Missionary priest who devoted life to Appalachia passes away

Father Edwin Daschbach, 1938-2009

Daschbach,_Fr_Ed_for_webFather Edwin Daschbach SVD, the first Divine Word Missionary to be assigned to Appalachia, died Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in his beloved West Virginia.

In 1973, Father Daschbach was assigned to West Virginia and spent most of the next 36 years living among and caring for the Appalachian people. The West Virginian communities in which the Divine Word Missionaries work are three of the poorest counties in the state and arguably some of the most economically disenfranchised counties in the United States.

When Father Daschbach went to West Virginia, 22 of the state’s counties did not have a priest—much less a rectory. For living quarters, Father Daschbach and another Divine Word Missionary priest divided their time between a small, un-insulated house in the town of Gassaway and a small church in Webster Springs, where they had to sleep on church pews.

The second of George and Beatrice (Shimek) Daschbach’s three children, Father Daschbach was born in Pittsburgh, Penn., on Dec. 6, 1938. In 1958 after graduating from Divine Word Seminary in Conesus, N.Y., he professed religious vows as a Divine Word Missionary. In addition to a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s Seminary in Illinois, he held a master’s degree in religious education from Fordham University in New York.

Bishop Harold Perry, a fellow Divine Word Missionary and the first African-American bishop of the 20th century, ordained Father Daschbach at Techny in 1966. Following ordination, Father Daschbach took up his first assignment, teaching religion and music at Divine Word Seminary in Bordentown, N.J.

In 1973, Bishop Joseph Hodges of Charleston (West Virginia) made an imperative request for more clergy. The Society of the Divine Word answered his plea. Except for a brief summer at St. Rita in Indianapolis, Ind., Father Daschbach served the rest of his priestly life in West Virginia. He was pastor at St. Thomas in Gassaway from 1973 to 1978; St. Anne in Webster Springs from 1978 to 1987, St. Peter and Christ the King in Welch and War from 1987 to 1991; and Good Shepherd in Glenville from 1991 to the present.

Father Daschbach’s visitation and Mass of the Resurrection was held Aug. 18 at Good Shepherd Church in Glenville, W.Vir. He will be interned at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny, Ill.

He is survived by his brother Richard, who is a Divine Word Missionary priest in Timor, and his sister Judy (John) Hernan of Pennsylvania. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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