Keeping the Faith in Humanity

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Ascension Church offers many classes for immigrants

By Regina Molaro

The Church of the Ascension’s Rev. John Duffell serves as a symbol of love in his community.

Duffell, pastor of the Church of the Ascension, earned a WESTY Award for the community work he has done to provide support for the people of the Upper West Side. He has been an advocate for those with no voice.

Rev. John Duffell, pastor of the Church of the Ascension.

“As a parish priest, people come in to see me for all kinds of advice and I work with them, as well as other agencies and groups,” said Duffell, who remains humble about the way he has dedicated his life to serving others. “I’m just a parish priest. A lot of people come to me with needs and I do what a good Christian is supposed to do, which is to love other people and assist them.”

Although loving others is not always easy for us to do. Rev. Duffell refers to a famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.” The pastor says that sometimes, we have to learn to love.

Duffell’s positive energy, charisma and genuine care for people has drawn many people to mass at the church. People who work with him say that although he is very modest, Duffell has made a great impact on the parish as well as the community.

Duffell certainly had a hand in helping the church adapt to the shifting neighborhood, as well as the shifting times. The parish draws a diverse following, including Latino immigrants, as well as affluent young professionals. It hosts a variety of services and unique events such as Dominican Sunday, which provides courses for the Spanish-speaking community in ESL, GED, computer skills, naturalization and more. It also hosts martini night, a modern interpretation of the traditional church’s coffee hour or potluck. On the first Sunday of the month, after Mass, everyone gathers for fellowship, food and all kinds of drinks, including martinis.

When Duffell entered into religious life many years ago, his motivation was to help others. “When I went into the seminary, organizations like the Peace Corps did not exist. The church is a vehicle for change in the world, and is responsible for safeguarding human dignity and protecting human rights. We’re made in the image and likeness of God and it is our job to protect all human life and enable people to live with dignity,” he said.

Hobbies, particularly reading novels, history and theology, are among Duffell’s favorite activities. He also enjoys biking, the theater and going to the movies.

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