A native of Indiana, David Denny moved to Arizona in 1969. In the summer of 1970, at the age of 17, he was an exchange student in Afghanistan. This kindled a lifelong interest in the Middle East, especially the Abrahamic spiritual traditions. In 1974 he earned his BA in Asian Studies, with an emphasis on Middle Eastern history and Arabic at the University of Arizona.
In 1975, having discovered Thomas Merton and converted to Roman Catholicism from his Protestant roots, he entered the Spiritual Life Institute, a contemplative monastic community rooted in the Carmelite tradition. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1980 and is incardinated in the Diocese of Killala, County Mayo, Ireland.
From 1985-2004 he was co-editor of Desert Call, the Institute’s quarterly magazine. In 1987 he spent six weeks serving as a priest in a remote fishing village in northeastern Brazil. From 1993-2006 he was a visiting professor at Colorado College, teaching Fire and Light: A History of Christian Mysticism.
In 2005 Fr. Dave left the Spiritual Life Institute and, with Tessa Bielecki, co-founded The Desert Foundation, an informal circle of friends who share a passion for the desert, the Abrahamic faiths, and the spiritualities of the American Southwest. He served frequently as chaplain for Image Journal’s Glen Workshop. In 2005 and 2007 he taught Spiritual Quests in Literature at Colorado College and has served as chaplain for Seattle Pacific University’s MFA spring residencies since then.
In August 2006 he led a seminar, “Grief and Belief; Rage and Surrender,” at the annual Glen Workshop. Participants reflected on elegies and other grief poems, on grief and faith, and examined the role of the Crucifixion and the Mother of Sorrows in the Hispanic art of the American Southwest. From 2007-2011, he and Tessa Bielecki taught Sand and Sky: Desert Spirituality from the Middle East to the American Southwest at Colorado College.
Fr. Dave published “Making the Soul Fertile,” a chapter in Meditations for InterSpiritual Wisdom, edited in 2011 by Netanel Miles-Yépez. In 2013 he co-authored Season of Glad Songs: A Christmas Anthology and in 2016 Desert Voices: The Edge Effect, both with Tessa Bielecki. A retreatmaster and poet, Fr. Dave is also an Outreach Preacher for Cross Catholic Outreach, a relief ministry for the poorest of the poor. He is currently collaborating on a book with Tessa Bielecki: Desert Voices: Healing Our Wound of Fear, an anthology of Desert Foundation newsletter essays, In his spare time he is writing a memoir, How Did You Dawn? First Love, Afghanistan, and How I Became a Buddhist Heretic.