Skip to main content
Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education logo

Encounter, Engage, Create - Moral Imagination and Ignatian Leadership

Maureen O’Connell

Maureen O’Connell

Catholic Social Teaching was developed by Roman Catholic church leaders seeking to respond to the demands of justice in the 20th century. The three-step methodology of Catholic Social Teaching: “see->judge->act” offers an effective tool for responding to what popes and bishops call “the signs of the times” and have helped Catholics face everything from the industrial revolution and the Cuban Missile Crisis to economic development and presidential elections. But what if our 21st century context — with growing social inequality, debilitating racism and sexism, people on the move across borders, economies fueled by violence, polarized political debate and paralyzed political processes — necessitates a different praxis? What if we need a praxis that moves all people of good will, and not simply church leaders or even those who identify as Catholics, to tap the new millennium’s potentials for social change?

In this presentation, I propose a new praxis for social justice: encounter->engage->create that is animated by a 21st century moral imagination and can serve to catalyze innovative expressions of leadership for justice in communities like Santa Clara University.  I will explore how a number of figures in the Christian tradition as well as university collectives in the Ignatian family witness to the power of the moral imagination and offer distinctive characteristics of leadership. Among them: the UCA martyrs, Pope Francis, the North West Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition co-founded by one of Santa Clara’s own, Dean Brackley, and the JUNTOS Dance Collective.

Maureen O’Connell recently returned to her native city of Philadelphia to Chair the Department of Religion at LaSalle University in Philadelphia where she is also an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics.  Previously, she served for eight years as Associate Professor in the Theology Department at Fordham University.  She holds a BA in History from Saint Joseph’s University and a PhD in Theological Ethics from Boston College. She authored Compassion: Loving Our Neighbor in an Age of Globalization (Orbis Books, 2009) and If These Walls Could Talk: Community Muralism and the Beauty of Justice (The Liturgical Press, 2012), which won the College Theology Book of the Year Award in 2012 and the Catholic Press Association’s first place for books in theology in 2012. Her current research project, tentatively titled “Spiritual but Not Racist: Religion and Racism on Catholic College Campuses,” explores racial identity formation, racism, and racial justice in Catholic institutions of higher education. She serves on the board of the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies and is the Vice President of the College Theology Society. 

Oct 9, 2014
Bannan, ignatianleadership, BannanLectureArchives, Fall2014