After his ordination, Deacon Matthew Duclos is headed back to Rome for two more years and will attend the Institute of Anthropology, formerly The Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, to receive his Licentiate in Safeguarding. (Mike Matvey photo)
After his ordination, Deacon Matthew Duclos is headed back to Rome for two more years and will attend the Institute of Anthropology, formerly The Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, to receive his Licentiate in Safeguarding. (Mike Matvey photo)

Editor’s Note: The feature stories on Deacons Matthew Duclos and Daniel McHale are the first of five profiles of the deacons who will be ordained to the priesthood on June 19 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. Deacons Kyle Gorenski, Nathaniel Resila and Stephen Yusko will be featured next week.

If there is one thing that Deacon Matthew Duclos has missed in his last four years at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, it is his family.

Deacon Duclos, who grew up in Clifton Park and went to Shenendehowa High School, has three younger sisters: Laura, 28, and twins, Amy and Sarah, 24, in his close family that includes parents, Steven and Mary.

“It is very difficult being away, especially for all these holidays,” said Deacon Duclos, 30, who has attended St. Edward the Confessor in Clifton Park, St. Mary’s in Crescent and Corpus Christi in Round Lake. “My sister had her first child a couple of years ago, so you are away for all these things. But (studying for the priesthood overseas) challenges you in a good way to grow in the connections because we have guys from all across the country, so that is good. You grow in cultural knowledge. You are in classes with people from all over the world and you have to grow to be comfortable in who you are as a person.”

After Deacon Duclos is ordained to the priesthood on June 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany — along with fellow Deacons Kyle Gorenski, Daniel McHale, Nathaniel Resila and Stephen Yusko — he won’t be staying long, however. Deacon Duclos is headed back to Rome for two more years and will attend the Institute of Anthropology, formerly The Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, to receive his Licentiate in Safeguarding. Safeguarding is a term used widely in Europe which details measures that protect people — especially children, young people and vulnerable adults — from abuse and harm. At a time when the Church and many other institutions continue to deal with the historical damage of sexual abuse, Deacon Duclos will be the first American to go through the world-renowned program for the license.

“The goal has always been to get back home as soon as possible,” Deacon Duclos said. “But for a degree like this, with this type of information, and the way they have it laid out, I really think it’s worth it for the skills and connections that I will make with people from around the world doing the same type of work all over the place.”

Deacon Duclos recalls a conversation he had with Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger — who has been a national leader in responding to the clergy abuse crisis in his six years with the Diocese — and Father David LeFort, Vicar General for the Diocese of Albany, during their Ad Limina visit with Pope Francis in 2019 when they first brought up the idea of him staying in Rome and getting the license.

“We were starting to have more serious conversations about what the coming years would look like and Father LeFort presented a couple of options and this was his No. 1 option,” Deacon Duclos remembers. “I hadn’t considered it for myself only because we hadn’t had any Americans go through this program. I do say honestly though if I had known about it, or read about it, it probably would have been my No. 1 choice from the beginning.”

It is an opportunity for Deacon Duclos to learn under some of the top clergy and lay people in this discipline, including President Father Hans Zollner, SJ, who is also a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a consultor of the Congregation for Clergy. Father Zollner, a theologian and psychologist, is one of the leading experts in the prevention of sexual abuse.

“I come from the perspective that any degree, any license in one of these topics, is going to be beneficial as a pastor in your homilies and how you approach people and counsel people,” Deacon Duclos said. “With a degree like this, it focuses my attention more on what people could be going through who are sitting in the pews. How can I help to heal in whatever way? A lot of the things that they talk about are from a spiritual perspective — if they were church-going people and something caused them to get away from the Church. As a priest in this role, how is that different from a lay person in this role? A psychologist in this role? How do you reconnect spiritually with that person to help redevelop their relationship with God for healing and growth?”

Although returning to the Diocese of Albany to become an associate pastor is still in the forefront of his mind, following God’s plan has taken Deacon Duclos — who learned piano at a young age and was involved in music ministry at St. Mary’s — to the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, then to Corpus Christi as music director, which is where he had a “definitive moment.” After graduating from college in 2012, Deacon Duclos’ name was submitted to the “Called by Name” program and he attended a retreat by then-Bishop Howard J. Hubbard which got him thinking more about the priesthood.

“I was teaching (music in high school) and I was filling in for a maternity-leave position all through that year,” he said. “I remember sitting at school and saying, ‘Is this really the right spot or do I need to pursue this church thing a little further?’

After being accepted into seminary at the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston with Deacon Yusko, they were slated to go to major seminary in Yonkers before both were sent off to Rome. Without knowing much Italian, mind you.

But Deacon Duclos learned the language, is comfortable living in Rome — in this “little slice of America” — and is looking forward to the next two years.

“Coming from Corpus Christi, I worked there for four years and helped out with a lot of things and that really has given me a great perspective through the years in seminary because, I look back and I say, (being in a parish) really is where I want to go back to,” he said. “Because Rome was a surprise and these types of degrees were never on my radar as something to consider when I initially started the application process. I’m trying to keep an open mind and saying yes to God all the way through and trusting in the cooperation and decision-making process. I feel very good about it. I want to get home but this is pulling me here, too.”