The University of St. Thomas

Fr. Edward Flahavan

Fr. Edward Flahavan

It's not necessary to remind the readers of this publication that the three decades since the close of Vatican II have seen enormous and wrenching and sometimes painful changes - and, we would like to insist, growth - in the Church community. In the words of Cardinal Newman, to grow is to change - and to grow perfect is to have changes often. What he did not add: in life, and in the life of the Church as a worshipping community, to change is painful.

The second recipient this year of the Distinguished Alumnus Award was one who took at times an active part in that change - in retrospect, we must insist, generously, and sensitively, and at the same time, aggressively and with profound conviction.

Those were the days when a new phenomenon dawned in the church - a newly articulate community, anxious to grow and to change - and to participate in the process.

Our second recipient began academically. He taught at Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary for some seven years - and then, through the happy influence of Father Edward Grzeskowiak, also of that faculty, he became the pastor of one of our African-American parishes.

It was a singularly happy choice. This second recipient immersed himself in our African-American community. It is reported that, and we quote, "he gave a sense of dignity to and among black teenagers,' incidentally bringing them to visit other parishes, to speak openly and sensitively of the emerging questions of racism, and desegregation, in both the Catholic Church and in society. Our recipient made enormous contributions to the adjustments in America that followed Selma, and Dr. King, and the letter from the Birmingham jail.

Then came the era of genuine ecclesiastical structural changes, to which our recipient contributed significantly: an "Urban Affairs Commission," and the beginnings of the "Christian Sharing Fund," which deeply influenced the significant "Campaign for Human Development" of the American Catholic Bishops.

Finally came the position of pastor for more than a dozen years of a major Minneapolis parish - almost an "inner city parish" - to which our Recipient contributed a vitality and an emerging sense of common obligation and support to all peoples: the newly visible street people; the influx of Native Americans into the ghettos of Minneapolis; the appalling unemployment rate among his African-American youth. He sought help and contributions far and wide - and his engaging, tolerant, and energetic manner brought them in abundance

Our second Recipient, then is one whose conviction and speaking out of our needs we admire enormously. One sent indeed as a leader and guide, to a multitude of peoples: FR. EDWARD FLAHAVAN.

(Text adapted from the St. Paul Seminary, School of Divinity alumni newsletter.)