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Student-Led O'Connor Conference on Life Celebrates 20 Years of National Engagement

January 8, 2019 – The Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life at Georgetown, the largest student-run, pro-life conference in the nation, is marking its 20th anniversary this week, continuing a tradition for Catholic youth that has grown exponentially over the years.

Georgetown students held the first conference in 2000 and afterward named it for the late John Cardinal O’Connor, the archbishop of New York who received a Ph.D. in government from Georgetown in 1970.

Originally created for college and high school students, the conference now attracts a large number of students, academics, clergy and others from around the country to reflect on the pro-life positions O’Connor defended.

Learn and Engage

“With this conference, we aim to bring together the youth of the pro-life movement to listen, learn and engage in discussion about the sanctity of human life,” says conference co-director Julia Greenwood (C’19) of this year’s sold-out event on Jan. 19. “We want not only to equip attendees to better engage in intellectually rigorous discourse, but also renew them in spirit. We hope that they take what they learn here and bring it back to their own campuses and lives.”

Greenwood of West Amwell, New Jersey, who hopes to pursue a master’s degree in theology after graduation and work for the Catholic Church, is an active member of Catholic Women at Georgetown.

Another conference organizer, Luke Lamey (SFS’21) of Boise, Idaho, has served on the board of the Georgetown Knights of Columbus for the past two semesters.

Enthusiastic Support

This year, the conference’s keynote address, “It All Comes Down to The Proper Understanding of The Human Person…” will be given by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the current archbishop of New York.

At the first conference in 2000, then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), a 1947 graduate of the College, gave the keynote address.

The conference has been enthusiastically supported by students and the university – including the Office of Mission and Ministry, Student Affairs, Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, Office of the President and others – ever since.

“The O’Connor Conference underscores our principles and values as a Jesuit and Catholic University,”  says Rev. Mark Bosco, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry. “Since joining the university almost two years ago, I have been impressed with the commitment of both the students and the university community for the respect of human life, shown most powerfully in the 20 years of this conference.”

Next Generation

Kevin Sullivan (SFS’14), who studied international political economy at the School of Foreign Service (SFS), is now assistant director of advancement at Nativity Prep, a Jesuit middle school for low-income families in Boston. He also coordinates the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities’ Jesuit Leadership Seminar.

“The O’Connor Conference is really forming the next generation of young people committed to the dignity of every human life,” says Sullivan. “It is amazing to witness the energy, passion, curiosity and love that is expressed each year and that goes back with students to their high schools, universities and communities.”

Sullivan participated in the Knights of Columbus and as a research assistant for the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown. After graduation, he served as projects manager in 2016-2017 for the university’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.  

“The Cardinal O’Connor Conference has been a formative experience in helping me understand and articulate the connections between various pro-life issues,” says Erica Lizza (SFS’19) of Gross Pointe Shores, Michigan, an outreach director for this year’s conference and president of Catholic Women at Georgetown. “The 20th anniversary of the conference is an exciting milestone, since it speaks to the enduring importance of bearing witness to the inherent dignity of every human person.”