Vocations come in many forms, but they call upon us to carry out the word of God in our own special way.Vocations come in many forms, but they call upon us to carry out the word of God in our own special way.“My faith life has been a journey,” says Lawrence “Larry” F. Duffany Jr., chairman of the Department of Religion at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol. “It’s coming to the realization I have a vocation, who we are called to become.
”It was Duffany’s vocation as a Catholic school educator that drew him to write the book Chalk It Up to Mystery: Reflections on the Rosary for the Catholic School Educator so others — especially fellow Catholic school educators — could learn how to share their Catholic faith and journey with their students.
“The call is always for the Catholic school educator to bring Jesus to the kids,” he says. “The culture makes it very challenging to do.”
The inspiration for the book came while Duffany was contemplating the Apostles’ Creed and what it was saying to him as a Catholic educator. From there, while reciting the rosary, he realized that the mysteries of the rosary are intertwined with Catholic school teaching.
The Annunciation, for example, the first joyful mystery, speaks of the conception of Jesus while Mary was a virgin. But the angel Gabriel tells her to “fear not.” To Duffany, the Annunciation invites him and other Catholic school educators to do something for God, as Mary did.
“Our ‘yes’ is a parallel to Mary’s ‘yes,’” he says. “There might be times when I’m Mary, and there may be times I am Gabriel.”
The book begins with an explanation of how to pray the rosary. Each chapter begins with a Gospel passage relating to a particular mystery, followed by Duffany’s personal reflection. Then, from questions posed in the book, the reader is asked to evaluate his or her own application of the teachings for professional and ministerial growth.
In addition, the reader can use the book as a workbook and prayer journal for thoughts, prayers and meditation. He dedicated the book to his “brothers and sisters who work alongside me at St. Paul Catholic High School.”
“The idea is to sit down with it and reflect,” Duffany says. “Don’t be afraid about sharing, about being yourself.”
A journey of faith
Although he was raised a Roman Catholic, Duffany says there were times in his youthful years when he struggled with finding the true meaning of his faith. He visited different churches to get answers, but always came back to the Catholic Church. It wasn’t until after his college graduation and landing his first job teaching religion to fifth- and sixth-graders that “it all came together,” he says of his faith formation.
In 2003, Duffany was professed as a member of the Lay Carmelites and today is guided by their traditions — including their devotion to praying the rosary daily — set forth by Our Lady Mount Carmel, the patroness of the Carmelite Order
.“We are the brothers and sisters of Mount Carmel,” he says, “so we pray the rosary."
Duffany is in his fourth year at St. Paul and his 22nd consecutive year in Catholic education. He also has served as principal of St. Anthony School in Bristol, and was an administrator of faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Catholic schools. He is an adjunct instructor at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, teaching classes in writing, philosophy, religion and literature, and facilitates online courses through the vital learning community for faith formation at the University of Dayton (Ohio), a Catholic university. In his spare time, Duffany is an emergency medical technician with the Thomaston Volunteer Ambulance — he’s been serving for 30 years — and teaches first aid and CPR after school to St. Paul students. He lives in Thomaston with his wife Janet and their two children.
The next chapter
What’s up next for Duffany? He’s working on a blog, “Living the Overflowing Cup,” inspired by the phrase in the 23rd Psalm, “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” He has plans on making it go live Aug. 1.
“It will be more about the awareness of God’s goodness in everyday life,” he says, “how we hear him, feel him, see him.”
He also plans to write another book, this one for parents to use as a resource for how to pray with their children. The book will offer insights into questions like, “How do I lead prayer in my own home? What is my teen going through and how can I pray for him or her?” he says. “Our traditional prayers are rich and wonderful, but I think sometimes we need prayers that are in our own language and speak of a shared experience."
Meanwhile, you can follow Duffany on Facebook to get a daily dose of his inspirational devotions and passages.
Chalk It Up to Mystery: Reflections on the Rosary for the Catholic School Educator was published by the New York City-based Page Publishing.