesch was selected as Firefighter of the Year in 2019.
When asked how he overcomes the fear of fighting fires, Father Driesch said that knowing you have an experienced team behind you, that you are not alone, and you have the support you need. Father Driesch sees a parallel between fighting fires and living life at Daylesford Abbey. Both are built upon relationships and ambition. Both require faith.
Father Driesch is also a self-taught computer programmer. He has written programs used by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Abbey. He also serves on a crisis intervention team in Chester County, ministering to first responders.
As for anyone considering religious life, Father Driesch has some advice to offer. He has certainly been in the shoes of someone looking to fulfill their calling, to live out their vocation exactly as God intended for them. Father would recommend men considering the religious life or a vocation to the priesthood to read and meditate on Psalm 95, particularly this line:
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”