23 August 2016
In this image from the late 1920’s, the Rev. Edmund A. Walsh, center, checks the mail at CNEWA's New York offices. (photo: CNEWA archives)
One of CNEWA’s earliest heroes was a man with a remarkable portfolio, the Rev. Edmund A. Walsh., S.J.:
The life of Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., makes great material for a Jesuit recruiter: founder of the Foreign Service School of Georgetown University; head of the Papal Relief Mission to Russia; first president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association; papal negotiator with the Mexican Government; liaison between the Holy See and the Iraqi Government for the foundation of the Jesuit College in Baghdad; and consultant to Chief Justice Jackson at the Nuremberg Trials.
As the first papal-appointed president of Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Edmund Walsh would secure the new organization’s existence and expand the work of Msgr. Richard Barry-Doyle, the founder of the Association’s prototype.
To help launch the new organization, Father Walsh oversaw a one-time nationwide collection in the United States:
The purpose of this collection was emergency relief. “The wish of the Holy Father,” Walsh stated, “is rather to form a permanent society somewhat like the International Red Cross or the American Near East Relief.”
“It will be a centralized Catholic distributing agency,” Walsh continued, “which can materially assist the Holy See to meet the daily increasing demands made on the Holy Father for assistance in humanitarian works … education … social welfare work … as well as distinctly religious and missionary activities.”
In January 1927, Walsh’s drive tallied more than $1 million. “I had no idea myself,” Cardinal Hayes wrote to a colleague, “that we could get such a response.”
Father Walsh also helped secure CNEWA’s financial future, appealing for donations through the Papal Annual — a publication that only appeared once but which helped explain and dramatize the plight of the poor around the world. “Under God,” he concluded his appeal, “the future lies in your hands.”
Over the years, he gained a reputation as a savvy diplomat, a champion of the Russian people, an advocate for the causes of the Near East, and dedicated Jesuit. In 1931, Father Walsh transferred his presidency to New York’s Cardinal Patrick Hayes, who wrote to him, “I wish to thank you with my whole heart for what you have done for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and what you have done for the Church of God.”
Edmund A. Walsh died in 1956, but will long be remembered for his tenacity and vision — and for being a hero of CNEWA.
Tags: CNEWA Eastern Churches Priests