By Nora Dabrowski
The Spiritual Exercises are a central tool in Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit formation.
As a Jesuit, Fr. Francis Daly has studied and taught this method of prayer and reflection to countless Jesuits and laypeople during his career, introducing them to Jesus and deepening their relationship with the Lord.
As a young man in Chicago at St. Sabina elementary school, Fr. Daly was introduced to his first directed retreat in eighth grade by Fr. Leo Belanger, SJ. Father Daly was moved by the reflection on his faith life that had been nurtured by his parents and his parish in Chicago.
In high school, Saint Ignatius College Prep offered Fr. Daly more experience in spiritual development, and he grew familiar with the Society of Jesus, meeting then-scholastics Howard Gray, SJ, and John O’Malley, SJ, at retreats. Through reflection, Fr. Daly found that he was being called to serve the Lord. In the Jesuits at Saint Ignatius, he saw a life of faith and service that he wanted for himself.
Father Daly entered the novitiate in 1959 in Milford, Ohio, and throughout this experience he envisioned himself as a teacher. His formation studies led him to Loyola University Chicago for a bachelor’s in philosophy, a Master’s in history and a Master’s of Divinity in theology. During regency, Fr. Daly taught history and Latin at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Father Daly kept in contact with Fr. Gray over the years, and Fr. Gray served as his spiritual director.
Once ordained, Fr. Daly was missioned by Jesuit Provincial Fr. Dan Flaherty to the novitiate as a minister, where here connected with his friend, Fr. Gray, who was the novitiate’s superior. It was a unique experience for Fr. Daly, as Fr.Gray also led him in his tertianship.
Father Daly was appointed as novice co-director from 1977 to 1983 with Fr. Frank Hodak, SJ, and later Fr. Tom Schubeck, SJ. While considering the weight of his responsibility, Fr. Daly sought grace and found the Lord asking him to “introduce me to them” in his novice director role. He taught Jesuit history to the novices and led the 30-dayretreat, building on his love of teaching and previous experience in tertianship with the Spiritual Exercises.
His desire to teach and share the gift of Ignatian spirituality saw Fr. Daly missioned to his alma mater, Saint Ignatius College Prep, for six years and to St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati for 16 years. During that time, he focused on religious education and faith formation of faculty and staff.
Father Daly acknowledges a special grace in being able to share the Spiritual Exercises with retreatants and lead spiritual direction as he does now at Manresa Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. For Fr. Daly, teaching people to grow in their relationship with God is a very rewarding part of his lifelong ministry.