Peter B Duffee, OFM
1905 – 1957
Fr. Peter Baptist Duffee, OFM, was born on July 11, 1905 in Somerville, Mass. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., and entered the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., in 1923. He professed temporary vows one year later, made his solemn profession in 1927 and was ordained in 1930.
His early years in ministry were spent teaching at the seminary and conducting summer courses at St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, N.Y. Fr. Peter then served as part of the Province’s Mission Band and as a preacher at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City. He preached with eloquence, originality, and passion.
For five years, he lectured in Canada and the United States on communism, Nazism and fascism. He collaborated closely with Fr. Charles Coughlin, OFM, during the latter’s radio campaign against communism in America, supplying him with certified information concerning communist activities in the New York area. For two years, he wrote for The Brooklyn Tablet under the pseudonym “The Observer.”
In 1942, his heroic efforts during the disastrous fire that ravaged the transport ship S.S. Normandie earned him a personal commendation from the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox. His own account of the disaster, Death of a Ship, was printed in The Catholic News. Injuries from the rescue operation remained with him throughout his life.
He died on Nov. 7, 1957 at St. Francis Friary in New York City. Fr. Peter was 52 years old, a professed friar for 33 years, and a priest for 27 years.