As we experience the Universe, our hearts and
minds become infused with its powers.
JAMES CONLON, Ph.D.
Facilitator for Spirituality and the New Earth Story
Jim Conlon grew up on the shore of the St. Clair River whose waters provide the border between his native Canada and the United States. The youngest child of an Irish father and French Canadian mother, Jim attended the village school of his Southwestern Ontario home.
His early years were spent bathed in the beauty of the Great Lakes bio-region and responding to his love for baseball; both became in many ways classrooms for life’s important gifts and lessons.
Following attendance at a district high school eleven miles from his home, Jim received a degree in chemistry from Assumption University of Windsor and later in theology from the University of Western Ontario.
Deeply moved by the impact of the Vatican Council II, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the therapeutic revolution, Jim moved from pastoral work to the streets. He felt propelled to follow his uncertain journey by listening to his heart. The years that followed brought him to Urban Training Centers in Toronto and Chicago, the Industrial Areas Foundation- Saul Alinsky Training Institute, the Catholic Committee on Urban Ministry, communication therapy, popular education, and now his contribution to the Great Work of humanity’s historical mission of cosmic wisdom found in the voices of those who cry for justice, healing and bread.
Today he pursues with “evolutionary faith” a passion for the wisdom that is revealed in the universe story, in the lives of his ancestors, and his own tradition.
As a teacher and administrator, author and presenter, he strives to give voice to the cry of a people who find meaning in the narrative of their lives, in the promise of geo-justice, in the cosmic melodies that resonate among us, in the deep ponderings that take us to the precipice of new beginnings, and in the unspoken hunger that finds expression in the sacred impulses of our lives.
As Jim’s life continues to unfold, he has reached a point where he now wishes to invite you to join him on the journey and, through his talks and presentations, to invite you to discover what you plan to do with your “one wild and precious life.”
Develops, directs and teaches programs in spirituality and culture, theological education, social and ecological justice, popular and adult education, community organization and development; and animates mediating structures of information, support and common action.
1996 - Present
Sophia Center: A Wisdom School Celebrating Earth, Art and Spirit
Holy Names University, Oakland, CA
1991 - 1996
Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality / Holy Names University, Oakland, CA
1990 - Present
The Union Institute, Cincinnati, OH
1989 - Present
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA
Church Divinity School of the Pacific / School of Applied Theology
1984 - 1991
PROGRAM DIRECTOR & ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality / Holy Names Univeristy, Oakland, CA
1977 - 1984
DIRECTOR OF FIELD EDUCATION AND FACULTY MEMBER
Department of Pastoral Theology / Toronto School of Theology, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Canadian Mental Health Association / Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Institute for Communities in Canada
Humber College of Applied Arts and Technology / Rexdale, Ontario, Canada
York University / Toronto, Ontario, Canada
London Diocese, Ontario, Canada
"What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?', was the question Fr. James Conlon posed to his audience during our February day of recollection here at S.P.S. Within the heart of this question lies the mystery of vocation. It is a process of finding one's voice and discovering what it is that one is to give to the world, for the power is within us to express who we are.
For those discerning the vocation to the priesthood, we are led into the very meaning of the Paschal Mystery, which is living in the hope and in the light of the resurrection.
Hope is becoming a rare virtue these days. Father Conlon pointed out that the world today is in crisis. We are living in a broken-hearted world where there is a growing loss of the sacredness of creation and a growing culture of violence toward the earth, and one another. This is demonstrated in a globalized economy which is increasing the divide between the rich and poor, in a social order of pre-emptive strikes and despairing youth, in the environment where ecological disasters are wiping ten thousand species out of existence each year, and of a consumer culture where retail therapy anaesthetizes people's desire for God.
Fortunately, hope is not lost. Hope is the answer to a world crying for good news. Father Conlon noted that S.P.S. is an example of giving hope to such a world. He asserts that "St. Peter's is a delivery zone for a new breed of priests." What is this new breed of priests? "Individuals living a vocation that is contagious with courage, where terror is turned into love, despair into hope, and tears into laughter."
This occurs with a deep spiritual grounding, and a gift for reaching out to others, or as Father Conlon calls it, "prolonged engagement." It is about developing and satisfying our natural longing, that deep hunger for life found in God alone. Father Conlon challenges us to go to the edge of our longing. This is fundamentally experienced in our spiritual practices, which are the anchors of our lives. Prayer is an imperative for reaching out, as it grouse& us in the reality that is unfolding around and within us. We become connected to that inner reality where we are one with God by being one with each other and with creation.
Flowing from our spiritual practice is the development and living out of a vision. We need to have an idea of what we are staving toward as individuals and as a community of faith. Finally, to take this vision and implement it through active involvement with the world is the final step of "prolonged engagement." It is here that the intimate link between mission and discipleship is completely realized. To be disciples of the Lord is to be actively involved in the world. It calls for an operative theology that is perceptive and reflective to the needs of the world, and a knowing how to be creative and passionate in our response. It is the actualization of a Eucharistic hope by gathering together, telling the story, and breaking bread, for we have "a deep-seated conviction that tomorrow will be a better day."
Father James Conlon attended Assumption University, Windsor, where he received a degree in chemistry. From there, he attended St. Peter's and completed his theological studies.
After several associate pastorships, Fr. Jim felt called to reach out in new ways. His journey led him to Toronto and Chicago for further studies and finally to Oakland, California where he is director of the Sophia Center: A Wisdom celebrating Earth, Art, and Spirit, at Holy Names University.
Fr. Jim is the author of six works. His most recent books are: "At the Edge of our Longing, Unspoken Hunger for Sacredness and Depth", 2004 and "The Sacred Impulse: A Planetary Spirituality of Heart and Fire", 2000.