Cardinal Dolan proudly placed a wreath at the foot of the Times Square statue of a renowned priest of the archdiocese, Father Francis Duffy, 86 years after the World War I chaplain’s death.
The cardinal was joined at the June 27 morning ceremony by Brig. Gen. Kenneth Brandt, senior Army National Guard Chaplain; Dr. Libby O’Connell, U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and the New York World War I Centennial Committee; and Lt. Col. Don Makay, commander, New York City 1st Battalion 69th Infantry.
“I am so grateful that in the middle of this part of the world, New York City, would stand the statue of a priest who exemplified so radiantly that love of God and love of country,” Cardinal Dolan said in remarks.
“Father Duffy,” the cardinal said, “thank you for what you did, thank you for who you are, thank you for the memories you bring and, and thank you for through you, allowing us to praise God for the gift of chaplains to our armed services to follow your example—a love for God and love for country.”
The event was held beneath Charles Keck’s bronze statue of the soldier-priest, depicted as a stoic Father Duffy, dressed in military garb, with a helmet at his feet and a Bible in hand. The statue, nearly 8 feet high, is set on a pedestal backed by a granite Celtic cross, which towers more than 17 feet in height.
One of the most decorated chaplains in U.S. military history, Father Duffy distinguished himself by his courage under fire, and received the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal.
Father Duffy’s military service began in the Spanish-American War of 1898, when he served as first lieutenant and chaplain of the legendary Fighting 69th Infantry.
He taught at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie and served as founding pastor of Our Saviour parish in the Bronx before being deployed for war in 1918. Upon his return, he was named pastor of Holy Cross parish on Manhattan’s West 42nd Street.
Father Francis Gasparik, O.F.M. Cap., pastor of what is now Holy Cross and St. John the Baptist parish, attended the wreath-laying assembly.
“He was a true priest; no matter what situation he was in, he responded to the needs of the people,” Father Gasparik told CNY, “whether they be the soldiers fighting or the people of Hell’s Kitchen, he was always there for the people.”
When Father Duffy died in 1932, a public Funeral Mass was offered with an estimated 50,000 New Yorkers lining the funeral procession for the route from Holy Cross Church to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and on to his burial at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.
Lt Col. Brett Charsky, chaplain of the New York National Guard 42nd Infantry Division, offered the invocation and benediction. Speaking with CNY before the ceremony, he noted that “Chaplain Duffy” also served as the 42nd Infantry Division chaplain.
“Chaplains today still aspire to do the work that Chaplain Duffy did—be in the trenches, provide the spiritual leadership, morale and ethical decisions to help soldiers stay fit and to stay morally resilient to the effects of war.”
“Freedom is not free,” Charsky concluded. “It costs men and women their lives. As men and women fight for our freedom today, chaplains continue to be in the fight with them.”
After Father Duffy’s death, New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia renamed a part of Times Square as “Father Duffy Square” and had the statue built in his honor.