Father Francis Danielski joined our Norbertine community at Daylesford Abbey in 2008. However, Father Danielski’s journey to the Norbertine order is as unique as the man who has made this journey. Prior to joining Daylesford, Father Danielski was a member of the De La Salle Brothers, colloquially known as the Christian Brothers, a religious order centered around teaching and education. From a young age, Father Danielski felt the call to religious life, as well as teaching. His life has centered around fulfilling his vocation to serve God and his community.
Father Francis Danielski hails from Philadelphia, PA (like many of our community here at Daylesford Abbey). He grew up in Fishtown and Port Richmond, neighborhoods of Philadelphia. He attended La Salle High College School (run by the Christian Brothers), the only one in his family to have done so. The rest of his family attended North Catholic, but one eighth grade teacher invited Father Danielski to sit for the La Salle entrance exam. At that time, students were selected to take the test for La Salle. He passed the exam and after attending an open house with his parents, they all found it would be a great fit for the young Francis Danielski.
Getting to high school each day was no easy feat. By car, La Salle High School was about a 40-50 minute trip. But the young Danielski relied on public transportation, making his commute about an hour and 45 minutes each way! He would hop on a 6:15 am trolley, switch to the subway and then finally switch to a bus in order to get to La Salle.
Father Danielsk’s unique vocation story began at La Salle with the Christian Brothers. In addition to this key step in Father’s vocation discernment, he also made lifelong friends and is still in touch with his former classmates, even officiating some of their childrens’ weddings. Father Francis was drawn to be like his teachers. They lived their life fraternally. There was an abundant sense of community and belonging, which drew Father to consider the vocation of the Christian Brothers.
Father Danielski entered the Christian Brothers in 1967 after graduating high school. In fact, prior to becoming familiar with the Christian Brothers, his only understanding of Catholic religious life was through his parish priests and the sisters who taught at St. St. Adalbert’s Catholic Grade School. As a Brother, Danielski fulfilled his call to enter religious life and teach. Joining the Christian Brothers also allowed him the opportunity to receive degrees from La Salle University, Georgetown, Villanova and St. Charles Seminary. As a teacher, he taught at St. John’s High School in Washington, D.C., West Catholic and his alma maters, both La Salle High School and La Salle University. During his time teaching, he became more and more involved in campus ministry and retreat work.
Throughout his vocation as a Christian Brother, Father Danielski has also counseled and worked with individuals in recovery and helped with their addiction issues (he is an internationally certified and licensed addiction counselor) . It was at this stage of his vocation journey that then Brother Francis Danielski began considering a life more dedicated to healing and reconciliation. Working in addiction recovery, Danielski began to sense a call to another aspect of religious life. He would come to find the Norbertines.
Father Danileski first became familiar with the Norbertines in the 1970s. He came to know then Abbot Neitzel, who was the first Abbot here at Daylesford Abbey. Father Danielski was drawn to the Norbertine charism and found it to be aligned with what he felt called to. He describes the Norbertine vocation as the charism of restoring communion among people, and the charism of reconciliation between ourselves and God (as well as ourselves and others).
As a Christian Brother and during his time at La Salle College High School and La Salle University, Father Danielski was becoming increasingly involved in recovery work, walking with men and women on their path of sobriety. It was at this time he felt the desire to be more involved with the sacramental life of the church. Father noted that in the breaking, sharing and receiving of the Eucharist we see how we must give, receive and share our lives with one another.
Father felt that Catholic priesthood was the next step in his vocation journey. This sacramental life paired with both the rich community prayer life and the Norbertine charism of comunio was a “no brainer” for Father Danielski and he didn’t need to look any further than Daylesford Abbey to continue his vocation.
In addition to the Norbertine charism of concord and reconciliation, Father Danielski was drawn to the deep prayer life that is at the center of the Norbertine community. Each day, the men at Daylesford Abbey chant the Divine Office. Community life is centered around prayer, and it is from prayer and the community that the men at Daylesford minister to the wider church by working in parish life, teaching, etc.
The transition to the Norbertines did not happen overnight. Father Danielski had to be granted permission by the superiors of both orders. Then, came a three year process (transitus—Latin for moving from one religious order to another). During these years, Father came to know the Nobertine customs and traditions, and those at Daylesford became familiar with him. He was tasked with understanding the proper law of the Norbertines. Over these three years, Father studied at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. By 2011, Father Danielski transferred his vows, was ordained a deacon, and finally ordained a Catholic priest.
Father Danielski served as the Director of Formation at Daylesford Abbey for about eight years. In this role he was in charge of Novices and ensuring they completed their studies. But about three years ago, Father asked to do ministry work. He had been drawn to the sacramental life of the Church and felt particularly called, at this time, to work in a local parish. Today, Father is working as the Parochial Vicar at St. Simon and Jude in West Chester, PA.
He finds parish life fulfilling at Sts. Simon and Jude: “I am personally edified by the spirituality of the people I work with in the parish. It is an alive parish filled with the spirit, it is a vital and spiritual place. There is a thirst among the people. It’s reciprocal because the people are involved in the parish and work well with the parish —truly a place where the spirit is alive.”
He is usually at St. Simon and Jude Saturday through Tuesday. On these days, he begins his day at 4 am to get up and get ready to go. Father is alive with his vocation to the priesthood. He easily rises before the sun and is grateful he has another day to minister at the parish.
From a very early age, Father Danielski felt the call towards communal, religious life and helping others through education. His work with both the Christian Brothers and the Norbertines at Daylesford Abbey are a clear response and show his vocation driven life.
As for any young men (or women) open to religious life, Father Danielski advises an openness to the Holy Spirit and remaining open to the direction of religious life. He urges men and women to pursue the call and find the right answer. :Listen to God’s Spirit. Find time for quiet contemplation,” he suggests.
Father Danielski wants to open the Abbey to show younger people interested in religious life is a place that hosts the communion they are looking for. When it is safe to do so, Father Danielskihopes to see young people to join the Abbey for vocation discernment programs, retreats, talks and more.
Walking and enjoying God’s creation is one of Father’s most prized pastimes. This is altogether fitting for a man whose vocation journey began with early morning commutes to high school where he encountered the Chistian Brothers whose fraternal spirit and dedication to providing a Christian and human education marked the first major step in Father’s formation as a Catholic priest. The opportunity to help students and families struggling to find concord and reconciliation and the chance to minister to men and women walking through drug and alcohol recovery stirred in Father Danielski the desire to be more fully dedicated to the sacramental life of the Church with a particular focus on healing and conciliation. The Norbertines are an ideal synthesis of communal life built on prayer and a commitment to concord and reconciliation that completes Father Danileski’s vocation.