Fr. Paul Aquinas Duffner, OP
April 14, 1915 - November 29, 2018
ROSARY AND VESPERS FOR THE DEAD:
December 3, 7:00 PM at Holy Rosary Church
SOLEMN REQUIEM MASS:
December 4, 12:00 PM at Holy Rosary Church
FR. PAUL AQUINAS DUFFNER WAS THE ELDEST FRIAR of the Western Dominicans. He was also one of the few to have served at the limits of the Western Province’s ministries. “It would be hard to imagine a greater contrast,” he laughed, when he contrasted the snow that greeted him at Holy Family Parish in Anchorage, Alaska, to the tropical jungles that were his home for the eight years he served as a missionary in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. Those years in Mexico were very happy. “The native people were so open. I loved my time there, and I have missed it a lot.” He states that he would have liked to stay, but simply could not because of the changing nature of the Mission, so he asked to come home. What he returned to was a ministry he had undertaken shortly after his ordination in 1935: promoting devotion to the Rosary. “I was assigned to St. Dominic Parish, in San Francisco, and we had a number of small, individual societies focused on the Rosary,” Fr. Duffner recalled. “I thought, ‘why not bring them together and write a common bulletin for their meditation?’” What Fr. Duffner could not have foreseen was the success of his venture. In 1975, when Fr. Duffner returned from Mexico to assume the reins as pastor at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon, he joined forces with Fr. Thomas Feucht, who had six years earlier begun publishing Light and Life: Theology for the Laity. The result was a newsletter that is sent around the globe. Today, the newsletter has over 35,000 subscribers. One year, when North American Dominican leaders of the Rosary devotion met with the Dominican Order’s director from Rome, all were astounded at the Western Province’s nearly eighty-year history of careful, organized and developed efforts to promote devotion to the Rosary. Thanks to Fr. Duffner, the Western Province’s results are unique, but what is perhaps more impressive was Fr. Duffner’s ability to accomplish this while working as secretary to the Provincial, serving as pastor and overseeing a major building project, and serving for sixteen years as the Western Province’s novice master. The latter is the ministry for which Fr. Duffner is best known among his Dominican brothers, but it is one he himself shrugged off. “I think I enjoyed working with the natives of Mexico more,” he said, “but there were some real similarities. The young men who come to us are looking for something, and it was a real honor to be with them at the beginning of their search, and to share what one’s learned through prayer and experience in the religious life.” Throughout his religious life Fr. Duffner embraced a dedication to duty. Although he formally retired as Director of the Rosary Center in 2004, he loyally served its ministry. Each day he made his way – by foot, walker, and wheelchair – to the Center, where he painstakingly entered names of newly-enrolled members of the Rosary Confraternity. Even as he approached his hundredth birthday, his handwriting was awe-inspiring! He also put together packets of booklets too small to be sold individually. At first, he counted the texts; later he was able to save time by weighing the booklets on a postage scale. Until age forced him to abandon some of his priestly ministry, Fr. Duffner was one of Holy Rosary’s most eagerly-sought confessors. He was also a remarkable preacher, once observing
Forgiveness is the one type of alms we can always give. It is a form of charity that can be exercised at any time by any one, be he rich or poor, young or old, sick or healthy. If we cannot manage this type of almsgiving, our poverty is much greater than being in want of money, food, clothing, or shelter.
Fr. Duffner’s death deprives us of a beloved friend on earth, but his new intimacy with the Blessed Virgin, whom he served so loyally, and for so long, makes him our powerful advocate in heaven. May he rest in peace, and may we rejoice always in his care for us!
– Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P.