Francis P. Duffy

Francis P. Duffy bigraphy, stories - Roman Catholic priest and United States Army officer

Francis P. Duffy : biography

May 2, 1871 – June 27, 1932

Francis Patrick Duffy (May 2, 1871 – June 27, 1932) was a Canadian American soldier, Roman Catholic priest and military chaplain.

Duffy served as chaplain for the 69th Infantry Regiment (known as the "Fighting 69th"), a unit of the New York Army National Guard from New York City whose soldiers were largely drawn from the city’s Irish-American and immigrant population.For part of World War I (from 1917 forward to 1992), this New York Army National Guard regiment was redesignated as the "165th Infantry Regiment." He served in the Spanish-American War (1898), but it is his service on the Western Front in France during World War I (1917-1918) for which he is best known. Duffy, who typically was involved in combat and accompanied litter bearers into the thick of battle to recover wounded soldiers, became the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the United States Army.

Duffy Square—the northern half of New York City’s Times Square between 45th and 47th Streets—was named in his honour.


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 monument, which is located in front of the steps of the TKTS booth, portrays Duffy standing in front of a Celtic cross.

He is further commemorated as the namesake to the Chaplain Duffy Spiritual Fitness Center at Camp Smith, a New York Army National Guard installation in Cortlandt Manor, New York.

In the 1940s movie The Fighting 69th, Father Duffy is portrayed by Pat O’Brien.


Early life and career

Francis Duffy was born May 2, 1871 in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, and attended St. Michael’s College in Toronto. He immigrated to New York City, where he taught for a time at the College of St. Francis Xavier, and was awarded a master’s degree. He became a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, being ordained on September 6, 1896.United States Catholic Historical Society: St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York (1896-1921) With An Account of Other Seminaries of New York, With A Foreword by the Most Rev. Patrick J. Hayes, D.D., And A Chapter on the Seminarian’s Life At Dunwoodie By the Rev. Francis P. Duffy, D.D. (The United States Catholic Historical Society: New York, 1922). "Students of Dunwoodie". p 225. He attended The Catholic University of America where he earned a doctorate in 1905.

After ordination, Duffy served on the faculty of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, Yonkers, which trains priests for the Archdiocese of New York. He was professor of Philosophical Psychology – a course more related to the Philosophy of the Human Person than to Clinical Psychology, in today’s terms – and functioned as a mentor to numerous students. He was also editor of the New York Review, at the time the most scholarly and progressive Catholic theological publication in the United States. Extremely popular with students, Duffy was part of a group faculty members who introduced ground-breaking innovations into the seminary curriculum, putting the institution in the forefront of clerical education.

When authors in the New York Review fell under suspicion of the heresy of modernism, the archbishop of New York, Michael Augustine Corrigan, broke up the faculty and reassigned them to other work. The New York Review itself never published an article that was suspect, but it did print papers by leading Catholic Biblical experts who were part of the newly-emerging schools of Biblical criticism, and several of these authors’ other works, which would be uncontroversial today, raised eyebrows in Rome. Duffy himself wrote few signed items in the journal, although he did author parts of it, but was responsible as editor for the entire publication.

Duffy’s new assignment was creating the parish of Our Savior Church in the Bronx. There, he organized the parish and built a physical structure that combined parish school and church, one of several innovations he introduced.