Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Father Damian Turk, 48 Years A Trappist Monk, Dies

Published May 4, 2006

Father Damian Turk, OCSO, a monk priest at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, died just before midnight on Tuesday, April 25. He was 80 years old.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 15, 1925, he was born the eighth of nine children and baptized Lawrence Christ Turk at the Church of St. Lawrence in Cleveland. In January 1943 he joined the Navy and served in active duty as a “seabee” in the Pacific theater of World War II, remaining in the Navy for a little over three years. Upon his honorable discharge from the service he worked in the oil fields in Turkey and the Middle East, operating heavy equipment, which prepared him for his years as the head of the heavy equipment department at the monastery.

He was accepted in the monastic community on Aug. 12, 1958. He completed his seminary studies at the monastery and was ordained to the priesthood on May 20, 1969. His many construction projects at the monastery included the bulldozing done during the construction of the second dam that formed the lake below the retreat house at the Conyers monastery. He also engineered and constructed the big dam that formed the third of the large lakes there. He graded the land for the construction carried on at the monastery and kept the roads in repair.

Father Damian served as cellarer in charge of the economy of the monastery for several years. As the external cellarer he was in charge of maintenance of the monastic buildings, forests and the grounds.

Fondly called “Doc” by his monastic brothers and friends, Father Damian was a master mechanic who was able to fix just about anything.

His priestly ministry also grew into a role in counseling retreatants in the retreat house. Becoming devoted to those on retreat and following the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, he was widely known as the one person to whom, in accordance with AA’s fifth step, recovering alcoholics confided their life stories, a ministry for which he was revered.

In the last few years, the difficult onset of Alzheimer’s disease limited Father Damian’s life. The monastery issued a statement that “he will be remembered as a happy, loving brother who gave his life for God and his monastic family, working long hours in winter cold, fixing water mains and repairing roofs—and most of all he will be remembered as a faithful friend to those of us who will miss him dearly.”

The funeral service was held on Saturday, April 29. In addition to his community, he is survived by two sisters, Betty Thomas and Josie Bowditch, both of Cleveland.

Those wishing to honor Father Damian’s memory may send a donation to the monastery to help with the care of the infirm monks. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located at 2625 Highway 212, SW, Conyers, GA 30094.