Damian Kehr, OFM
1868 – 1947
Fr. Damian Kehr, OFM, was born on Dec. 2, 1868 in Coblenz, Germany. During the Kulturkampf, he crossed into Holland from Germany to become a friar. A letter from America read to the young students in Holland, describing the poor conditions of the novitiate there and the great need for novices, moved Fr. Damian to volunteer to go to St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., for his novitiate. He entered the Order in 1886, professing temporary vows one year later. He made his solemn profession in 1890 and was ordained in 1891.
As a young priest, Fr. Damian ministered in Butler, N.J., and cared for Catholics in nearby Echo Lake, Ringwood, and Pompton Lakes. In 1895, he transferred to Callicoon, N.Y., where he served as the first Franciscan pastor to care for the missions along the Erie Railroad. He taught at St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary there for seven years.
Fr. Damian continued his tireless efforts to build up the Church in America as pastor at St. Anthony Parish, Butler, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, New York City, and, for 15 years, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Wyckoff, N.J. He ranks among the early pioneer friars of Holy Name Province whose entire Franciscan life was a model of pastoral ministry and fraternal concern. When his mother died in 1906, his father Joseph came to America and became a tertiary brother in Holy Name Province.
He died on Dec. 21, 1947 at St. Francis Hospital in Jersey City, N.J. Fr. Damian was 79 years old, a professed friar for 60 years, and a priest for 56 years. He is buried with his father in the friars’ cemetery in Butler.