By Karen Sharpe
Much of the work of Scott Schaeffer-Duffy ’80 and his wife, Claire, flies under the radar: preparing meals for their homeless guests, walking a child to the bus stop, coaching a soccer game, offering a safe haven and thoughtful prayers for the downtrodden.
They are, of course, better known for organizing countless peace vigils and protests against injustice and violence and for demonstrating against nuclear weapons, war and military intervention. They both have been arrested numerous times; Scott has appeared on CNN—and, been profiled in The New York Times.
As founders of the Sts. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker House in Worcester, they have dedicated their lives to the Catholic Worker movement and its ideals of prayer, voluntary poverty, care for the forsaken and protestations of injustice and violence.
In September, the couple were honored by the Paulist Center of Boston with its Isaac Hecker Award—which was also once bestowed upon Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Named after Hecker, the priest who started the Paulist Fathers order, the award has been given annually since 1974 to Catholics who have worked for a more peaceful, just world.
Noting that it is “an extraordinary honor to be put in any association with Dorothy Day,” Schaeffer-Duffy adds:
“It’s a pat on the back, but also a challenge for us—the people who have received the award previously are so incredible and impressive. It encourages us and pushes us to be better people ourselves.”
A religious studies major at Holy Cross, Schaeffer-Duffy had once considered entering the priesthood but found his calling instead as a Catholic Worker.
“I tell people the Catholic Worker is about global peace and justice, but it really concerns learning about the death of the ego and confidence in the power of God,” he explains. “There are teachings in Catholicism that are profound and society changing.”
According to the couple, the award also draws some attention to the Catholic Worker movement—which, they believe, will benefit not just local houses such as their own but the movement nationwide.
“We feel this is not something that we’ve accomplished,” Claire Schaeffer-Duffy says. “The award notes ‘relentless commitment.’ We don’t believe we have been nearly as relentless as we could have been.
“But it is an opportunity to keep going deeper,” she continues, “and a chance to give greater publicity to the Catholic Worker movement. It’s valuable to learn about the possibilities of lay vocation and how to try always to be about God’s presence in the world.”