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Fr. Raymond Helmick, S.J. Memorial Committee Holds Inaugural Memorial Lecture

The memorial committee for the late Fr. Raymond Helmick, S.J., a highly-respected theologian and instructor at Boston College, held the inaugural lecture honoring the contributions of Fr. Helmick today in Devlin 008 at 2:00 p.m.

Professor David Little, a research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and International Affairs at Georgetown University delivered the lecture with an address on “Religion and Conflict Transformation.”

The lecture was principally organized by the relatives of Fr. Helmick on the memorial committee: Raymond M. Barry, Fr. Helmick's nephew and co-founder of the memorial committee, Marie Barry, Fr. Helmick's sister and co-founder of the memorial committee, Stephen D. Barry, Fr. Helmick’s brother-in-law, and Jennifer Helmick, Fr. Helmick’s cousin.

Other key organizers of the event included Professors John and Susan Michalczyk (also members of the memorial committee), Professor Jerome Maryon, who worked with Fr. Helmick for over a decade at BC and through the Interreligious Center for Public Life (ICPL), and Rev. Rodney J. Petersen, the Executive Director of the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM) and the Lord’s Day Alliance of the US.

Raymond Barry offered the opening remarks of the afternoon. He explained that he had spent the past several months collecting and organizing Fr. Ray’s collection of papers, documents, and photographs in concert with administrators at the Burns Library, who have been working to archive Fr. Helmick’s works into a collection for students and faculty to use.

In his work, Fr. Helmick not only served as an unofficial emissary between Catholic and Protestant groups in Ireland, but also played an influential role as one of the founders of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East.

“Fr. Helmick’s contributions to peaceful cooperation and international policy have been invaluable,” said Barry. “We are here to honor his tremendous contributions to the international policy climate and his efforts to bring peace to troubled areas around the globe.”

Barry proceeded to introduce Professor Little, who delivered the afternoon’s keynote address. Little, in commencing his speech, sought to bring the audience’s attention to Fr. Helmick’s book, Negotiating Outside the Law: Why Camp David Failed, and connect it with ecumenical approaches to faith and peace-keeping.

“Ray’s [Fr. Helmick’s] work in Ireland, Israel and Palestine, and other hotspots of sociopolitical tension can be better admired if we are cognizant of his great acquaintanceship with the prominent religious and political leaders at the heart of the problems he helped solve,” Little posited.

Little referenced Fr. Helmick’s ability to command an audience alongside Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, with whom “[he] worked to find common ground for the sake of productive political discourse and world peace.”

Professor Little also asserted that Helmick’s approach to peacekeeping in light of the Catholic faith was motivated by a study in the displacement of blame from the majority body politic to marginalized minorities.

“The resolutions that Fr. Helmick was instrumental in bringing to marginalized and troubled populations, especially in the case of the persistent tension between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and the social unrest therein, were influenced in part by the understanding that one group was utilizing the other as a scapegoat, thereby displacing problems onto the rival,” he said.

Little also recognized that Helmick's contributions to populations in Ireland, Kurdish Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and the Balkans were made through a “genuine commitment to justice” in light of Christian doctrinal teachings.

Yet, although Fr. Helmick’s approach to peacemaking via an analysis of domestic policy was successful in its own right, Little noted that incorporating “normative frameworks” based on international, rather than domestic, policy remedies would be equally effective.

By focusing on international policy trends that align competing interests, Little asserted, the negotiator would be able to leverage both domestic externalities and their international implications to more comprehensively solve the problem at hand.

As a whole, Professor Little recognized the fortitude of Fr. Helmick’s contributions throughout his address, while underscoring the significance of honoring his achievements and scholarly contributions.

“Ray’s contributions to the community at this distinguished institution and world peace have been tremendously significant," he remarked. "It is a great honor and my distinct privilege to address you on this auspicious occasion to honor his memory."

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