Queena Lee Chua’s anecdotes on Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. as scientist and priest

Here are some excerpts from Dr. Queena Lee Chua’s article on Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. entitled, “Learning the physics of life from Father Dan” (Inquirer.net 30 Aug 2009):

LAST March, when I found out that my father had only a little time to live, I called Father Daniel McNamara, S.J.

Father Dan, my confessor for two decades, now based at Ateneo de Davao University, immediately instructed, “Write a letter to your father, telling him everything you want to say, while he is still alive.”

I know my father treasured the note because, after his death, I found it stored in his personal drawer.

In April, Father Dan visited my father in the hospital, prayed over him in Latin (“a strong tradition that has been existing for two thousand years”). In and out of consciousness, my father briefly recognized Father Dan. Although my father could not talk, I knew Father Dan’s presence was a comfort.

Many times, when my faith was low (usually when dealing with death in one way or another), I turned to Father Dan. I love Catholicism and I consider myself a full-fledged Catholic, but there are many aspects of this religion that I wrestle with to this day.

During the priest abuse crisis in the US, I asked Fr. Dan, “How can American Catholics listen to priests every Sunday if many of them are pedophiles?” He replied, “Believe in the Church. Priests are human, but the Church is established by Christ.”

Here are other excerpts on Fr. Dan as a scientist:

Father Dan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Fordham University in New York, a Master of Science degree in physics from the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and a doctorate degree in astro-geophysics from the University of Colorado. Above all, he is a committed Jesuit, finding God in the stars, in the earth and in people.

After all, Father Dan is a person with many hats. He has been chairman of the AdMU physics department (now he is chair in Ateneo de Davao), director of the Manila Observatory, college chaplain and graduation marshal. In the 1960s, he taught science and trained high school students in track and field.

As a scientist, he studied lasers, atmospheric pollution and ocean thermal energies. As a priest, he delved into ethics and is the perennial guide of seniors during their final retreat in the Jesuit villa at Mirador Hill in Baguio. As an educator, he reflected on the relationship of science to society, and lectured on these.

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About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

2 Responses to Queena Lee Chua’s anecdotes on Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. as scientist and priest

  1. MCH says:

    I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Fr. Dan. I took Sci10 under him two years ago, 2nd Sem AY ’07 – ’08. He had this way about him that made everyone relaxed when in his presence. He’s also the only Jesuit I’ve met so far who opens all his classes with a Hail Mary as well as a brief biography of the saint of the day. If I remember correctly, he spent a good 10 to 15mins discussing the Immaculate Conception on the eve of that solemnity, the Mass for which he would also celebrate later on that day. And I’ll never forget when he drove our class in what was probably the maiden voyage of the electric jeep. I’ll truly miss seeing him around campus. His was one of the few classes I’ve had at the Ateneo that were simply effortless (Got a B+ without even trying that hard! hehe)

  2. Wants to be Anonymous says:

    [I think my comment to one of your posts is better placed here]

    I took Quantum Mechanics under Father Dan. It was a relatively slow paced course, I couldn’t believe I got an A, okay, it was only “Griffiths” level — actually, most of my classmates were merely taking it just for the sake of taking it as a pre-requisite to get into the computer engineering year.

    I think that is very unfortunate because quantum mechanics is very important in pushing the frontier of computer hardware (from diodes / transistors to many new quantum electronic devices / spintronic) and even computer software (quantum computing / quantum cryptography)…

    I would have to admit that even if it was a slow paced course in terms of rigor, at the very least Father Dan shared with us a lot of passion regarding the history of science and the human side behind the development of quantum theory.

    If you see him again, tell him thanks from one of your readers :) I did get an A (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who aced his course ever but for that batch, I’m confident I was the only one), but as I said I dropped out :| I tried to consult with him before making that decision… never got the chance… Life happens :|

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