Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monsignor John J. Egan: A Twentieth-Century Priest


Monsignor John J. Egan: A Twentieth-Century Priest, 2004
Margot McMahon
DePaul University Student Union Building
2250 North Sheffield Avenue

            Monsignor John J. Egan (1916-2001), known to his friends as “Jack,” was a tireless activist for social justice who marched with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy in Selma, Alabama, supported Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s push for fair housing in Chicago, learned about community organizing from friend Saul Alinsky, took a stand for the ordination of women and married men in the Catholic Church and, in his last days, garnered support to stem the spread of exploitive payday loan operations in Illinois. Following his death in 2001, DePaul established the Egan Hope Scholars program, providing scholarships to minority students from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
            Sculptor Margot McMahon of Oak Park has stated that Egan became a mentor to her and her husband after he officiated at their marriage in 1988. Egan served as advisor for her work titled Just Plain Hardworking, a series of busts of ten Chicagoans who “made a difference,” including Egan. The group is on permanent display at DePaul’s Egan Urban Center, named in the Monsignor’s honor. In this nine-and-a-half foot bronze, McMahon has portrayed Egan with oversized hands, indicating his strong work ethic, his commitment to people, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, and his organizational skills. His stance and gesture suggest his active and generous spirit and his power to inspire others to seek justice.  

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