By Patricia O’Connell
SHIRLEY – Jim and Patti Duffy have eight children. Five of them are still at home. Their three oldest have entered religious life at St. Benedict Center in Still River.
Most recently, their son, Michael, now known as Brother Patrick Joseph, MICM, joined his twin, Brother Christopher Isaac, who entered the center’s monastery nearly four years ago. In a nearby convent is Sister Mary Imelda, their biological sister.
Mr. Duffy said he and his wife didn’t do anything special to promote vocations in their house. However, living out the faith was first and foremost.
“We basically made their lives very God-centered, very Christ centered,” he explained, adding that everything was based upon that first question found in traditional catechisms. “Why did God make us?,” he asked rhetorically, noting, “We brought them up to say ultimately your aim is to get to heaven.”
The Duffy children were also taught to view Jesus, Mary and Joseph as their extended family. The family also said their morning and evening prayers, in addition to an evening rosary.
“Saying the rosary every single day as a family has been huge for us,” he said.
At home, instead of watching current television shows, the Duffy children were entertained with more wholesome movies from the 1940s. The music played in the home was of a more innocent genre as well.
The family then started going to the St. Benedict Center community attached to Immaculate Heart of Mary School.
“That opened up a whole Catholic culture for us,” Mr. Duffy said, adding that his children were exposed to religious and “the joyous life they lead.”
He said this allowed his children to see they led a “very normal, very happy and human existence.”
“The kids made friends with them (the religious),” he said. “They had them to look up to.”
“Everything was Catholic-centered in a very natural way,” he said of his children’s upbringing.
The Duffy children read about the lives of the saints, but they also had exposure to some of the more secular classics, such as Winnie the Pooh. A deep devotion to Our Lady was instilled, and they were taught to bring their needs to Mary, their Heavenly Mother.
He said his children were encouraged to pray to find out what God wants them to do, and then dedicate your life to that.
“The rosary is so important,” he stressed, noting that he grew up in a family of 11 children, and every one of his siblings attends Mass.
“The family that prays together stays together,” he said. “We’ve been very blessed cooperating with God’s grace. He’s been very, very good to us.”
Brother Patrick Joseph attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School for 12 years, before going to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, graduating a year ago with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Although some who knew him were surprised by his vocation, he said he always had an attraction to the St. Benedict Center community. While in college, he would still help out around the center.
As college life was vastly different from his upbringing, he tried to take a retreat before the start of every semester to keep his focus on God.
“The last semester of my senior year was when I knew,” he said, referring to his vocation. He said vocations were always “fostered at home” and “always supported by our family.”
Brother Patrick Joseph said news of his decision to enter religious life may have been surprising because he had been studying at UMass. “My social life may not have hinted at a vocation at that point,” he noted.
Balancing his Catholic faith with his attendance at a public university was “kind of a challenge,” he admitted. However, he was able to take summer classes at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H.
Although he noted that joining a monastery was “definitely quite the transition,” he added that, “the peace that you find once you embrace it is almost overwhelming at times.”
Brother Patrick Joseph said he considered a vocation to the priesthood. However, he said, “I never felt the draw as strong towards the priesthood as to here. I never felt adequate enough to carry that out.”
Although he is a member of a community of consecrated religious, Brother Patrick Joseph considers the term “vocation” to be much broader.
“Whatever you can give back to God with all you have is your vocation,” he said. “That’s where you’ll find true peace.”
Mass for the Year of Consecrated Life
Diocesan Mass for the Year of Consecrated Life will be held 10:15 a.m., Sunday, June 14, Saint Paul Cathedral,
High and Chatham streets, Worcester.
All are invited to attend s we recognize the consecrated religious men and women in the Diocese of Worcester.