Born Francis Xavier Ferland on April 16, 1890 in Duluth, Minnesota he was the son of Francis Martel Ferland and Marie Amanda Tardiff of French-Canadian descent. Many of his siblings died at a young age and his father died when he was nine. Young Francis and his three brothers were sent to live in St. Michael’s Orphanage, La Crosse, Wisconsin. In June 1905 he returned home to Superior, Wisconsin with the thought of becoming a priest. This was stirred even more when Passionist Fathers Angelo and Gaudentius came to conduct a parish mission at Sacred Heart Parish. Young Francis assisted as an altar boy. On October 3, 1904 he left home to enter the Passionist Preparatory Seminary, Dunkirk, New York. When he and two other boys arrived there by train at midnight no one was there to meet them so they rolled up on the train bench and waited until morning! When they awoke in the morning, they found that St. Mary’s was nearby and went to the door where they were met by Director, Father Clement Lee, C.P. After one year he proceeded to the novitiate, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But in the middle of his novitiate the Passionists in the United States split into two provinces and he went to the new novitiate of the west in Louisville. Kentucky. Even though he expressed some dissatisfaction with the experience to his director, on December 4, 1906 he took his vows and received the name David. On June 1, 1913 he was ordained at St. Ann’s Church, Normandy, Missouri by Bishop Paul Nussbaum, C.P. who was on his way to his new see at Corpus Christi, Texas. Father Ferland’s final year of theology and year of Sacred Eloquence were spent at St. Paul, Kansas. Early on, Father Ferland gained the reputation as a person who was not afraid to speak his mind.
On March 28, 1915 Father Ferland arrived at Louisville to become the Vice-Master of the novitiate. After two years he was assigned to Normandy to begin to preach missions. In 1919 he was appointed assistant pastor of Holy Cross Parish, Cincinnati, Ohio. He was energetic with the young and then the flu epidemic stuck. To meet the people’s needs he was told by a doctor to use tobacco so he did his pastoral work with a pinch of chewing tobacco in his nostril and a wad in his mouth and a cigar in his teeth. So tireless was he that he himself almost died from exhaustion and often told the story of how he was nursed back to health from a Nun who gave him whiskey at just the right time.
To gain strength the doctor told him to go to a warm dry climate; so he went to Corpus Christi for a year to work with Bishop Nussbaum. By November 2, 1920 he was well enough to be assigned to St. Paul’s Kansas as pastor for a three year term. He coordinated the building of a new and modern St. Francis School after the old one had burned down. From 1926 to 1930 Father Ferland was assigned with Bishop Nussbaum to work in the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan. On August 30, 1926 Father Ferland was made pastor at Crystal Falls, Michigan which was logging country and a strong Protestant area. He was a tireless promoter of Catholicism. When he returned from Michigan in 1930 Father Ferland was made Vicar of Holy Cross Monastery, Cincinnati. In 1933 he was transferred to Detroit and in 1935 he was back in Cincinnati for another six- year term. He was a competent administrator during the Depression and in Cincinnati operated, along with Bother David, a soup kitchen. In 1936 he returned home for the death of his mother. In 1941 he ended his term as Vicar in Cincinnati. From there he spent two years in Des Moines, Iowa. He went to Detroit on February 10, 1943. During the following years he was plagued by stomach cancer. When the lay retreat ministry began in Detroit in 1948 Father Ferland was opposed to this venture as he perceived that it would bring outsiders into the monastery life which would thus lead to a disturbance of the solitude and quiet of the Passionist community. He never changed this opinion. Yet he was willing to visit some retreatants when asked by the Retreat Director. By 1957 Father Ferland’s health was failing quickly and he died after some days of suffering in December. Throughout his life Father Ferland had a strong devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux.