Jubilarian Profile: Fintan Duffy Marks 50 Years as a Brother

HNP Communications Friar News

This is the tenth in a series of articles about HNP friars who are commemorating anniversaries of Franciscan profession in 2010. The previous issue of HNP Today featured William DeBiase, OFM.

RINGWOOD, N.J. — Fintan Duffy, OFM, said that joining the Franciscans was the best thing that he ever did, aside from coming to the United States in 1948 at age 27.

“It’s been a different lifestyle, but I’m very glad I did it.” At 88, Fintan, who was born in Donegal, Ireland, now lives at Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, the Province’s skilled nursing facility.

fintan-rLooking Back
Fintan, who came to America alone, has spent his entire religious career as a brother surrounded by fellow Franciscans, working with his hands in maintenance. “I was very happy,” he said when HNP Today stopped by the friary to visit. The animated Fintan immediately hopped out of bed and easily maneuvered into a chair, ready to chat. Since he grew up in another country, he said he didn’t have the proper schooling to go on to be a priest, so he became a brother instead, with no regrets.

A map of the British Isles decorates a wall in his room, along with a copy of a Major League Baseball magazine featuring his favorite New York Yankee, Derek Jeter. Family photos line the desk.

Fintan immigrated to New York City, settling with cousins in Brooklyn, to earn a better living. He got a job with his cousins in maintenance, and began worshipping at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City because, he said, he grew up Catholic and liked this particular parish.

Vocation director Declan Bailey, OFM, now deceased, and Robert Nee, OFM, encouraged Fintan to consider life as a Franciscan. “I’d never really thought of it before.”

But Fintan pondered their suggestion, discerned a calling to the Order in 1960, and joined the Province. In the early 1960s, fellow friary resident Peter Sheridan, OFM, was his novice master. Fintan and Robert, who also lives in Ringwood, are still close friends.

Fintan’s first assignment was at St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary, Callicoon, N.Y., where he spent 10 years working on the farm, maintaining the property, and preparing meals. “This is where I learned to boil water,” he said, “and I think I mastered it.”

From there, assignments took him to St. Bonaventure University, Siena College and back to Callicoon when it was the House of Prayer. While the venues changed, ministry was always the same — working with his hands, caring for property, and doing repairs. He retired in 2004 from St. Anthony Church in Butler, N.J., as a senior associate friar. “I did maintenance in the parish and the friary,” he said. “It was very nice there. I miss it.”

Over the years, his hobbies have included reading, although he said it’s difficult now to see small type, and he enjoyed church history books, and of course, following Yankee baseball.

“Did you know that Derek Jeter was born not too far from here in New Jersey?” he asks.

Grateful for Province and Friary
What did he like best about his ministry? “Just the opportunity to work for the Province,” he said.

He also said he feels very fortunate to have the lovely place to retire at the friary. “Not everyone is lucky enough to have a place like this,” he said, pointing out the window to the scenic pine trees that line his patio in rural northern New Jersey.

While his only sister passed away last year, he enjoys seeing his cousins’ children, one of whom is Monsignor Kevin Noone in Brooklyn, N.Y. The cousins from his own generation are all deceased, so Fintan calls himself the “last of the Duffys.”

And what a legacy he will leave to the world.

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. Upcoming issues will feature Bishop Capistran Heim, OFM, and Joseph Hertel, OFM.