|Rev. Thomas J. Ducey|
Photo by David H. Anderson (1827-1905), New York
(original copyright expired)
...During the last twenty years as Rector of St. Leo's Father Ducey has probably accomplished more for the “submerged tenth” than any other man of his resources in New York. These philanthropic acts are not of common knowledge, however, for the reason that the kindly priest will never talk about them and if a visitor approaches such a topic the talk is diverted to literature, the arts, or sciences, or kindred generalities adapted to desultory conversation.
Perhaps the newspaper men realize more fully than any other class the extent of Father Ducey's generosity to the unfortunate. It is within the writer's knowledge that during the last two years this notable priest has received more than twenty thousand applications for assistance many of which were from strangers in New York. Of these over fifty per cent secured personal interviews and obtained material succor adapted to their several necessities while quite as many unquestionably undeserving were sent away.
It may truly be said that Father Ducey is the counsellor of the rich, the brother of the poor, and a father to humanity. He believes in community of effort and resource. The wealth and the woe of mankind excite him equally to establish more harmonious relations between labor and capital. Only a few weeks ago he demonstrated the accuracy of this estimate of his character by visiting Hazelton, Penn., and the contiguous coal mining sections of that State in order that the American public might learn through the medium of his pen the exact differences existing between mine operators and their employees.
Father Ducey has been active in nearly every movement inaugurated in New York designed to bring about municipal reform. His independence of spirit has occasionally provoked the criticism of his ecclesiastical superiors but his views have always been so exalted and disinterested that censure could find no lodgment.
…Since his installation at St Leo's Father Ducey has watched his flock in that parish for a score of years. Among his parishioners are many multi-millionaires. distinguished scientists. and notable leaders well as others in the various professions equally devout but lacking in acumen and substance as compared with more fortunate fellow worshipers. A proportion of the church expense is from the priest's private means.
A few years ago Father Ducey had his called to the need existing in all large cities for a place suitable for the reception of the "stranger dead" until relatives could arrive and inter the remains. Hotels are averse to sheltering corpses even of old time guests and they invariably refuse to receive a body for which temporary shelter is required. Father Ducey determined to fill this need so far as New York was concerned. The result is the only structure of its kind in the United States. It adjoins the church on Twenty-eighth Street, cost $75,000 and has been open for eleven months.
In inaugurating this benevolent project Father Ducey expended several thousands from his own resources and the balance was subscribed solely by his non-Catholic friends. “I refrained from asking Catholics to contribute” said Father Ducey, “as I wished to be perfectly free so to incorporate the work that whoever succeeds me will be bound to carry out my purpose in the interest of the 'stranger dead' of any and all denominations.”
And so it is that during the present year this unique structure has been the scene of fifteen funeral services which otherwise would have been performed in the back room of an undertaker's shop.