Neiswanger, Father David
1982, January 22
Date of Birth: 1924, May 23
February 2, 1982
In the deep snow of a frigid late January in Iowa, our brother Sulpician, Father David Neiswanger, was laid to rest alongside the mortal remains of his father. At the funeral liturgy, Archbishop James J. Byrne of Dubuque was principal celebrant, joined by fifteen priests from Davenport and Dubuque. The Sulpicians were represented by Father Edward J. Hogan, a former rector of St. John’s Seminary where Father Neiswanger spent all of his active years in Sulpician ministry.
David Lloyd Neiswanger was born May 23, 1924, in Washington, Iowa. He was the only child of Lloyd and Myrtle Marie (nee Otto) Neiswanger. They were farmers and belonged to the Methodist Church. David received his elementary and secondary education in the Washington public schools. In September 1942, David was received into the Catholic Church, and that same fall he entered Iowa State College in Ames for one semester. He then enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and saw service in St. Augustine and San Francisco. While assigned to the latter base, he was encouraged in his interest in the priesthood by one of the chaplains, who suggested that he visit St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, where he talked with one of the Sulpician priests, Father Edward Wagner.
When the Second World War ended, Dave left the service and returned to Ames for a year of college and then transferred to Loras College in Dubuque. There he took the pre-seminary course and graduated with a B.A. in philosophy. While his birthplace was in the Davenport Diocese, his church ties were closer with Dubuque and Archbishop Leo Binz assigned him to Theological College in Washington, D.C. for seminary studies. He earned an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University and also became interested in joining the Priests of St. Sulpice in order to specialize in their ministry in seminaries. Archbishop Binz gave him permission to do that and later ordained David in the Cathedral of Dubuque on May 29, 1954.
That summer Father Neiswanger began his only full-time priestly assignment when the Sulpicians appointed him to succeed Father George Ott as the treasurer of St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth, MI. He was there only a few months when he was seriously injured in an automobile accident, from which he lost both kneecaps. Permission was given him to celebrate Mass without kneeling or genuflections. Some months later he was sufficiently recovered to resume full duties at the Seminary. These included not only managing its finances and large plant, but also teaching catechetics, serving as faculty secretary, directing the mission society, and not long afterwards becoming the vestiaire, that is, the priest who handled the financial needs of Sulpician faculty members. Father Neiswanger was also greatly esteemed by students as a spiritual director and was often sought out by seminarians who could not get on his overfilled list. Because of his leg injuries, he was dispensed from taking the Sulpician formation year in Baltimore. Instead he did it at St. John’s in 1956-57 under the direction of Father Lyman A. Fenn, who had directed the formation program for Sulpician candidates just prior to his gong to St. John’s as the first rector.
Dave’s character and personality often revealed his farm-boy and Methodist background. He had about him a very attractive simplicity and honesty. He was very intelligent but abhorred what he saw so often as pseudo-intellectualism. As the seminary treasurer, he was a keen businessman and well organized, and at the same time went out of his way to make the seminary a pleasant place for all who lived there.
His deep love and interest in people often showed in his initiative in providing little extras for his brother priests. His dealings with the lay workers were those of a caring person. He knew them all well, their backgrounds, their families, and their individual needs. He had purchased a cottage on a small lake near Plymouth, to which he was delighted to invite faculty members, alumni, and students.
Dave’s ties with Detroit and with Michigan priests were very close and when the Sulpicians withdrew from St. John’s Seminary in 1971, he received permission to continue as treasurer and as a spiritual director under the administration of the new rector, the present Bishop Robert J. Rose of Gaylord. Little more than a year later, however, he began to experience the problems with his health that would force him into semi-retirement in 1975. A heart attack, then hepatitis and further complications slowed him down considerably by that time. He decided to move to Sun City, AZ, where his mother had bought a home. His father had died in 1955.
During those last years in Arizona, Father Neiswanger found the relaxation that his illness demanded, and he very much enjoyed the companionship of his mother and the priests and friends he met there. When health permitted, he assisted at St. Joachim’s Church in Sun City on weekends and with a daily Mass. He and his mother usually returned to the Michigan cottage for a couple of months in the summer and they would then visit relatives in Iowa as they made a slow return drive to the Southwest. In earlier years he had enjoyed travel and made visits to Mexico and Europe.
Having suffered a recurrence of hepatitis and periodic heart attacks, he found it necessary to undergo triple bypass surgery on January 13 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix. Complications developed almost at once and further surgery had to be performed, from which he never regained consciousness. He died peacefully on January 22 at the age of 57. As he had requested, a funeral liturgy was celebrated in Sun City. Many priests concelebrated from the Phoenix Diocese as did five priests who had come from Detroit and Father Harry Dukehart, S.S., a fellow faculty member who represented the Sulpicians. The homily was given by Father Paul F. Chateau of Oak Park, MI, a close friend of Dave and his mother. In Washington, Iowa, a wake service was led by Father Hogan the night before the burial, who took the opportunity to express Sulpician gratitude for the work Dave had done at St. John’s. At the funeral Mass on January 28 in St. James’ Church, Father Chateau delivered the homily. Bishop Gerald O’Keefe was represented by Father Thomas J. Lew, an alumnus of the Sulpician Seminary in Washington and a former pastor of St. James. Father Hogan conducted the committal service at the family plot in Elm Grove Cemetery. Father Neiswanger is survived by his mother and by an aunt and two uncles.
A memorial Mass was celebrated by the provincial council which was meeting in Baltimore the day of the burial and they were joined by the provincial staff. The alumni of St. John’s Seminary also celebrated a memorial Mass on February 7 at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Oak Park.
May Father Neiswanger and all our brother Sulpicians who have died live forever in the joy of the Resurrection.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
William J. Lee, S.S.