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The Rev. Duffy leaves endowed chair to religious studies department

Loyola press release - July 17, 2007

(New Orleans)—Longtime Loyola religious studies professor and Archdiocesan priest the Rev. Stephen J. Duffy has bequeathed to Loyola University New Orleans an endowment of over $1.3 million to be used by the Department of Religious Studies to support a chair in Roman Catholic systematic theology.

The field of Roman Catholic systematic theology, which was Duffy's specialty, attempts to understand Catholic beliefs, taking into account history, philosophy, science, and ethics, in addition to the classical Christian texts. According to Denis Janz, Ph.D., provost distinguished professor of the history of Christianity, "One can think of it as the application of critical thinking or critical rationality to the Catholic faith. Quite simply, Catholic systematic theologians examine how this Catholic world of belief makes sense, and how all these beliefs fit together to form a coherent world view." The addition of a chair in systematic theology is central to the Jesuit educational mission of instilling in students the ability to think critically.

An endowed chair is a permanent addition to a university department, paid for with the revenue from an endowment fund specifically set up for that purpose. This gives the university the opportunity to recruit a nationally or internationally known scholar. Having this kind of individual as part of the faculty not only contributes to increased academic quality, it also lends greater credibility to the university, brings students who are excited to study with that scholar, and increases the university’s visibility and prominence in the academic community. Working with a prominent scholar is also beneficial to the faculty who work with him or her. According to Janz, finding the right person to fill the new chair will take at least a year or two.

Duffy attended Corpus Christi School and La Salle College High School in Philadelphia. He received a bachelor of arts in philosophy at the Marist College. He was ordained a priest on Feb. 2, 1957. He received a licentiate in theology from the Pontificia Universita Gregoriana in Rome, and a doctorate in theology from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Duffy was a professor of theology at Notre Dame Seminary for over 20 years and had been a professor of theology at Loyola University from 1971 – 2007, where he served as chairperson of the department of religious studies for 13 years and was currently the director of the department’s graduate program. He was a visiting professor and Donnellan lecturer in religion at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and a visiting scholar at St. Edmund’s College at Cambridge University, England. Duffy taught in Loyola’s Irish Studies Program at Trinity College in Dublin.

He authored two books, Dynamics of Grace: Perspectives in Theological Anthropology and The Graced Horizon: Nature and Grace in Modern Catholic Thought. He published numerous encyclopedia and journal articles and book reviews. He presented papers and lectured extensively both in the United States and abroad.

He was a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America, The American Academy of Religion, and the College Theology Society. At the request of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Father Duffy served as an official member of the Baptist-Roman Catholic Dialogue. He was the recipient of Loyola’s Dux Academicus Award in 1999, the highest honor a professor can receive for excellence in teaching and scholarship. It was noted at the time that, “he has written and published two books and numerous articles which have received national acclaim among theologians for their depth and insight,” and, “rather than limiting himself to a narrow subspecialty within his field, he tackles big issues and major thinkers and has created works of lasting value.”

Duffy was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was a resident of New Orleans for 53 years. He died in March, 2007. He has left a similar legacy to Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.