Each year the Catholic Common Ground Initiative presents the Bernardin Award to a Catholic whose life and service reflect the values and mission of the Initiative. This year Rev. J. Bryan Hehir was the tenth recipient of the Bernardin Award.
For over forty years, Fr. Hehir has been among the most distinguished and effective Catholic voices in the American public square. He currently serves the Archdiocese of Boston as Secretary of Health and Social Services. He is also Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice in Religion and Public Life at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His service in the past has been at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops where he was Director of the Office of International Affairs and Secretary for Social and Political Affairs. He has been President of Catholic Charities USA and Counselor at Catholic Relief Services. For almost two decades he taught at Georgetown University where most recently he was Distinguished Professor of Ethics and International Relations.
With an astounding grasp of international history, ethical theory and the current interplay between religious bodies and the wider society, Father Hehir is undoubtedly among the American Church’s most sought after and applauded lecturers. He combines clarity, organization of data, ethical insight and pastoral wisdom in his dazzling array of lectures, articles and opinion pieces. Never one to back away from a thorny issue or a controversial topic, Fr. Hehir always exemplifies the principles of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative in his framing of issues and his dealings with opposing viewpoints and opinions. He was a trusted advisor of Cardinal Bernardin, not only at the inception of the Common Ground Initiative, but also in the development of the 1983 Pastoral on War and Peace and the groundbreaking work on the consistent ethic of life.
Whether one finds him as member of Vatican delegations, giving testimony before Congressional Committees, or acting as counselor to universities and bishops’ committees, Father Hehir is always first and foremost the priest with a deep pastoral concern for each individual. Prestigious and wide-reaching though his company and accomplishments may be, Father Hehir is a priest whose heart is always in the parish, in the pulpit and at the altar.
He has published widely in the area of ethics and international relations with special attention to the moral measure of war and the ethics of international intervention. His publications on the public role of religion and the modern Western religious climate fill pages of bibliography. His talent has been recognized and his contributions saluted in the various awards he has received. He was awarded a McArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. Mc Arthur Foundation and has received the Marianist Award and Laetare Award from the University of Notre Dame.
With deep appreciation for his extraordinary contributions to the life of the church and his longstanding and abiding commitment to fostering communion, The Catholic Common Ground Initiative has proudly awarded its 2011 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Award to Reverend J. Bryan Hehir.