Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Daniel P. Liderbach, SJ, who died on February 1, 2024 at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 82 years old. May he rest in peace.
Dan is survived by his siblings: John, Brian, Mark, Mary, Kathleen Reese, Sharon Davidson, and Susan Mejia.
Dan was born on March 17, 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio. Before entering the Society, he graduated from Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. He entered the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus on September 1, 1958 at the Jesuit novitiate in Milford, Ohio. He was ordained a priest on June 2, 1973 at St. Patrick’s Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and pronounced final vows on December 8, 1978 at Rodman Hall, the Jesuit Community of John Carroll University.
While in the Society, Dan earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (1954) and a licentiate in philosophy (1965) from Loyola University Chicago. He earned a master’s degree in theology (1973) and a doctorate degree in systematic theology (1979) from the University of St. Michael in Toronto, Ontario. The title of his dissertation was: “The Theology of Suffering of Martin Luther in Modern Translation: A comparative study in the roots of the theology of suffering of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” In 1983, Dan earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from Regis College in Toronto, Ontario.
During regency, Dan taught math at St. John’s Jesuit High School & Academy in Toledo, Ohio (1965-1968). Early in his Jesuit life, Dan had surgery to remove a brain tumor. This experience helped to form his worldview and influence his scholarly research topics. After doctoral studies, he worked for one year at the University of Detroit before teaching religious studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, for five years (1978-1983). Dan then spent 23 years teaching religious studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York (1983-2006). After ministering at Holy Family Parish in Parma, Ohio, Dan was missioned to Colombiere Center in 2008 to write, perform pastoral ministry, and pray for the Church and the Society.
Dan was a devoted Jesuit, priest, teacher, and scholar. He had an inquisitive and open mind which helped him to consider issues and situations from different points of view. This mindset, coupled with his deep love of Christ, helped Dan to effectively write and teach about issues such as suffering, early and modern-day Christianity, and the role of grace (in our lives and in the world). He authored eight books and many articles. In addition to being a scholar, he was a gifted musician who loved to sing and play the classical guitar.
Fr. Ryan Duns, SJ, had this to say about Dan:
Dan Liderbach may have been the oddest and quirkiest teacher I have ever had. Some of my friends from Canisius College still imitate the way he would announce, in the middle of a lecture, a “footnote” and physically step to the side to make a new point. As an instructor, he expected students to engage the theological tradition and to find ways to advance it. For Dan, theology was not an exercise of looking in the rearview mirror but, rather, a vocation to think about how the rich resources of theology could be drawn into dialogue with contemporary culture.
Dan directed my senior thesis—“The Rhythm of the Eucharist”—and helped me to get it published. From that point onward, he treated me as a colleague and a friend. I can say there are two [of his traits] I try to embrace. First, he was an incredibly diligent worker who was committed to theological reflection. Even if you didn’t agree with him, he welcomed dialogue and debate. Second, Dan was no stranger to suffering. He knew well the limits of human flesh. Yet his vulnerability with others empowered them to be vulnerable; his humanity, in effect, allowed the humanity of others to emerge. He was a sacrament of real presence who allowed others to be really present.
I am grateful to Dan for making me unafraid of the Mystery’s abyssal depth and my hope now is that he is in the loving presence of the Mystery he served so well during his life.