In Memory of Fr. Michael Campbell-Johnston, SJ: A Jesuit Striving for Social Justice

19 October 2023|Cynthia Bomben - JRS International

We pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Michael Campbell-Johnston, SJ, who left this world on Thursday 12 October 2023, in the United Kingdom in the Corpus Christi Jesuit Community in Boscombe. He was 92 years old, in the 75th year of religious life.

Since you suggested it, you go and do it.’ These were the memorable words Fr Pedro Arrupe, the Father General of the Jesuits and founder of JRS, stated to Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ, known to all as ‘CJ’, launching him on his lifelong mission of faith and justice.

It was 1980 and Fr. Arrupe was struck by the plight of the Vietnamese boat people fleeing their war-torn country and called on the Society of Jesus to respond to this global crisis.

Shortly after, Don Pedro called upon Fr. CJ and other members of his council to discuss how to respond to this crisis and what could be done at a practical level.  CJ was already head of the Secretariat for Social Justice, then called the Social Secretariat of the Society of Jesus.

As advisor for Social Justice to Fr Arrupe, CJ was intimately involved in setting up JRS in 1980. He then went to Central America to set up JRS there in 1984, but was called to be Provincial of the British Jesuits from 1987 until 1993. He then returned to El Salvador in 1994 as Director of the Jesuit Development Service.

CJ was truly a pioneer and founding father of JRS as its first coordinator.  Read more about the First Steps of JRS in Central America here in pp. 93-107 in The Wound of the Border: 25 Years with Refugees, a foundational text about JRS’s work and history.

Let us continue to keep CJ’s commitment, passion, and dedication to social justice alive as we walk alongside, accompany, and offer hospitality to the most vulnerable, those “at the frontiers of humanity”, giving priority to situations of great need, in places where a more universal good may be achieved.

Original text published in internal communications website and written by JRS International Office Internal Communications Officer, Cynthia Bomben.