Remembering Father Daniel Flaherty, editor of ‘With God in Russia’

Father Daniel Flaherty, S.J. (left) and Servant of God Walter Ciszek, S.J. (right) / Photos: Society of Jesus/America Media

Daniel L. Flaherty, S.J., a former executive editor of America and the editor of With God in Russia, the best-selling memoir of Servant of God Walter Ciszek, S.J., died on Feb. 13, 2019. He had been living for the past eight years at Colombiere Center, a Jesuit health care facility in Clarkston, Mich. He was 89 years old.

Father Flaherty was born in Chicago, Ill., and attended St. Cajetan School and St. Ignatius High School before entering the Jesuit order in 1947 at the novitiate at Milford, Ohio. He followed the regular Jesuit course of studies and was ordained a priest in 1960.

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Father Flaherty did his regency, a three-year period of teaching during Jesuit formation, at St. Ignatius High School (later College Prep) in Chicago. I myself started as a student at St. Ignatius in September 1956, when “Mister Flaherty” was known as a Jesuit who terrorized freshmen and older students as well. It was a relief to know that he would be off studying theology in southern Indiana the next year.

James Martin, S.J.: “Among Jesuits, Daniel Flaherty, S.J., was considered one of the greats: sensible, hardworking and prayerful."

Among many other ministries in the following years, Father Flaherty worked in writing, editing and publishing. In 1962, he moved to New York to serve as the literary editor of America and later served as executive editor and business manager; he also chaired the Catholic Book Club board.

While he was the literary editor of America, he traveled frequently on weekends to Wernersville, Pa., to help Walter Ciszek, S.J., recently released from prison in the Soviet Union, to publish his classic memoir With God in Russia, the dramatic story of Father Ciszek’s 22 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps. “Everyone wanted to know his story, and [Father Thurston Davis, Editor in Chief of America] arranged with the New York and Maryland provincial superiors to have America magazine tell the story,” Father Flaherty wrote in America in 2017. “To this day I have no idea why he asked me, the youngest and newest member of the staff, to write the story that was ultimately published as With God in Russia.” He and Father Ciszek later worked together on Father Ciszek’s follow-up book, He Leadeth Me.

“Among Jesuits, Dan Flaherty was considered one of the greats: sensible, hardworking and prayerful,” noted James Martin, S.J., editor at large of America. “And he did the church an immense service by helping Walter Ciszek to write what have become two of the most important modern spiritual classics: With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me. Without Dan we would have neither of those two extraordinary memoirs.”

Father Flaherty returned to Chicago in 1971 as executive editor at Loyola University Press (Loyola Press since 1995) and the first editor and publisher of the National Jesuit News. From 1973 to 1979 he was the provincial superior of the Chicago Province, and participated in the Jesuits’ historic 32nd General Congregation in 1974-75. In 1979 he returned to Loyola University Press, where he served for 10 more years.

I moved back to Chicago in 1982 to help start a Jesuit magazine, Company, which was to tell stories of individuals, groups and institutions pursuing the Jesuit mission. Father Flaherty was of crucial help to our editor, Ned Mattimoe, S.J., and me. He gave us space at Loyola University Press. He helped us make contact with professionals who could guide us—what did we know about starting a new magazine? He bought us our first computer, a primitive little device that set us on the road to publication.

Father Daniel Flaherty, S.J., is remembered as a brilliant man in many fields, as funny as he was serious, an Irish music lover and storyteller. He loved being with people and sharing his love of God.

In 1989 Father Flaherty became the treasurer of the Chicago Province. He still supported Company fully, and we felt that support. And when I was named Chicago provincial in 2003, I felt immense gratitude that the man in the treasurer’s office was still the reliable and totally supportive Father Flaherty.

Somewhere along the way, I came to suspect that the young Jesuit I had feared as a freshman in high school had been playing a role. In fact, he had great love and respect for people, both strong people and vulnerable people. To share a Christmastime dinner with him, some other Jesuits and the noted Andrew Greeley was unforgettable. To see him work long hours to support and enhance our Jesuit mission challenged me to work hard myself. To hear people drop his name in appreciation and admiration made me proud to share my Jesuit life with him.

In 2011, Father Flaherty moved to Colombiere Center to take care of his health. Still, he maintained his love for writing and for America, as indicated by his publishing his last piece (noted above) just a year and a half ago.

Father Flaherty is remembered as a brilliant man in many fields, as funny as he was serious, an Irish music lover and storyteller. He loved being with people and sharing his love of God. He is remembered as a superior who trusted younger men in positions of leadership, and he is credited with helping to get St. Ignatius High School of Chicago through difficult times.

America mourns his loss and celebrates the life that he shared and the gifts he devoted to this community. He showed us the joy, the consolation, the reward of our Jesuit mission.

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Patty Caproni
3 months ago

Fr. Schmidt - Fr. Dan was our father’s first cousin. We were blessed to spend every Sunday dinner and every holiday, for decades, with Fr. Dan. He was a such a blessing to us. Your article is beautiful. Having 4 sons currently attending, or graduates of, St. Ignatius, I just wanted to tell you that this quote made me laugh out loud.....I can only imagine it made Fr. Dan laugh his giant laugh as well.
“Father Flaherty did his regency, a three-year period of teaching during Jesuit formation, at St. Ignatius High School (later College Prep) in Chicago. I myself started as a student at St. Ignatius in September 1956, when “Mister Flaherty” was known as a Jesuit who terrorized freshmen and older students as well. It was a relief to know that he would be off studying theology in southern Indiana the next year.”

But then this quote is so perfect.....
“Somewhere along the way, I came to suspect that the young Jesuit I had feared as a freshman in high school had been playing a role. In fact, he had great love and respect for people, both strong people and vulnerable people.”

God bless him. He was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.

Dr.Cajetan Coelho
3 months ago

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon Fr Dan.

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