MEMPHIS – Father David Knight, beloved priest, writer and friend to many across the world, died of congestive heart failure on March 21, 2021, at the Poor Clare Monastery in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, a religious community of cloistered sisters that he helped establish 40 years ago. He celebrated his 90th birthday just days before his death and was proud to be the oldest priest in the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
Born on March 16, 1931, to the late Marion and Elizabeth (Buell) Knight in Dallas, Texas, Father Knight was one of three brothers raised in the Catholic faith. Another brother passed away as an infant. Father Knight entered the Jesuit Novitiate in France in 1948. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., in 1952. He was ordained a Catholic priest at the Cathedral of Saint Jean in Lyon, France, on September 2, 1961.
After ordination, Father Knight served as a Catholic missionary in the African nation of Chad for three years. Upon his return to the United States, he pursued a doctorate in theology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Throughout his life, he taught at various universities including Catholic University, Loyola University in New Orleans, where he served as spiritual director of the Jesuit community, Christian Brothers University (CBU) in Memphis, and Memphis Theological Seminary.
Father Knight co-founded the House of the Lord in Memphis, a religious community, in 1979. He spent the remainder of his life as a priest serving the faithful in Catholic Diocese of Memphis in various roles. During his active ministry, he served as Diocesan Director of the Cursillo movement, Diocesan Spiritual Director of the Hispanic Catholic community and campus minister at CBU. He served as Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Memphis for 14 years before he retired from active ministry on July 26, 2002. He resided at the Monastery of St. Clare, a contemplative community of cloistered sisters, in the Memphis community of Frayser until December 2019 when the monastery closed. While he lived there, he served as Chaplain to five different Women’s religious communities. Upon the monastery’s closure, Cardinal Alvaro Rammacini invited Father Knight to assist the Poor Clare community in Guatemala, where he is now buried.
A prolific writer, Father Knight published more than 40 books on the Catholic faith and teachings, which inspired both lay people and theologians. His first book, His Way: An Everyday Plan for Following Jesus, which is a collection of reflections on the spirituality of the laity, sold more than 150,000 copies. The book was a catalyst in creating parish missions, retreats and discussion groups across the world. His book, Reaching Jesus: 5 Steps to a Fuller Life, led to his creation of the non-profit organization, Immersed in Christ, which encourages people to respond to the call to live a Christian life. In addition to writing, Father Knight conducted more than 500 missions, retreats and workshops across the U.S. and in 20 countries during his lifetime, including Australia, Canada, England, Ecuador, Germany, Guam, Guatemala, Haiti, Ireland, Japan, Korea and Spain.
Father Knight spent his religious life focused on helping people understand God’s love. He often told people during his spiritual retreats at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, “Our happiness is not dependent on anything on this earth.” He leaves behind his brother, Robert, of West Tisbury, Mass., Manuela Knight, the widow of his brother, Mickey, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
After Easter, the Catholic Diocese of Memphis will look to offer a Mass in remembrance of Father David Buell (Maria) Knight. More details on the Mass will be forthcoming on the CDOM.org.
(Courtesy of the Diocese of Memphis)