Alumni Association of The Pontifical North American College

John DiFruscio


CSM 1972

John DiFruscio, 66; priest traveled own path of service

By Stephanie M. Peters

Globe Correspondent / December 1, 2008


Fresh out of college with a bachelor's degree in microbiology in 1964, John DiFruscio appeared to be headed down a scientific path.

Instead, he enrolled in the seminary.

Studying for the priesthood tested his mind in a different way, he later told longtime friend Lois M. Bennett ofBraintree.

"John was just brilliant," Bennett said. "He had great ambition to become an educator, and I think he probably decided he would educate in his religion."

Father DiFruscio, who served as a priest in area churches for nearly 40 years, died Nov. 20 at hisBraintreehome of complications of renal failure. He was 66.

Throughout adulthood, he was challenged by a very open struggle with manic depression that prevented him from being assigned his own parish or living in a rectory, Bennett said.

He never complained about his illness.

"His faith never faltered," Bennett said. "It was never God's fault that he had an illness. It was there, and he handled it."

Born inLawrence, Father DiFruscio received a Catholic school education that he continued atMerrimackCollegeinNorth Andover. After graduating in 1964, he immediately enteredSt. John'sSeminary inBrighton. He was ordained in 1969.

Father DiFruscio's first assignment wasSt. Johnthe Baptist Parish inPeabody, followed by stays atSacredHeartChurchinManchesterby the Sea andImmaculateConceptionChurchinCambridge.

He also spent time inRome, studying language and theology but was unable to complete his studies because of his illness, Bennett said.

Placed on disability by the parish for the majority of his career, Father DiFruscio received opportunities to say Mass through friends in the priesthood who invited him to their churches. In the later half of his career, these friends included the Rev. William G. Williams, who invited Father DiFruscio toChurchofSt. Thomas MoreinBraintree, where he helped for two years; and the Rev. Richard McLaughlin, who invited him to St. Joseph-St. Lazarus Church in East Boston and to St. Theresa Church inEverett.

While at theChurchofSt. Thomas More, Father DiFruscio met Bennett and her family, and "over the years, we just became close friends," she said.

"He was never an ordinary priest, but he was the priest God called him to be," she said. "He walked the streets inBostonwhen I first met him, sitting at lunch counters and ministering to the homeless. . . . He was a free spirit, just wonderful."

When Father DiFruscio began to search for a new condo a few years later, Bennett offered him the basement apartment in herBraintreehome with the offer that he could stay as long as he needed while he searched for a place. The arrangement worked out so well, however, that he never left. He became a beloved figure in the family for Bennett's children and grandchildren, she said.

Recently, Father DiFruscio was informed that he was suffering from renal failure and decided not to receive dialysis, Bennett said.

Only a month before his death, Father DiFruscio lost a close friend who had long been both a spiritual and motherly figure in his life, 88-year-old Sister Georgiana Smith of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who had first taught him in second grade at St. Mary of theAssumptionSchoolinLawrence.

"He called her every single night," said Bennett, who said Father DiFruscio had talked of a void in his life since her death. "He was heartbroken."


Go Back | Send this page to a friend