Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

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CCTC Visiting Fellow: John O'Brien, CSSp

Fr. John O'Brien, CSSp

The CCTC was delighted to welcome Fr. John O’Brien to campus as our first Visiting Fellow at the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture in Fall 2011. The CCTC is extremely grateful to all those who helped to make John O’Brien’s presence on campus possible, including the Center for Educational Excellence, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University Ministry, the Center for Inculsion and Diversity, the USD Changemaker Hub and the Center for Community Service Learning.

John is a Spiritan missionary priest, originally from Ireland, who works in Pakistan with some of the poorest in that society and in various community projects. His particular expertise in the areas of the Catholic Social Tradition, Liberation Theology, Contemporary Ecclesiology and Muslim-Christian encounters and relations. He has published widely in these areas. John’s previous stations have included inner city missionary work in Ireland and teaching posts in schools and universities in Sierra Leone, Ireland and England. He received his licentiate in 1977 and his doctorate in 1988 from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and had previously attended The Pontifical University of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland and Kimmage Manor, Dublin. His STL was on Karl Rahner’s Christology and his Ph.D. was on the Option for the Poor published as a monograph by Liturgical Press, Collegeville as Theology and the Option for the Poor (1992).

His work in Pakistan has included working with housing cooperatives, adult education, youth work and pastoral ministry especially among urban ‘sweepers’, as they are known. He has published widely, including recently on the need for an inculturated Pakistani ecclesiological identity in The Construction of Pakistani Christian Identity (Lahore 2006).

Between 2007-2008 he took a research sabbatical in Cairo studying classical Arabic grammar and Islamic theology, before returning to Pakistan to work among Hindu bonded laborers in rural Sindh and to continue reflections in pastorally oriented theology.

Click here for John's Resume.

Speaking Events at USD

Below is a list of John O'Brien's speaking engagements while at USD.

  • Faculty/Staff Retreat

“Experiencing God in the Ordinary” 

Tuesday September 27, 2011 from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

Founders Lounge 141

“Solidarity and the Option for the Poor”

Monday, October 10, 2011 from 12:05-1:30 p.m.

Salomon Lecture Hall

“Christian-Muslim Dialogue from Below: Spiritan Perspectives from Pakistan”

Thursday October 20, 2011 from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

Mr. and Mrs. Douglas F. Manchester Auditorium

Followed by a reception in the Manchester Conference Center Lobby

Fr. John O’Brien, CSSp, is a Visiting Fellow at the University of San Diego’s Center for Catholic Thought and Culture. He has presented the inaugural Emile Switgall Lecture, “Christian-Muslim Dialogue from Below: Spiritan Perspectives from Pakistan,” based upon his ongoing experience in Pakistan in ministries with housing cooperatives, adult education, youth work and pastoral ministry especially among urban “sweepers.”

Since his arrival on campus he has met with faculty, student groups, and presented in the Explorations in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition series on the topic, “Solidarity and the Option for the Poor.”
As we approach Advent, the Center for Christian Spirituality invites you to join Fr. O’Brien to share his reflections on the encouragement of St. Peter’s first letter (1 Pet. 2:15):

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

The presentation will include breakfast in the University’s dining room, La Gran Terraza, and the Saturday date will offer accessible parking. We hope you can join us for this opportunity to deepen our understanding of Christian hope.

When: Saturday, November 12, 2011, 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Where: La Gran Terraza, Hahn University Center, USD.

Fee: $15.00 Light breakfast included.

American Academy of Religion Anual Meeting, San Francisco

On Sunday November 19th, 2011 John O’Brien will also be speaking at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Francisco on “Muslim–Christian Interfaith Encounter in Pakistan”, as part of a panel on “Ecclesiology and Islam”, organized by the Ecclesiological Investigations Program Unit of the AAR. Featuring on the same panel will be Joshua Ralston, Emory University; Jakob Wirén, Centrum för Teologi och Religionsvetenskap (Sweden); Miroslav Volf, Yale University and, offering the response, Mona Siddiqui, University of Glasgow (Scotland). For further details click here.

We go to people not primarily to accomplish a task but rather to be with them, live with them, walk with them, listen to them, and share our faith with them. At the heart of our relationship are trust, respect and love. General Council of the Spiritans mission statement


children in Pakistan

John O'Brien contributed a 3-part article to Spiritan about his work in Pakistan.

Click each title below for a PDF version of Spiritan:

  1. "As I See It:
    Christian Presence in a
    Muslim World," Spiritan, February 2007
  2. "As I See It:
    Christian-Muslim Dialogue," Spiritan, May 2007
  3. "As I See It:
    Living in the Islamic World," Spiritan, August 2007