Monday, May 2, 2011
Today is the 140th birthday of Father Francis Patrick Duffy
Father Duffy: You were a true soldier and priest, thanks for your guidance, happy 140th birthday!
Francis Patrick Duffy (1871–1932) was an American soldier, Roman Catholic priest and chaplain. As the chaplain for the "Fighting 69th", he became the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army. Duffy Square, the northern half of Times Square, is named after him.
FRANCIS P. DUFFY (1871-1932)
The most celebrated U.S. Army chaplain in the Great War, Father Francis Patrick Duffy, a Roman Catholic priest, was born in Cobourg, Canada, and was ordained in 1896. He attended the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and then was appointed professor of psychology and ethics at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York. Father Duffy's career as an Army chaplain began with a brief tour of duty during the Spanish-American War when he was stationed at Montauk Point, Long Island. In 1912 he became pastor of Our Savior parish in the Bronx, and in 1914 he was appointed chaplain of the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard.
The "Fighting Sixty-Ninth," a basically Irish regiment, although containing members of other ethnic groups, had served with distinction during the Civil War. It was called up briefly during the Spanish-American War, and also in 1916, when it served on the Mexican border during General Pershing's Punitive expedition. When the United States entered World War I, the regiment was renumbered the 165th Infantry and assembled at Camp Mills, New York. Assigned to be part of the new Rainbow (42nd) Division, its members continued to refer to the regiment by its traditional sobriquet.
Chaplain Duffy, by now a major and the senior chaplain of the 42nd Division, became an inspirational focus for the division and later for the A.E.F. The poet Joyce Kilmer writing about the voyage of the division across the Atlantic, observed that every day there could be seen a line of soldiers, "as long as the mess-line," waiting their turn to have Duffy hear their confessions. Every morning, Kilmer noted, a large crowd of soldiers would gather amidships on the transport where Chaplain Duffy would say Mass at an altar made from a long board resting on two nail kegs. Arriving in France in November 1917, the division spent the winter training and in late February 1918, took over front-line trenches from French forces at Luneville in the Lorraine sector. At dawn on March 20, Duffy and the men of the 42nd received their first serious baptism of fire when a barrage of mustard gas shells burst among them. The bombardment lasted two days and there were over 400 casualties, the majority of them blinded.
For Chaplain Duffy, the next few months were to be filled with such scenes. He was most often found along the front lines hearing confessions and saying Mass, as well as visiting and counseling the soldiers. It was by his "ministry of presence" that he had his greatest influence and became an almost a legendary figure. Once the fighting began, he often traveled with a unit first-aid station, providing physical and spiritual care to the wounded and the dying. His presence on the battlefield was inspirational. Duffy was always near the heaviest fighting, exposing himself to constant danger as he moved from unit to unit. His decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.
After the war, Duffy returned to a new parish in New York City. As pastor of the Holy Cross Church on 42nd Street, just off Broadway, the "actor's Church, Father Duffy added to his already great popularity. In 1919, he published a best selling book, Father Duffy's Story, chronicling his experience in the Great War. He died on 26 June 1932.
In Chaplain Duffy, the chaplaincy produced probably the best known field chaplain in its long history.
Already well known in theological circles, Duffy gained wider fame for his involvement as a military chaplain during World War I, when the 69th New York ("The Fighting 69th") was federalized again and redesignated the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment. When the unit moved up to the front in France, Duffy accompanied the litter bearers in recovering the wounded and was frequently seen in the thick of battle.
Recognized by the regimental commander, Lt. Col. William "Wild Bill" Donovan – who would go on to found the OSS in World War II) – as a key element in the unit's morale, Duffy's role in the unit went beyond that of a normal cleric: the regiment was composed primarily of first- and second-generation Irish immigrants from New York City, many of whom wrote later about Duffy's leadership. Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur admitted later that Duffy was very briefly considered for the post of regimental commander.
For his actions in the war, Duffy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York State), the Légion d'honneur (France), and the Croix de guerre. Father Duffy is the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army.
Following the war he wrote Father Duffy's Story, which grew out of a manuscript originally started by Joyce Kilmer, the poet and convert to Catholicism who had joined the regiment and had become a close friend to Duffy. When Kilmer was killed in France, he was working on a history of the regiment's involvement in the war, which Duffy intended to continue, but Duffy was prevailed upon to include his own reminiscences
Holy Cross Church:
Duffy then served as a pastor of Holy Cross Church in Hell's Kitchen, a block from Times Square, until his death. While there, he had one last opportunity to make a contribution to Catholic thought: in 1927, during Al Smith's campaign for president, the Atlantic Monthly published a letter by Charles Marshall, a Protestant lawyer, which questioned whether a Catholic could serve as a loyal president who would put the nation and the Constitution before his allegiance to the Pope, a common thread in American anti-Catholicism. Smith was given a chance to reply: his article, which was ghost-written by Duffy, was a classic statement of the intellectual ideas behind American Catholic patriotism. It hinted at notions of religious freedom and freedom of conscience which would not be spelled out by the Church itself until the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom in the 1960s.
Death: Duffy died on June 27, 1932, in New York City.
Beloved Chaplain of Fighting 69th Dies.
New York, June 27 - The spirit of Father Francis Patrick Duffy, beloved chaplain of the 'Fighting Sixty-Ninth' of the wartime Rainbow Division, has rejoined the thousands of men who died on the battlefields of France where he served them. The present colonel of his old regiment was at the bedside until near the end. Others through the nation and especially in New York, home of the old Sixty-Ninth, known in war days as the 165th Infantry, mourned the chaplain who died at the age of 62. Father Duffy will have a military burial. The old Sixty-Ninth will attend the services of America's wars, msgr. John P. Chidwick, chaplain of the Battleship Maine when it was blown up in Havana Harbor, will preach the funeral sermon.
Death came to Father Duffy early yesterday after an illness of three months from an intestinal infection. Hundreds of friends of all faiths had flooded the mails with letters of concern and hope for his recovery. The Irish chaplain of an Irish regiment won fame and decorations from his own and the French governments for his devotion to his men under fire during the World War.
His death led General Douglas MacArthur, chief of staff in Washington and war-time commander of the Rainbow (42nd) Division, to reveal he had recommended the priest for command of the 165th Regiment at one time when the division was in the midst of an offensive.
Legacy: Father Duffy is commemorated by Duffy Square, which is located in the northern triangle of Times Square between 45th and 47th Streets in Manhattan, New York City. A momument, which is located in front of the steps of the TKTS booth, portrays Duffy standing in front of a Celtic cross.
In popular culture: In the 1940s movie The Fighting 69th, Father Duffy is portrayed by Pat O'Brien.