Remembering Jesuit Father David A. Skelskey

June 25, 2020 - 

Fr. David A. Skelskey, SJ, was born on January 26, 1938, in Bristol, Connecticut, one of the five children of Andrew and Margaret Skelskey. He entered Fairfield University in 1955, but after his freshman year he applied to the New England Province of the Society and entered the novitiate at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, New York, since fire had destroyed the New England Province novitiate the previous March.

He took first vows at Saint Andrews but moved to the new Shadowbrook for two years of juniorate studies. In 1960, he was sent to Spring Hill College, in Mobile, Alabama, as a result of the agreement among the U. S. provinces. that scholastics who showed promise in the natural sciences would do philosophy studies there. In 1963-1965 he taught physics at Baghdad College.

From 1965 to 1972 he studied metallurgy and materials science at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving the doctorate in 1972. Then he began theology studies at the Canadian Jesuits’ Regis College in the University of Toronto. After two years in Toronto he moved to Chicago where over the next six years (1974-1980) he continued—in the Jesuit School of Theology Chicago—the course work needed for his theology degree in Toronto, while he also pursued—at Loyola University Chicago—his research in materials science.

In 1980, two significant events in Fr. Skelskey’s life occurred. One was his ordination in June at the College of the Holy Cross. The other was his first visit to Africa, to Tanzania, where he lived with Maryknoll Fathers while he worked on a project that would devise a simple and inexpensive way of using windmills to bring reliable water to remote areas. In 1984, he returned to Toronto, where he finished work for his theology degree.

In 1985, he went to the Philippines, where for two years he continued his work on windmill technology at the observatory on the campus of the Jesuits’ Ateneo de Manilla. Over the next eighteen years his passport must have raised the eyebrow of many a consular official. He spent time at an agricultural school in Zambia; at the Jesuit Refugee Service in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; at a technical school in another part of Ethiopia where he worked on renewable energy; and, after a sabbatical year at Boston College, three further years in Ethiopia working on the technical aspects of development projects.

In 2006, he returned to Manilla, to the Ateneo, and continued his work on windmill technology. When health problems increased in severity, he moved to the Jesuit Health Center there, where he died on June 24, 2020.

In keeping with public health recommendations due to the coronavirus, the regular wake and funeral liturgy cannot be held. There will be a funeral and burial when it is deemed safe. Fr. Skelskey’s cremains will eventually be interred at the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Quezon City, Philippines.

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