Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ) will honor Fr. Thomas Smolich, SJ, with the CRISPAZ Peace Award on November 30, at an evening reception at Santa Clara University’s de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara, Calif.
Inspired by the testimony of the Martyrs of El Salvador, the CRISPAZ Peace Award was established in 2009 to honor individuals or organization each year who embody the preferential option for the poor in their work for the promotion of peace and social justice. For more than three decades, CRISPAZ has enabled thousands of individuals, mainly from North America, to accompany the Salvadoran people in their ongoing struggle for peace rooted injustice and compassion.
Since October 2015, Fr. Smolich has been the international director of Jesuit Refugee Services which accompanies, serves, and advocates on behalf of refugees and forced migrants. “As human beings, we are often at the mercy of war, of nature, of governments – of forces beyond our control. For this reason, nearly 60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, constantly moving. But for people living in motion, those who cannot take possessions can bring knowledge and change their world,” Fr. Smolich says.
“We are convinced that education helps build peace and stability and gives hope to many young refugees and displaced in the 46 countries where JRS works.” Fr. Tom Smolich spoke of education as a precious tool for refugees as well as being one of the basic human rights and of how it helps them rise up to the challenge of making a new life for themselves and making a huge difference in their individual lives. “All of us have challenges, but the life of a typical refugee or migrant poses challenges that many of us who have not had to make that struggle can’t even imagine. Being able to think, to understand what others have to say, being able to write, perhaps speak a different language – the language of the country I am going to arrive in – makes a huge difference” he adds.
Fr. Smolich entered the Jesuits in 1974 and was ordained a priest in 1986. After ordination, he was assigned to Dolores Mission Parish in East Los Angeles, where he served seven years as an associate pastor and was the executive director of Proyecto Pastoral, a community development organization based at Dolores Mission, from 1988-1993.
From 1996-1998, he was a project manager for the Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition, developing affordable housing for families in the San Francisco Bay Area. He then joined the staff of the California Province Jesuits as assistant to the provincial for planning and programs in 1998. Fr. Smolich served as provincial of the Jesuits of the California Province from 1999-2005 and then as president of the Jesuit Conference USA from 2006-2014.
Fr. Smolich earned his MBA from Stanford University (1996), a master’s degree in religious education from Loyola Marymount University (1992), and a master of divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (1986). He has also served as a member of several boards, including the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (2014 to present), the Jesuit School of Theology (1992-2016 and 2017-2014); America magazine (2006-2014), and CRISPAZ – Christians for Peace in El Salvador (2017-2014).
Fr. Smolich enjoys cooking, gardening, and cheering for the San Francisco Giants.
Previous recipients of the CRISPAZ Peace Award include:
2009 Centro Monseñor Romero at the University of Central America (UCA)
2010 Sr. Peggy O’Neil director of the Art Center for Peace in Suchitoto
2011 Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J. theology professor at the UCA, and pastoral minister to poor communities in El Salvador
2012 CoMadres: Committee of Mothers and Relatives of Prisoners, the Disappeared and the Politically Assassinated of El Salvador
2013 COFAMIDE: The Salvadoran Committee of Relatives of Killed or Disappeared Migrants
2014 Asociacion ProBusqueda: Organization that investigates cases of the forced disappearances of children during El Salvador’s civil war.
2015 Hospitalito at the Divine Providence Chapel