Alfred Kammer, SJ
Father Fred Kammer, SJ, celebrates 60 years in the Society of Jesus. He is known for his work in social ministries, publications on Catholic social teaching and as the former provincial of the former New Orleans Province (from 2002 to 2008). He is currently in residence at Immaculate Conception Parish in Baton Rouge, where he works in social and pastoral ministries.
After earning his law degree from Yale University, Fr. Kammer began his active ministry with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, first as a staff attorney (1972-1973) and then, after theology studies, as director of the Senior Citizen’s Law Project (from 1977 to 1983). He then served as the managing attorney for Capital Area Legal Services in Baton Rouge (from 1983 to 1984). During his time in Baton Rouge, he also was community superior and associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish and director of Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge, Inc. (1984 to 1989).
Beginning in 1990, Fr. Kammer began a long ministry of social action in the Washington, D.C., area. For two years, he served as the health and welfare policy advisor for the Social Development Department of the United States Catholic Conference. He then served from 1992 to 2001 as the president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities USA, the nation’s largest private social service network.
After his term as provincial, Fr. Kammer became executive director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute of Loyola University in New Orleans from 2009 to 2021.
Father Kammer is the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province’s delegate for reconciliation with Descendants of people enslaved by Jesuits.
Father Kammer earned a bachelor’s in philosophy from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., a law degree from Yale University, and a Master of Divinity from Loyola University Chicago’s Jesuit School of Theology. He has written numerous articles and three books: Doing Faithjustice: An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought (4th edition, 2023); Salted with Fire: Spirituality for the Faithjustice Journey (1995); and Faith. Works. Wonders.: An Insider’s Guide to Catholic Charities (2009).
Father Kammer’s Reflection on 60 Years as a Jesuit
If you had told me sixty years ago, when I was a novice, that my life would have included such varied ministries, primarily in social ministries and often serving the Church outside of Jesuit apostolates, I would have been amazed. But, Vatican II occurred as I was beginning my Grand Coteau novitiate, and the Church and I were swept up in the renewed mission inspired by the Council and the Holy Spirit.
In 1965, the Council’s document on the Church in the Modern World opened with, “The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes and the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” The 1971 Synod of Bishops declared that “action for justice [is] a constitutive element of the preaching of the Gospel…”
Following the inspirations of the Council and the synod, our 32nd Jesuit General Congregation in 1975 called us to the service of faith and the promotion of justice and taught us that “action for justice is the acid test of the preaching of the Gospel.”
Having been sent by the province to law school after philosophy studies at Spring Hill College, this work of the Church and the Society – the faith-that-does-justice – became the theme for much of my apostolic life.
I have been inspired by Jesuits and colleagues laboring among the poor in this country and around the world and delighted to work with many of them through these many years. The continuing suffering of Christ among God’s beloved poor convinces me that this work for justice remains critical to the effective proclamation of the Gospel and the credibility of the Church and the Society of Jesus. The support of my family and many friends has made this course of my life to be even more rewarding, and I am deeply grateful to them and to God’s grace on my journey.