Fr. James Connor SJ: Jesuit Leader and Social Justice Advocate Passes Away at Age 92
BY ISN STAFF | June 21, 2021
Fr. James Connor, S.J., the 2014 recipient of the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Robert M. Holstein Faith Doing Justice Award, passed away today (June 21, 2021) at Manresa Hall in Philadelphia.
Fr. Connor’s leadership for faith and justice came in many different forms over the course of 75 years of life as a Jesuit. From 1968-1973 he served as Provincial of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. In 1975 he became president of the U.S. Jesuit Conference in Washington D.C. From 1981-1987 he served as pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood and then moved across the street to direct the Woodstock Theological Center in 1987 until 2002. Grounded in the Ignatian tradition of “finding God in all things,” much of his work at Woodstock focused on promoting value-based and ethical leadership for those in business fields.
Following his time at Woodstock, Fr. Connor served as the Maryland Province Provincial Assistant for Mission and Continuing Renewal from 2003 until his move to Loyola University Maryland in 2009 where he continues to teach, offer retreats and speak on a regular basis. He finds himself connected to ISN each fall when he speaks to the Loyola student group preparing to attend ISN’s annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.
Fr. Connor was also a U.S. Jesuit representative to the 32nd and 34th Jesuit General Congregations in Rome. During the 34th Congregation he played a significant role, co-writing Decree 26 of the congregation’s document which focused on the Jesuit way of proceeding in a changing society and Church.
In 2014, while being interviewed in preparation to receive ISN’s “Holstein Award,” Fr. Connor said “my heart has always been with social justice.” One event in his life that seemed especially influential in connecting “his heart” to “social justice” was his participation in the funeral of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was martyred in El Salvador in 1980. The funeral ended suddenly after a bomb exploded outside the cathedral, causing great chaos. In a piece written in America Magazine later that year, Fr. Connor said this:
“As I sat huddled in the San Salvador cathedral with thousands of terrified peasants, I found myself viewing the Salvadoran social situation with the poor and from their perspective of weakness, terror and oppression. I was given a vivid experience of the power of evil that can permeate the institutions and behavior of those who fight to uphold an unjust system. That experience helped greatly to sharpen and put disparate pieces in order.”
Late in life, Fr. Connor had the opportunity to share lessons from his Jesuit ministry as an author. In 2016, he co-authored Principles of Ignatian Leadership: A Resource for a Faith-Committed Life, with Fr. William J. Byron, S.J., and 2020 he authored Lengthening God’s Arm: A Jesuit’s Life and Thoughts.
“The Ignatian Family has lost a faithful witness to the Gospel,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “Fr. Connor’s commitment to integrate the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his passion for social justice will be deeply missed.”
Watch video of Fr. Connor’s 2014 Holstein Award acceptance speech here.
Thank you to Chris Kerr and the entire Ignatian Solidarity Network staff for this beautiful tribute to Father Jim Connor, SJ. So many of us who have been blessed to know Father Connor, and work alongside him, have been profoundly impacted by Father Connor’s personal quest for social justice and we thank him for showing us “how to find God in all things.”
Thank you ISN for the tribute to my dear friend Jim Connor SJ. Jim was my Junior English prof at Gonzaga College High School in 1954. Much later in life I served with him as Trustee at Loyola on the Potomac Retreat House in Faulkner Maryland.
with his devotion to Gonzaga as Scholastic, Teacher, Mentor and later as Provincial it is so fitting he should join Aloysius Gonzaga on his Feast Day!
Dick Browne, Gonzaga ’56, Holy Cross ’60.
Respectful farewell to Fr. James. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon the deaprted soul.