Don Motaka passed away suddenly on Dec. 21, 2020, in Oxford, Michigan, at the age of 68 due to complications unrelated to COVID.
A native of Gettysburg, Don led a dynamic and purposeful life that included serving as an ordained Lutheran pastor, a Congressional aide, and a professed monk at the only Lutheran monastery in North America.
Don was truly one of a kind and he made an impression on everyone that he met. His keen intelligence, quick wit, huge heart, irreverent sense of humor, and booming laugh will be missed. His positive energy and love of life could overwhelm a room. He was a loving son to his mother, and he was adored by many close friends and their families who referred to him affectionately as “Uncle Don.”
He is survived by his mother, Almena Motaka of Shrewsbury, Pa., and his sudden passing has impacted many who loved him including Rev. Edward Keyser and his family, Rev. Fritz Foltz and Faith Foltz and family, Joe Moore and his family, and David Schildknecht and his family.
Don was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (1974) in sociology and Yale Divinity School (1978). He was an alumnus of Gettysburg High School and was a member of St. James Lutheran Church. During his teenage years, Don was taken in and cared for by members of the congregation and that experience inspired him to join the ministry.
After graduating from Yale Divinity School, Don worked in Philadelphia selling cars temporarily before taking his first parish call. He served as pastor to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Rebersburg, Pa., and Salem Lutheran Church in Aaronsburg, Pa., before leaving to lead Tabernacle Lutheran Church in West Philadelphia.
After his experience in Philadelphia, Don told friends he “needed a break from God,” and so he left the ministry to pursue other professional opportunities.
He held many different jobs during that time, including serving as a congressional aide to U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA), executive secretary of the Rotary Club of Philadelphia, and in the IT department of the government of Montgomery County, Md. He also spent several years in Gettysburg, where he resumed active membership at St. James and sang as a tenor in the adult choir.
In 2013, he returned to the ministry and spent two years studying to become a monk at Congregation of the Servants of Christ at St. Augustine’s House Lutheran Monastery. Upon becoming a simple professed monk in 2015, he took the name Father Jude. At the monastery, he spent his time listening for God and regularly presided over and preached at Sunday Mass. He also dedicated many hours to working in a woodworking shop he created at St. Augustine’s.
A service to remember and celebrate his remarkable life is being planned for later in the year in Gettysburg. His ashes will be interred in the columbarium at St. James Lutheran Church.
Donations can be made in his name to St. James Lutheran Church, 109 York St., Gettysburg, PA 17325, or to St. Augustine’s House, 3316 Drahner Road, Oxford, MI 48370.