2014 Holstein Award – James L. Connor, S.J.
Fr. Connor’s leadership for faith and justice has come in many different forms over the course of 50+ years of Jesuit ministry. 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.
While meeting with Fr. Connor earlier this year about the award, he 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.”
The idea of viewing a situation from the perspective of the marginalized or oppressed is both “Ignatian” in its approach as well as an illustration of what it means to be in solidarity with others. It is a story like this and many more that articulate why Fr. Connor is tremendously deserving of the Robert M. Holstein “Faith Doing Justice Award.”