Priest who has promoted spirituality from Boston to Brazil named rector of Jesuit community at Fairfield University


The Rev. Walter "Skip" Conlan, S.J., who has promoted the spirit of the Jesuit tradition at Boston College for the last seven years, has been named rector of the Jesuit community at Fairfield University.

A Jesuit priest is essentially "a man on a mission," said Fr. Conlan, who sees the primary responsibility of his new job as keeping the men of the Fairfield community focused on their apostolic responsibilities and character through dialogue and hospitality.

"Each Jesuit should be able to find in his community - in celebration of the Eucharist, in shared prayer, in conversation with his brothers - the spiritual resources he needs for the apostolate," Fr. Conlan said. "So my primary responsibility as the rector is to see to it that the community realizes that character."

The rector is the religious superior of a Jesuit community, responsible for coordinating apostolic activities and attending to spiritual growth and personal care. Conlan will serve a six-year term and oversee all community finances by serving as the president of the Fairfield Jesuit Community, a legal corporation.

"Because of my interest and experience in Ignatian spirituality and work with the poor, I am really excited to be joining a community which has distinguished itself so well in these ministries," Fr. Conlan said. "Both the Prep and the University are thriving, enjoying national recognition for their teaching excellence and student enthusiasm."

Long interested in helping others understand the rich history of the Jesuit tradition, Fr. Conlan has been the internal consultant for employee development in the area of Ignatian spirituality for the Human Resources Department at Boston College, his alma mater. He oversaw retreats and worked to keep the Ignatian flame alive in big ways and small.

He established the Shared Vision program that introduces Boston College employees to the history of Jesuit higher education. He also created the Spiritual Companions program, which matches members of the BC community with spiritual directors, who are lay people or religious in academic, administrative and staff positions.

Born in Gardner, Mass., Fr. Conlan graduated from Boston College in 1971, and has done graduate work at the University of Michigan and several other schools in Massachusetts, Brazil, Bolivia and Italy. He holds a master's degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan and a Master of Divinity degree from Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

Fr. Conlan entered the Society of Jesus of New England in 1967 and took his final vows in Salvador, Brazil in 1983. He is currently a member of the Jesuit's Bahia Province of Brazil, where he was missioned in 1980 and worked for 17 years.

Fr. Conlan has ties to Fairfield University: He was an administrative assistant to the President in 1967 and studied sociology at Fairfield in the summer of 1968. He has had a long career as a teacher, research assistant and a chaplain and has been strongly involved in the religious life of his community wherever he went. In Brazil, he was rector of Igreja de Santo Antonio de Barra in the early 1990s and he was vice-president for Student/Community Affairs at Catholic University of Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, before joining the Boston College Department of Human Resources in 1997.

Fr. Conlan replaces John Higgins, S.J., as rector of the Fairfield community. Fr. Higgins has been named executive assistant to the Very Rev. Thomas J. Regan, S.J., provincial of the Society of Jesus of New England, who also served in the Fairfield Jesuit community. Though Fr. Higgins held the rector's position for the traditional six years, he has been affiliated with Fairfield University for about 24 years.

"In a way it's very difficult because this has always been home to me," said Fr. Higgins, who will now live on the Boston College campus. "But in a way, it will be exciting because I will be working with a good friend."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on June 20, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 307