left to right: Mildred Duff, (Scott and Tim's mom), Fr. Benedict Joseph Groeschel, Timothy Duff
Image taken while EWTN taping of "Arise From Darkness" featuring the story of Scott Duff and the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
Spiritual Support for Brain Disorders of All Kinds
We can hardly believe that eighteen years have passed since the founding of the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
The Guild began when I was a young man, studying and discerning a vocation to the priesthood but that was not God's plan and He used this experience to call me to another type of ministry which was in healthcare. One night in the seminary chapel, w hile praying before the Blessed Sacrament, an inspiration came to me to reflect upon the special experiences of my family. Specifically, I recalled life with my special brother Scott who has Schizophrenia and lives in a psychiatric hospital and has severely suffered physical and mental torment for most of his life. We had a small miracle that I believe took place and it tugged on my heart.
I knew that I was being called to do something special for all of those persons with mental illnesses no matter what their diagnosis and I was weighing it against the call to priestly ministry. I was a questioning within myself which one should I do? So, I told God that there was only one person who would understand and who could help me with this decision. And that person was Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR.
Unbeknownst to me, the very next day while still studying at the seminary, I was told that Father Groeschel was coming to give a retreat. And it was in the confessional that Father and I met and discovered God was calling us to work together to establish this Apostolate.
I was preparing to leave the seminary and move home to start the apostolate with my mother. This was a difficult decision and Father Groeschel would spiritually direct both myself and my mother from his retreat house in Larchmont, New York.
How I Began
When I left the seminary, at first, I was heart broken but as time went by, I realized my true vocation. Within a short time, I was working for the State of Massachusetts's Department of Mental Health in a psychiatric hospital and would transition over a period of a few years into a professional certified Catholic Lay hospital chaplain of which I am still today.
Back in 1996, I began to write letters from our kitchen table to different religious communities asking for spiritual support. I wrote approximately twenty letters a day pouring out my heart and wishes; by the years end, I had written over six hundred letters to practically every contemplative religious community in the United States and Canada.
The responses were remarkable and we now have close to four hundred religious communities that have become our Spiritual Support by offering Masses, prayers, holy hours and personal sacrifices for our members.
My mother and I developed a brochure and membership packet which we send out to members once they enroll.
During the first few years of our existence the Apostolate left the kitchen table as we began to hit the road literally traveling hundreds of miles a month visiting different religious houses, hospitals, retreat places, churches and peoples homes to spread the Good News about the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
Now, after traveling hundreds of thousands of miles, the automobile is parked and we are home because the Guild is truly established.
To date, we have close to four thousand families which are mostly in the United States but reside in over forty countries.
Most Recent Update of 2014
In some ways we have re-established the Guild.
I made a decision in 2012 to stop the work of the Guild for a time due to many exciting life changes. I was married in 2011 and I needed to get established with my lovely wife Theresa. Also, I broke my foot when we were dating and I had to have foot surgery which laid me up for six months. But now, I am grateful and excited to be able to start up once again and go forward with the Guild and its updated website in this year of 2014.
Timothy Duff, NACC board certified chaplain