Jubilarian Profile: David Blake Celebrates 25 Years as a Friar

Wendy Healy Friar News

This is the 13th in a series of profiles of Holy Name Province friars who are marking major anniversaries as Franciscans in 2015. The last article featured William McIntyre, OFM, of Durham, N.C. David, William and other jubilarians commemorating 50 and 25 years of profession were honored by the Province on June 24. 

ALLEGANY, N.Y. — Since his late teens, David Blake, OFM, has been associated with Holy Name Province’s colleges in Upstate New York, first as a student at Siena College, and now, as a professor at St. Bonaventure University.

The chairman of the SBU Department of Sociology began his ministry at the Western New York campus immediately after being ordained two decades ago, and has taught sociology there since 2003. This year, he celebrates his 25th anniversary as a friar.

Born in Schuylerville, near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., David, the eldest of three children, went to public grammar and high school, and then chose to study psychology at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.

“I kind of knew I wanted to be a priest and began with the idea of being a diocesan priest,” he said. “But when I went to Siena and met the friars, it was easy to decide to be a Franciscan.”

David said he was inspired by all of the friars who ministered at Siena, but was especially affected by Kevin Daly, OFM, who worked in campus ministry when David was a student.

While he was at Siena, David joined the college’s vocation group, discerned his call to religious life, and joined the friars after graduation in 1988. He professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1990 in Brookline, Mass., and made his solemn profession four years later.

After earning his master of divinity degree from the Washington Theological Union, David was ordained in 1995 at St. Anne Church in Fair Lawn, N.J. He was then assigned to campus ministry at SBU, where he worked for two years, overseeing the Bona Buddies youth mentoring program, which pairs college students with community children in need.

Pursuit of a Teaching Ministry
This assignment was like coming home for David, who had done an internship at SBU from 1992 to 1993. “That’s when I fell in love with educational ministry, and that’s when I decided to pursue a degree that would allow me to teach.”

In 1997, David enrolled at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and spent the next five years earning both a master’s degree and doctorate in sociology. While a student at Buffalo State, he lived with the friars at St. Patrick Friary.

David feels at home in the classroom. “I like my teaching ministry and have found it very fulfilling,” he said.

One of the best parts of teaching, he added, is seeing students engaged in extracurricular activities in the community. “A good student is engaged both in and out of the classroom and will be a well-rounded person.” For six years, David served as co-director of SBU’s Francis E. Kelley Oxford Program through which students study in England for six weeks during the summer.

He also is fond of his work with the SBU hockey team, where he serves as an adviser and chaplain. What started by chance — with a hockey player asking him to chaperone an away game — has turned into a second ministry for David. He now travels with the team on all its trips, which can mean being on the road 10 or 11 times a season.

“I’ve grown to enjoy hockey,” he added. When he’s not on the rink with the team or working on a lecture, he’ll watch the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres on TV.

The Changing Face of Education
In his 20 years of working at a college, he has seen a lot of change, especially with the students. “Students today are struggling with more challenges,” he said. “The cost of education alone is making students juggle academics and jobs, and more students have to work.” David said that professors try to be more attentive to the many different things that students are trying to manage today.

“I’m seeing more non-traditional students in college, and many people going back to school.” He likes the fact that a wide variety of students “keeps him young,” but adds that sometimes it’s a catch-22. “By being with them and engaging with them I realize I’m not as young as I used to be.”

The best part of being with Holy Name Province is what attracted him in the first place — the fraternity. “I’ve always found every house I’ve lived in to be a rewarding experience and the men are wonderful brothers. I’m most grateful.”

Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.