Fr. Roy Bourgeois: Nominee for Priest of Integrity Award
Before entering the priesthood, Fr. Bourgeois served as an officer in the Navy for four years and was a recipient of the Purple Heart. After military service, Fr. Roy entered the seminary of the Maryknoll Missionary Order. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1972 and went to work with the poor of Bolivia for five years. Bolivia at the time was under the rule of dictator and School of the Americas graduate General Hugo Banzer. Fr. Roy’s work there led to his arrest and forced departure from the country.
After the murders of four U.S. churchwomen in El Salavador, Rev. Bourgeois became interested in U.S. Government policy. As a result of his studies and his experiences, he became an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero to “speak for the voiceless,” he began participating in nonviolent protests at Fort Benning in Georgia—an effort that led to his arrest and to an 18-month prison sentence. This was the first of numerous times he endured incarceration for his beliefs.
By 1990, Rev. Bourgeois had founded the School of Americas Watch (now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation http://www.soaw.org/). He is dedicated to informing the public about the implications of this training for the people of Latin America. Following the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador at the hands of graduates of the SOA, the Watch organized an annual protest that is held on the anniversary of the massacre each November.
Most recently, Rev. Bourgeois stood in solidarity with Janice Svre-Duszynska, as she
answered a call to ordained priesthood. As a consequence, he received a notice regarding possible excommunication by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
Rev. Bourgeois has explained that he supported Janice as a matter of conscience, and as a matter of personal obligation, since she had first stood with him in protest outside Fort Benning in the earliest days of the SOA protests. In his letter of November 7, 2008, to the CDF, he wrote:
”If we are to have a vibrant, healthy Church rooted in the teachings of our Savior, we need the faith, wisdom, experience, compassion and courage of women in the priesthood. Conscience is very sacred. Conscience gives us a sense of right and wrong and urges us to do the right thing…Conscience is what compels women in our Church to say they cannot be silent and deny their call from God to the priesthood. Conscience is what compelled my dear mother and father, now 95, to always strive to do the right things as faithful Catholics raising four children. And after much prayer, reflection and discernment, it is my conscience that compels me to do the right thing.”
Rev. Bourgeois’ dedication to changing structures that are unjust and speak on behalf of the voiceless, regardless of personal consequences, is a challenge to each of us.
We honor this priest for his compassion and courage.
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