Augustinians of Villanova: Brother Michael Duffy


Courtesy of Villanova University

Brother Michael Duffy, O.S.A has been an Augustinian for the past five decades.

Olivia Sabalaskey, Staff Writer

“We are all called to become what God has created us to be,” Brother Michael Duffy, O.S.A. said when describing his call to the Order of St. Augustine. “It is a mystery to us, but we do the best we can to acquiesce to his mission for us.” 

This week, Br. Michael offers Villanovans a glimpse into his 50 years as an Augustinian.

The youngest of four children, Br. Michael grew up in the local Philadelphia area and attended Monsignor Bonner Catholic High School, where he was first introduced to Augustinians.

“I was fascinated by the Augustinians’ sense of community with one another,” Br. Michael said. 

The Augustinians at Monsignor Bonner devoted their lives to educating the next generation via teaching and administration positions. After graduating from high school, Br. Michael worked for a construction and engineering firm in Philadelphia for a year.

Then, at the age of 19, Br. Michael entered the Pre-Novitiate program at Villanova University, which is the first step in the Formation process (i.e., the process to become an Augustinian). Upon graduation, Br. Michael taught at the junior high school level for three years. Although he greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet and teach young students, he felt more passionate about working with faculty and staff.

Br. Michael then pursued an administration position at the Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. During his time there, Br. Michael worked closely with the parents of students, as well as with the faculty and staff to help enhance students’ educational experience.

In July of 1988, Br. Michael moved to the Bronx, New York, where he opened a soup kitchen for the surrounding community near Fordham University. He looks back on his time in the Bronx fondly, given the volunteers’ dedication and generosity to serve those less fortunate. 

“We had such wonderful volunteers help out,” Br. Michael said. “Many came from the surrounding community, but some of my fondest memories include my interactions with Fordham students who volunteered frequently.”

Br. Michael returned to Villanova University after interviewing for and having been accepted as the Liturgical Assistant in Campus Ministry.

“I love my job, and I truly love the Campus and Liturgical Ministry departments,” Br. Michael said. “I work closely with Mathew Verghese, the Campus Minister for Liturgy, Rev. Aldo Potencio, O.S.A., Sean McElwee, the Campus Minister for Liturgical Music, Linda Jaczynski, the Director for the Center for Worship & Spirituality and many more great people.”

As the Liturgical Assistant, Br. Michael coordinates with fellow liturgical ministry staff members and students to organize Masses on campus.

“My favorite part is the Worshiping Community itself,” Br. Michael said. “It is an experience of the Incarnation, of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling within us. I have met so many wonderful students at Sunday night Masses, and I still keep in touch with many of them years after graduating.”

In fact, Br. Michael offered a glimpse of his lasting friendships with alumni. On his office bookshelf, Br. Michael treasures photos from past Liturgical Ministry events, and he saves many wedding invitations he receives on the bulletin board outside of his office in St. Rita’s Hall. 

Br. Michael will never forget his friendship with one Villanova alumnus: Amir Vahabikashi, Ph.D., who received his Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2012. 

“Amir and I became very close friends,” Br. Michael said. “When I first met him, I asked him once what he wanted to do with his degree in Mechanical Engineering. He answered, ‘I want to find a cure for blindness.’”

Br. Michael was amazed by Vahabikashi’s simple, humble response. During Vahabikashi’s time as a graduate student, he introduced Br. Michael to Villanova’s Persian Community, a group of about 10 students from Iran. 

“They welcomed me with such open arms,” Br. Michael said. “I was able to walk with Villanova’s Muslim Community and enhance my understanding of their religion. It is such a wonderful community full of love.”

Although Vahabikashi has graduated, he still keeps in touch with Br. Michael, and he continues to frequently update him on his recent, successful research in biomedical engineering, physics and cellular and molecular biology. 

Upon obtaining his Doctor of Philosophy from Northwestern University in Biomedical Engineering, Vahabikashi returned to Villanova to visit his longtime friend, Br. Michael. They enjoyed a dinner together, and Br. Michael remembers Vahabikashi’s insightful comment: “Northwestern taught me how to be an engineer, but Villanova taught me how to live.”

In the Priestly Prayer of Jesus, one of Br. Michael’s favorite prayers, Jesus prays to God that his followers that “may all be one, Father, as we are one” and that “the love with which you love me may be in them, and I in them.” In other words, Jesus prays for a unity among His people that is similar to the unity of the Holy Trinity. 

“Every Sunday night at the student Mass, we become one Worshiping Community as Jesus prayed for,” Br. Michael said. “I think that is beautiful and a testament to how special Villanova is.”

Br. Michael organizes and attends numerous liturgical Masses on Campus, most notably on Sunday nights at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church.