2023-2024 Duffy Fellows Patrick Cullinan and Jay Doherty discuss their documentary, Discerning the Call.
(Image credit: Leo Sorel/Fordham University)

What might a documentary exploring priestly vocations in America, a graphic novel reimagining the story of the Garden of Eden, and a publication studying memorial spaces in New York City public parks have in common? They are all creations born from the imaginations of this year’s cohort of Duffy Fellows.

Supported by a bequest from the late James Duffy, a longtime friend of the Center on Religion and Culture and Fordham University, the Duffy Fellows Program sponsors creative projects undertaken by a select number of undergraduates and recent graduates. This year’s Duffy Fellows showed the power of art and culture to inspire conversation and wrestle with questions of faith.

Fordham University was founded by Jesuit priests in 1841 (then St. John’s College). Challenges and discussions facing the Catholic Church are integral to Fordham’s identity and history. Anchored by original interviews with multiple generations of seminarians and priests, Discerning the Call: Change in the American Priesthood looks to understand how men choose to become priests and what this might say about American public life across several decades. Patrick Cullinan (FCRH ‘24) and Jay Doherty (FCRH ‘26) wrote, directed, and produced this documentary. 

The Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, the narrative detailing mankind’s original sin and estrangement from God, has haunted artists and writers across the centuries, including the painter Peter Paul Rubens and the poet John Milton. Madison Morris (FCRH ‘24) reimagines this foundational story in a very twenty-first-century medium: Her graphic novel Every Creeping Thing offers a retelling of the Garden of Eden through the wanderings of a young girl named Carole in a world inhabited by anthropomorphic insects.   

Madison Morris and artwork from her graphic novel, Every Creeping Thing (Image credit: Leo Sorel/Fordham University)

New York City public parks often hold monuments and memorials to people and populations long since past and many times forgotten. Amelia Medved (FCRH ‘23) documents such sites of public memory—several which are actual burial grounds—and questions how they might both honor the dead and inform the living in her publication, A Breathing Place. This work rests on Medved’s research, interviews, and field work in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Such writing might lead one to look at their own neighborhood park in a different way.

Amelia Medved sharing her research on New York City parks and memorialization (Image credit Leo Sorel/Fordham University)

This year’s Duffy Fellows and their respective creative endeavors demonstrate the inherent power of culture to prompt us to pause, question, and wonder. This might be James Duffy’s greatest gift to the Fordham community.

David Goodwin is an urban historian, author, and Assistant Director of the Center on Religion and Culture.