He has been there for virtually every milestone event of my adult life…I’ve known him longer than I knew my father…And the person who quietly and peacefully took his final breath last week is not the man I’ve known and loved for so many years.
I met Dan Germann in September, 1974. He was my very first professor in my very first class on my very first day of college. From the get-go, he fascinated me. For at least a month, his presence intimidated me, until I learned to relax and understand that his intensity was borne of his dedication to his subject. Dan taught Christian Liturgy, and I wish I could somehow have made it mandatory for every Catholic on the planet to take his courses. Over the years, I soaked up his teaching like a thirsty sponge, and enjoyed every second of it. Dan was the perfect combination of adult and child: serious when necessary, goofy and playful whenever possible, and delightful always.
As Director of Campus Ministry, Dan was the driving force behind the Freshman Weekend, 10 p.m. Mass on Sundays, the St. Clare Festival, and the annual Baccalaureate Mass. Just when you thought he couldn’t come up with another original feast to use as a conduit to integrate Christian ritual into daily college life, he would, and in the most energetic and genuine way. He injected passion and enthusiasm into the most mundane human experiences. Those of us lucky enough to live on the “country club” side of campus, in particular the Graham complex, had easy access to one of campus’ most hallowed traditions of the ’70s–Wine & Cheese. Every Tuesday evening around 9 p.m., book-weary students would stumble into his suite in Graham 100 for a quiet liturgy, followed by hours of camaraderie–wine, munchies, pop, goodies of every kind–to help us get through the rigors of college life. That would likely not be tolerated now, rules and standards being what they are.
The St. Clare Festival–what a pity that it has fallen out of favor, but then, it could never quite capture the aura that it had when Dan was running the event. Maypoles, jousting, renaissance costumes (courtesy of the Drama Dept), and all manner of food, drink, and entertainment were the order of the day. And it was always topped off with Mass in the Mission Church at 10 p.m., capping a perfect day in a perfect way.
There was a standing joke among a group of us from the class of ’78, mostly musicians, that it was impossible to go ANYWHERE with Dan–and I do mean ANYWHERE–backpacking in Tahoe, camping at Idaho’s Priest Lake, the Hawaiian Islands, or Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast–without running into someone, usually a complete stranger, who recognized him from Santa Clara: “Aren’t you Fr. Germann?” Hollywood celebrities would drool at the kind of recognition factor that Dan enjoyed without even trying.
When my father died in December of my senior year, Dan was by my side, holding me up, letting me cry, every step of the way. Seven months later, he officiated at our Mission wedding, the planning and preparations for which he was intricately involved in, and he made it all perfect. When our first son was born, the little guy became Brian Daniel (or, as Dan called him, “B. Daniel”). When that same baby had unexpected abdominal surgery as an infant, Dan came to the hospital, blessed him, and sat with us while we waited for an interminable length of time. And then did it again for our second son (it wasn’t supposed to happen twice in a family) in an identical situation four years later.
Dan’s vocation called him to a wide variety of stations–Graham 100, Campus Ministry, Franklin House, and the Eastside Project (now known as the Arrupe Partnerships). In the early ’90s, he began working with the Alumni Association, which gave birth to the development of Alumni for Others. We helped him launch the Pacific Northwest branch, and held a meeting for the Portland/Vancouver contingent in our home, with local alums from this area.
In July of 2006, friends and fellow Jesuits planned an anointing ceremony held at Sacred Heart Center in Los Gatos. The outpouring of love and affection from people he’d known and loved throughout his life clearly touched and moved him, and he reveled in the healing power of Scripture, touch, music and laughter.
As Dan’s health declined over the past several years, I’ve often thought that I just couldn’t imagine a world without Dan. But in fact, he’d been slipping away, bit by bit, as Parkinson’s disease ravaged his neurological system. Despite the tremors and other physical symptoms, Dan was 100 percent on track mentally almost until the very end. His ability to converse, one of the great joys and talents of his life, was severely compromised by the disease, but he always found a way to indicate that he got the joke, remembered the anecdote, and understood everything being said. He was comfortable with the idea of his impending death, and rather than feeling frightened, he seemed to be frustrated because there was still work yet to be done, things yet to be said to the people he loved.
If you were to gather a room full of Dan’s closest friends, I’m willing to bet none of them could think about Dan without grinning. Not just a melancholy smile, mind you, but an infectious grin, just like Dan’s, the kind that occurs when the hand is caught in the cookie jar. Dan knew, and tried to teach others, that there is such raw joy and beauty in life and the world God has created, and that our time here is short, and we’d best not waste it.
Family, friends, and colleagues will gather shortly to celebrate his life, mourn his passing, and share their grief. It is likely that something resembling a party will follow, because Dan believed that all the events of our lives, from the mundane to the sublime, are cause for celebration–to make explicit what is implicit–and he wouldn’t want it any other way. Rest in peace, Dan, and save us a seat.
Sharon McCarthy Dean '78