Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father Ben Urmston’
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.
Jesuit Father Ben Urmston has stood up for just about every social justice cause in 46 years as a Catholic priest. And, in recognition of his efforts over the years, the NAACP of Cincinnati honored the Jesuit with its Fair and Courageous Award at its 56th annual Freedom Fund Dinner.
The award is one of the chapter’s highest honors and, as the name suggests, recognizes “public servants who perform fairly, impartially and courageously.”
“I do feel honored. The NAACP is a pioneering civil rights group,” Urmston said. “Sometimes we over-emphasize the individual and don’t recognize the contribution everyone makes to the common good. Even if they think they are only doing something insignificant, we’re all in this together.”
Urmston is a Cincinnati native who left for the service at age 17 and taught and worked briefly in Detroit before returning.
“We live in two Cincinnatis,” Urmston said. “One is in the basement. The other is on the top floor, and if it’s not on the top floor, it’s not in the basement.”
Urmston sees the differences between the two as a schism emblematic of issues around the country.
“It’s counter-productive,” said Urmston, professor emeritus of Peace and Justice at Xavier, where he founded programs such as the campus shantytown in solidarity with the homeless. “We need to learn compassionate listening with people we disagree with.”
Urmston is a World War II veteran who served in Patton’s Third Army, fighting in three major European battles – the Rhine, Ruhr and Bavaria – before serving a year in the Philippines.
“With God’s help, I was able to draw good from evil,” Urmston said. “Despite many years of repressed memories, instinctively I got my passion for peace and justice. I value freedom.”