Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fr. Dominic DeBlase, SDB (1926-2016)

Fr. Dominic DeBlase, SDB (1926-2016)

Senior confrere 2010
Fr. Dominic DeBlase, SDB, died on Saturday, February 27, at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y. He was 89 years old and had been a professed Salesian for more than 63 years and a priest for 55 years.
Since November Fr. DeBlase had been assigned to the Salesian community of the provincial residence in New Rochelle. From his retirement in 2011 until then, he had belonged to the community of the Marian Shrine at Haverstraw, N.Y. But when his dementia became too serious, he was admitted to the Cabrini of Westchester nursing home in Dobbs Ferry in June 2015.
Fr. Dominic was born in Liberty, N.Y., on September 21, 1926, to Bartolo and Josephine DeBlase, members of St. Peter’s Parish in Liberty. After graduation from Liberty High School in 1943, he enrolled in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. When he was drafted into the Navy, his studies were interrupted between February 1945 and September 1946, but he completed a bachelor of mechanical engineering degree at RPI in June 1948. He remained in the Naval Reserve until he was discharged in order to enter the seminary.
Dominic arrived at Don Bosco College Seminary in Newton, N.J., in June 1950, completed the necessary Latin studies, and was admitted to St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Newton in September 1951. He professed vows there on September 8, 1952. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from Don Bosco College in 1954.
Bro. Dominic remained at DBC in 1954-1957, teaching and assisting in the seminary program. He also earned an M.S. in physics from Fordham University in 1956.
PAS student 1957
Bro. Dominic embarked to Turin, Italy, in 1957 to study theology at the Pontifical Ateneo Salesiano, earning a licentiate. He was ordained in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin on February 11, 1961.

His classmate Fr. Harry Peterson writes of him: "He was always a pleasant person, very unassuming, and humble.  Indeed, he was a great Salesian."
Fr. Dominic returned to DBC after ordination to teach math and the sciences until 1966. He was also dean of men (1963-1965) and dean of the Sons of Mary (1965-1966). The academic dean (Fr. Joe Herzog) described him as “a very hard-working professor … who demanded as much diligence from his students” and “won the respect and admiration of his students not only for his intelligence and scholarship, but for his ability to communicate this knowledge as well”; he was also credited “capable leadership” and “successful development” in the physics and math departments.

In 1966 Fr. Dominic moved to Don Bosco Juniorate in Haverstraw as director but didn’t complete his term before being reassigned as director of Don Bosco Tech in Paterson, N.J., in 1968. "When he was director in Paterson," Fr. Tony Mastroeni writes, "I was able to get a good number of boys admitted to the Tech who needed an extra 'push' from the director to take them over the entrance; and even a few others who were able to get some financial assistance to carry them through. He had Don Bosco's heart and the zeal of a missioner."

In 1972 Fr. Dominic went to Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, La., to teach math and the sciences (and to help stabilize a difficult situation there), but that ministry was cut short after just one year when he was named province treasurer and director of the provincial residence at New Rochelle in 1973.
He served in those positions in New Rochelle with such distinction that in 1979 he was appointed provincial. He started with responsibility for 182 Salesian priests, 66 coadjutor brothers, 65 seminarian brothers, and 7 novices serving in 22 houses stretching from Eastern Canada to the Bahamas, and westward to Cedar Lake, Ind., and New Orleans.

In Sherbrooke, Fr. Romeo Trottier remembers Fr. Dominic fondly:
I was very saddened by the death of Fr. Dominic. . . . For all the duration of his term as provincial, I was his delegate for Canada. My relationship with him goes all the way back to Newton in 1950 when he was a Son of Mary. and our teacher of general science. I was fortunate to participate at GC22 in 1984 with him. He was a real gentleman, a genuine Salesian and priest. I always found him very respectful of persons and very friendly, never assuming airs of superiority. A real man of God! Salesian Canada owes very much to him.

With Rector Major Fr. Egidio Vigano at Malibu, Calif., in 1980

Upon completion of his term as provincial in 1985, Fr. Dominic went to Don Bosco Technical High School in Boston as treasurer. Long-time DBT teacher John Sullivan recalls how Fr. Dominic was a hands-on administrator. For instance, very shortly after his arrival, he inspected with Mr. Sullivan a problem with the heating system in the old electronics building, sized up the situation, and had it rectified by the next day.

In 1989 he was appointed director again, this time at Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa.

In 1991 he offered to go as a missionary to Lungi, Sierra Leone. First, tho, he was appointed treasurer in Tampa for a further two years. Finally, in 1993 he was able to leave for Lungi, where he served as director until 2005, greatly appreciated by both his confreres and the people of the Salesians’ schools and parish. For example, Fr. Daniel Libby, SDB, writes:

[I am] saddened by the death news of Fr. Dominic DeBlase, whom I lived with for a year as a prenovice here in Lungi. The news of the death of Fr. Dominic is heavy enough to break anybody down. I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the entire provincial community. He was indeed a holy, cheerful and unassuming person. His smile alone was something that never left anyone unhappy. His life as a holy and cheerful Salesian taught me many great virtues in the Salesian context. Indeed, we have lost a GREAT Salesian. The parishioners and pupils here are mourning a dear friend, father, mentor and grandfather. He will always be remembered here in Lungi. Returning to the States, from 2005 till 2011 Fr. Dominic served as assistant pastor and community treasurer at Nativity Parish in Washington, D.C. Already suffering from memory loss, he retired to the Marian Shrine community.
Celebrating his 60th anniversary of religious profession in 2012, Fr. Dominic remarked very simply, “I thoroughly enjoy my priesthood and service to Don Bosco and my Salesian Family.”

He also told his family--and they knew it from their own experience--that he considered himself "a 'people' person who prefers working shoulder-to-shoulder with the less fortunate over 'doing good work' in an office. If he had it to do all over again, Fr. Dominic readily responds that he 'would have stayed longer in the missions”'work in Africa. It was most satisfying, he explains, to work with the poor who 'have so little in development … and less opportunities' and to guide them with his technical gifts and skills to 'help them improve themselves … and achieve more equitable lifestyles with the rest of the world….'”
Fr. Dominic is survived by numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Fr. Dominic was waked at the Salesian High School Chapel in New Rochelle on March 4 with the Mass of Christian Burial celebrated that evening. Burial was at the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y., on March 5.

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