The Rev. Francis Leo Duffy, 74, teacher, Mercy hospital chaplain

October 03, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Francis Leo Duffy, a former Loyola High School teacher and Mercy Medical Center's senior chaplain for more than two decades, died Sunday of cancer at the downtown Baltimore hospital. He was 74.

Father Duffy was a well-known figure in downtown Baltimore and on his daily strolls, he greeted friends and strangers alike with a smile, often pausing to engage in extended conversations. But he was equally a presence at Mercy Medical Center.

"He came to us and asked if he could stay for three months, and he stayed for 23 years," said Sister Mary Thomas Zinkand, Mercy's president emeritus. "His homilies were excellent, even when he spoke too long. The patients just loved him."

Born in Baltimore and raised on Cecil Avenue, he was a graduate of St. Ann Parochial School and Loyola High School, where he won academic medals as a student and taught English in the 1960s.

Joining the Jesuit Order in 1945, he was ordained a priest in 1958 after earning degrees at Fordham University, St. Louis University and Woodstock College.

He also taught at Gonzaga High School in Washington and Scranton Preparatory School and at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

"For those who knew Father Duffy, no words are necessary," said the Rev. Bernard A. Suppe, a fellow Mercy chaplain and Jesuit. "For those who did not really know him, no words would ever be adequate to envelope such a rich personality. He loved life with his overflowing, ebullient ways."

"He was a leprechaun, not a banshee," Father Suppe said. "He could get on your nerves, but he was a very forgiving person. There was no emotional hangover with him, no retribution."

Friends recalled that he was proud of his Irish heritage and enjoyed his role as Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians' state chaplain.

For many years, he walked or rode in the St. Patrick's Day parade or sat on the reviewing stand.

"His sermons were always on the mark," said Sally Murphy of Rodgers Forge, a past national president of the Ladies Hibernian. "He had a brilliant mind and high ideals, which he tried to convey for the daily life of every person."

Colleagues recalled Father Duffy's love of Baltimore and his habit of slipping away for a walk -- or of popping around hospital corridors, unexpectedly, day or night.

"He was a great bus rider -- thank heavens he never drove," Father Suppe said. "Half the people in Baltimore would have been run over."

Friends said he also saluted people on the street -- and could recall an earlier conversation.

"He was so down-to-earth," said Marc Baladi, a cabdriver who drove him to appointments. "He had the humility a priest should have. He would always remember me -- he had such a good memory. He didn't boast about anything."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, Calvert and Madison streets.

Father Duffy is survived by nephews and nieces.

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