At the entrance of Mystical Rose Oratory before Sunday Mass recently, Bro. Frank Damm, SM greeted well-wishers quietly with few words but with a broad smile. Many brought lei and their congratulations. The Marianist religious from Kalaepohaku exchanged handshakes and patted him on the back. There were smiles and a rising anticipation among the brethren.
It was nearly time for the procession. Bro. Tom Giardino, SM stood by Bro. Frank’s side as the people settled into their seats. An announcement was made: Bro. Frank would renew his vows at Mass and celebrate his 60th jubilee today.
As the service began, Bro. Tom accompanied Bro. Frank to their front row seats.
Bro. Tom had been a senior at Cathedral Latin School in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1959 when he first encountered Bro. Frank, who was teaching there. “I didn’t have Frank for class, but I do remember him as he was a part of that great community of brothers who inspired me to be a Marianist,” he recalled with gratitude.
In 1956, Bro. Frank’s first year of profession, Bro. Frank was 20 years old. Now at 80, he marveled about where this commitment had taken him and how God had grown him. Bro. Frank had always been known as a risk taker. After all, he had been a pilot of small planes, even crashed and survived. Originally from Detroit, he had a penchant for “souping” up cars in his younger days. And during the Sputnik era, he had become an astrophysicist. Space was an exciting frontier, but so too was Africa where he would spend 20 years of his life –10 of those as an astronomer at Kenyatta University, where he taught electronics in the physics department.
Bro. Tom added to Bro. Frank’s risk taking legend with stories of Bro. Frank’s motorcycle riding through the dangerous roads of Nairobi to Kenyatta University. “The Regional Superior had to ask him to stop,” shared Bro. Tom .
Perhaps the biggest and best risk Bro. Frank ever took was those first vows. But this risk led him to something greater than he could ever have envisioned. “Being a Marianist has given my life direction and purpose. It has also given me opportunities that I could not have imagined. Each assignment has involved challenges and support that increased the sense of purpose,” he reflected in a written statement. “Almost by accident, it has introduced me to a variety of approaches to God. Besides the French School, I have met the mystics, the integrity of creation and the Eastern religions. All this has provided experience to help me develop a fulfilling image of God for my retirement years.”
Over the years he has worked in middle-America, in East Africa and since 1997 with Chaminade University. He has been an instrumental part of the “second founding” of Chaminade. Though he is mostly retired now, he continues to serve the university with his wisdom and his management of Title III grants. It continues to be an adventurous, good life.
Later a reception followed where the community could celebrate his faithful devotion and marvel at the faithfulness of God. Bro. Frank, after 60 years as a vowed religious, stood with bold happiness from a life well lived.