ST. LOUIS, Mo. Jesuit Father Joseph Damhorst, died July 18 at age 84. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Aug. 4 at Jesuit Hall in St. Louis.
Joseph Damhorst was born in Quincy, Ill., on Nov. 9, 1936, to Clarence F. and Erma Meyers Damhorst. He attended grade school at St. Francis Solanus and then Notre Dame High School in Quincy, followed by one year at Quincy College. Joe learned to play percussion in a band and in his teen years made money playing gigs in and around Quincy.
He entered the Jesuit novitiate of the former Missouri Province in Florissant, Mo., on Aug. 17, 1955, and pronounced first vows on Aug. 22, 1957. For his regency, he was missioned to St. Stephen’s Mission in St. Stephen’s, Wyoming, where he taught English, Latin, and science, and commenced his life-long interest in the Native American people and culture. He was ordained a priest on June 4, 1968, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. He pronounced his final vows as a Jesuit on Aug. 15, 1973.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and letters and a Master of Divinity from St. Louis University. He also earned a master’s degree in zoology from the University of South Dakota.
Father Damhorst’s first assignment following ordination was in vocation promotion, first in Florissant (1969-1970) and then at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo. (1970-1975).
From 1975 to 1980, Father Damhorst was assigned to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City. For the last three years of this assignment, he served as pastor.
He then returned to St. Stephen’s Mission in Wyoming, where he had served while in formation more than a decade before. There, he devoted himself to mission work and served as superior and pastor from 1981-87.
Following a yearlong sabbatical at St. John’s College in Belize, he spent three years in St. Louis directing the province mission office.
In 1990, he was missioned to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in South Dakota, where he did pastoral ministry at the Red Cloud Mission among the Lakota Sioux.
From 2002 to 2008, Father Damhorst was superior and pastoral minister at St. Patrick Parish and then at Holy Apostles Parish in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, where he touched many parishioners’ lives. In addition to serving at these parishes, he was one of the priests of the diocese willing to spend weekends with engaged couples at the Catholic Engaged Encounter Retreats for many years. He would give presentations with the team, stay late on Saturday evening and pray with the couples and hear confessions and then offer Mass with the group on Sunday.
He returned to Belize in 2008 and served for three years as pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish.
He then returned to St. Louis, serving as chaplain at Loyola Academy for two years before moving to the Xavier Jesuit Center in Denver. Here, Father Damhorst did pastoral ministry, a good portion of which was serving as the chaplain to the Kateri Catholic Community and on the board of trustees of Arrupe Jesuit High School.
Father Damhorst had a deep love for nature and the environment. His work on the reservations gave him a deep love and appreciation for Native peoples. He learned some Lakota and liked to decorate his room with arts and crafts of native peoples. He also had a soft spot for the marginalized and neglected. He was a wise counselor to those in charge and a good community man who was sensitive to his Jesuit brothers’ needs and helpful when they were hurting.
Declining health forced Father Damhorst to return to St. Louis this summer.
In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his brother Clarence E. Damhorst and sisters Shirley Cameron and Elaine Boudreau. He is survived by his brothers in the Society of Jesus.