Congratulations to CLA’s 2021 Jerome Award Recipient, Ignatius Press. The Jerome Award Presentation will be held during the CLA Virtual Conference on April 30, 2021 via Zoom from 2:15 – 3:15 pm Eastern. Ignatius Press founder and editor, Jesuit priest Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, will be accepting the award along with several colleagues on behalf of Ignatius Press at the 2021 CLA Conference.

The Jerome Award, established in 1992, is presented by the Academic Libraries, Archives, and Library Education Section through the Jerome Award Committee. Named after St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church (331-420), patron of librarians, it is awarded in recognition of outstanding contribution and commitment to excellence in scholarship which embody the ideals of the Catholic Library Association.

Ignatius Press History

In 1974 Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. returned to the United States from then-West Germany, where he had completed his doctoral studies in theology under then-Professor Joseph Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI). Previously Father Fessio had been pursuing graduate studies in theology in France, mentored by Father Henri de Lubac, S.J. (later to be made a Cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II). It was Father de Lubac who proposed to Father Fessio that he write his doctoral thesis on the theology of Father Hans Urs von Balthasar, whom Father de Lubac described as 'the greatest theologian or our time...and perhaps of all time'. (Father von Balthasar was also named a Cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II but died shortly before being officially received into the College of Cardinals.) It was also Father de Lubac who wrote to Professor Ratzinger asking that Father Fessio be accepted by him as a doctoral student.

De Lubac, Balthasar, and Ratzinger were and are among the most distinguished Catholic theologians of the 20th century, but in the 1970s, few of their works were known in the United States and even fewer were available in English translation.

It was to serve the good of the Catholic Church by making these works available to English-speaking readers, that in June of 1978, Father Fessio, along with Carolyn Lemon, began Ignatius Press as the primary activity of an existing non-profit religious corporation, Guadalupe Associates, Inc.Ignatius Press grew rapidly and added other European theologians as authors, including Father Louis Bouyer, C.O. Manuscripts from American authors began arriving and Ignatius Press expanded its list to include them.

Tony Ryan arrived as Director of Marketing in 1981 and soon thereafter began acquiring rights to distribute Catholic and family-friendly films. The Ignatius Press list of books and films expanded rapidly both in quantity and genre to include a wide variety of titles and authors. The criteria of selection were three: fidelity to the apostolic and evangelizing mission of the Catholic Church; outstanding literary and artistic quality; ability to reach the widest possible readership and viewership, including academics, religious, priests, laity, and children.

Ignatius Press also undertook to assist in the religious education of young people through collaborating with Catholics United for the Faith to develop the Faith and Life series and with a catechetical group to produce a catechetical series Image of God. Later, Father Fessio and Ignatius Press assisted with the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. More recently, Ignatius Press published the YOUCAT series of books aimed at the religious formation of young people. These works were created with the help of an international group of youth and catechists, and were approved by Popes Benedict and Francis.

Ignatius Press Mission

Ignatius Press is an apostolate, a ministry of Guadalupe Associates, a church-based group of people who use their talents “for the greater glory of God”. Guadalupe Associates/Ignatius Press’s mission is to collaborate in the evangelizing, catechetical, liturgical, and educational work of the Catholic Church, through the publication and distribution of Catholic print, video, and audio materials, especially books and films, as well as through the internet and social media. Guadalupe Associates/Ignatius Press helps deepen people’s spiritual lives in a number of ways, including by means of its retreat house and through the publication of liturgical and spiritual resources such as the Adoremus Hymnal, the Mass of Vatican II booklet, and the Ignatius Pew Missal for churches. These and other works reflect the liturgical and spiritual vision of Guadalupe Associates, Inc, which is nourished by the communal daily prayer and worship of many of its workers.

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., was born on January 10, 1941, in Alameda, California, an island town in the San Francisco Bay. He grew up playing ball and fixing cars in the village of Menlo Park, California, not far from Stanford. After graduating from the Jesuit-run Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, he moved to nearby Santa Clara University, another Jesuit bastion. There, he studied civil engineering and played baseball, in addition to other adventures, including a small sports betting business and a cross-country bicycle trip. When, junior year, his girlfriend broke up with him suddenly to enter the religious life, Joe—once on the debate team in high school—spent weeks researching vocations, building his irrefutable case that she should stay and marry him instead. In the process, though, he accidentally discovered his own vocation to the Society of Jesus, which he entered just a few months later in 1961, at age twenty.

Joe received his formation in philosophy and theology at Mount St. Michael’s and Gonzaga University, then taught for a time at Santa Clara, launching a summer program for at-risk high-school students, Project 50. In 1968, he was sent for graduate work at the Jesuit School of Theology at Fourvière in Lyon, France, where he grew close to the famous French theologian Henri de Lubac, S.J. He was ordained in 1972, and two years later, under the direction of Father Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI), he received a doctorate in theology from the University of Regensburg, Germany, with a dissertation on the ecclesiology of Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. Returning to the United States, Father Fessio became a professor at the University of San Francisco, deeply inspired by the brilliant theologians he had encountered in Europe.

At USF he founded the Saint Ignatius Institute, a Catholic Great Books program that he would go on to direct and guide for thirteen years. In 1978, he also founded the Catholic publishing house Ignatius Press, with the hope of introducing the English-speaking world to great European writers like von Balthasar, Ratzinger, de Lubac, and Adrienne von Speyr, all with a basic mission “to support the teachings of the Church”. Since then, Ignatius Press has produced many hundreds of book titles on topics covering the wide range of Catholicism, and for all ages. Ignatius has also developed partnerships with fellow Catholic publishers Magnificat, Bethlehem Books, and the Augustine Institute. After forty-two years, Father Fessio still remains the full-time Editor in Chief of Ignatius Press.

As a publisher, Fr. Fessio helped fund and edit a number of periodicals, including Catholic World Report, the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, and the Adoremus Bulletin, which is dedicated to the renewal of Catholic liturgy. Father Fessio’s advocacy of liturgical reform—running in tandem with Cardinal Ratzinger’s book The Spirit of the Liturgy—is well known, thanks not only to his role in co-creating the Adoremus Society. In order to foster authentic vocations in the Church, Father Fessio joined with Cardinal Marc Ouellet and others in forming the Casa Balthasar, a house of discernment in Rome open since 1991.

Pope Benedict XVI has called him “a true Jesuit . . . a man of the decisive decision”. He has received honors and awards from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, the Institute on Religious Life, St. Patrick's Seminary of San Francisco, Christendom College, and the American Maritain Association, among others.