Jesuit Father Benjamin Urmston, founder of Peace and Justice Programs and professor emeritus at Xavier University in Cincinnati, is being honored for his lifelong efforts on justice issues. He will receive the “Keeping the Dream Alive” award from the Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati at the church’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 21.
Fr. Urmston, 87, is a veteran of World War II, and he participated in three major battles — the Rhine, the Ruhr and Bavaria — with General Patton’s Third Army in Europe. The horrors of his war experiences inspired him to make a difference in the world. He decided he could do that by entering the priesthood.
“I was not in the worst part of the war,” Fr. Urmston said, “but what I had was not a picnic. And I came out of that thinking, ‘There has to be a better way for us to solve disputes. There has to be a way to peace.’ I wanted a better world. I felt being a priest would be one way to pursue that — at least a good way for me. And that has proven to be true.”
When Fr. Urmston joined the Xavier faculty in 1971, he saw the need for student involvement in issues of peace and justice, so he founded the Peace and Justice Programs. “The notion of peace and justice is deeply engrained in Ignatian spirituality and applies to all people whether you like them or not,” Fr. Urmston said.
“I think it’s good to have ideas. I think it’s good to have ideals,” Fr. Urmston said. “I think it’s good to have a vision of the future. The purpose is never to judge individuals but to analyze structures. There are times when we need to change our structures, and that’s not easy. That’s part of the reason why there’s opposition: We don’t like to change basic things.
“I don’t have in mind heaven. But I have in mind the beginnings of a civilized earth.”
Read more about Fr. Urmston at the Xavier University website.