Rev. James L. Connor, SJ, passed away on Monday, June 21, 2021 at Manresa Hall Jesuit Community in his hometown of Philadelphia. He was 92.
Fr. Connor was born in Philadelphia on May 21, 1929. He attended St. Joseph’s Prep and entered the Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues in Wernersville, Pa., in 1946. He received his Master’s in the Classics from West Baden College in Indiana and went on to study Theology at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, MA, and Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. As a scholastic, he taught Greek at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., and was ordained a priest on June 13, 1959.
Following ordination, Fr. Connor taught Theology at Loyola College in Maryland for five years before becoming Provincial of the Maryland Province at the relatively young age of 39. His leadership role was well received and noticed, and soon after his tenure as provincial, Fr. Connor was appointed President of the Jesuit Conference of the United States in 1976 where he served for five years, even participating at the funeral of Oscar Romero who was martyred in El Salvador in 1980.
In 1981, Fr. Connor spent a year as a research associate at the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, D.C. and then became pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown through 1987. He returned to the Woodstock Theological Center and served as director for 16 years. Having always been a strong motivator for social justice, much of Fr. Connor’s work at Woodstock focused on ethical leadership in business and teaching the importance of being “persons for others” in the business field.
Frank Knott, founder of Innovation Works, a Jesuit-inspired organization that helps create and sustain social enterprises in Baltimore City, remembers Fr. Connor as a teacher when he was a student of his in the 60’s and as a mentor who continued guiding his commitment to social justice. “Fr. Connor encouraged us to look at issues of poverty, inequality, segregation and economic disparities as opportunities for service, but also as opportunities to learn from the lived experiences of others in distress as the root of potential solutions,” said Frank. “He truly taught us how to look for and find God in all things.”
In 2003, Fr. Connor returned to the Maryland Province office where he served for seven years as Provincial Assistant for Mission and Continuing Renewal before heading to Boston for four years to lead retreats for the Jesuit Collaborative. Before his unofficial retirement in 2016, Fr. Connor was called to where it all began for him as a Jesuit priest—Loyola University Maryland—doing what Fr. Jim Connor did best—teaching young people how to live for others and how to find God in all they do.