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Fr. John Baumann, SJSeptember 24, 2020 — Father John Baumann, SJ, received the Robert M. Holstein Faith Doing Justice Award for his leadership for social justice rooted in faith from the Ignatian Solidarity Network during a virtual event on September 23.

The founder of PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organization), now known as Faith in Action, Fr. Baumann is current director of special projects. Sr. Simone Campbell, S.S.S., executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice — an advocacy organization founded by Catholic sisters to lobby for policies that mend the gaps in income in the United States — also received the Robert M. Holstein Faith Doing Justice Award at the event.

“It gives me great joy to congratulate you, John Baumann, my friend, my mentor, my Jesuit brother, on the Robert M. Holstein Faith Doing Justice Award,” said Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits West Province, in a congratulatory video message during the virtual event. “You, in your quiet yet steady and strong way, have done so much to change our world, our Church.”

“I thank you for your founding of PICO, now Faith in Action, 48 years ago. I thank you for all the good work that organization has done and how it’s changed my life, how it’s helped me become a better leader,” Fr. Santarosa said. “You are a hero in my book.”

Fr. Baumann founded the organization in 1972, and today Faith in Action serves a national network working in 22 states and is developing organizations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Rwanda and Haiti. Faith in Action’s mission is to assist in the building of community organizations with the power to improve the quality of life of families and neighborhoods.

During Fr. Baumann’s tenure as executive director from 1972 to 2009, Faith in Action’s National Network of Community Organizations achieved significant successes in such areas as crime and safety, housing rehabilitation, educational innovation and reform, health insurance for the working poor, employment and public improvements. The work of more than 1,000 local congregation-based organizations in cities across the country has improved the quality of life of over one million families.

PICO staff and Fr. John Baumann, SJ, in 1974PICO staff in 1974; Fr. Baumann is in the back row, third from right.

Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries, trained as a community organizer under Fr. Baumann in Oakland, California. He also had a video message for Fr. Baumann. “I’m so privileged to call him my brother and, on behalf of all of us, to thank him,” he said.

Fr. Baumann attended Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California. Upon graduating he joined the Jesuits. He was ordained in 1969 and holds degrees from Gonzaga University and Santa Clara University and honorary degrees from Loyola Marymount University, the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University.

“I get energized by being in contact with people living all around the world,” Fr. Baumann told Jesuits West magazine in 2019. “I get so encouraged by their determination to make this world better for themselves and for their children. It’s so easy getting bogged down reading the news each day, but these people give me hope. That’s ultimately what organizing is — it’s about people coming together to make a difference.” [Source: Ignatian Solidarity Network]

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