Gremillion, Joseph Benjamin

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Catholic social justice and ecumenical pioneer, author, educator, and pastor, b. Moreauville, Louisiana, March 11, 1919; d. South Bend, Ind., Aug. 9, 1994.

Gremillion attended Louisiana State University, St. Benedict's College in Covington, Louisiana, Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, and The Catholic University of America before being ordained a priest for the diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, December 1943. Traveling across Louisiana as State Future Farmers of America (FFA) president, he witnessed firsthand the miserable conditions of the black sharecroppers. It led him into the Catholic Rural Life Conference (CRLC), where he became a protégé of CRLC executive director Luigi Ligutti. He became involved with the U.S. Bishops Conference's National Catholic Resettlement Committee to promote resettlement of Europeans displaced by World War II in the rural United States. Gremillion founded and served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Shreveport, La. from 1949 to 1958, where he was very involved in civil rights work.

After earning a doctorate in social science at the Pontifical Gregorian University (1960), Gremillion served as director of socio-economic development for Catholic Relief Services (19601967), executive secretary of the Pastoral Aid Fund of Latin America (19641967), an officer of the Committee for Inter-American Cooperation (C.I.C.O.P.) from 1964 to 1967, and a Vatican observer to WCC Conference (1966). Together with Barbara ward, James Joseph norris and Arthur McCormick, Gremillion was a leader of the lobbying effort for concrete actions on social justice at the Second Vatican Council. Their lobbying bore fruit in the two paragraphs calling for the creation of an international social justice organization of the Catholic Church that were included in Article 90 of the final version of Gaudium et Spes. In early 1967, the Pontifical Commission Justice and Peace (PCJP) was established with Gremillion as its first general secretary (19671974) and with Ward and Norris as founding members.

Once the PCJP was securely established, Gremillion established the Society for Development and Peace or sodepax, a joint committee of the PCJP and the World Council of Churches (WCC) to promote worldwide ecumenical work for integral human development and social justice. After stepping down as PJCP secretary in 1974, Gremillion became a faculty fellow at the University of Notre Dame (19741978). He was the co-founder and coordinator of the Muslim Jewish Christian Conference (19751981), Regent's Lecturer at the Boalt School of Law, University of California at Berkeley (spring 1976), director of ecumenical and social ministry for the Diocese of Alexandria-Shreveport (19781983), co-director of the Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life and the director of the Institute for Pastoral and Social Ministry (now the Institute for Church Life) (19831986). Following his retirement from Notre Dame in 1986 until his death, Gremillion worked with the Research Program on Religion, Church and Society in the Center for the Study of Contemporary Society. The Gremillion Papers are housed at the University of Notre Dame Archives.

Bibliography: Many articles under his own name and the pseudonym of Louis G. Martin as well as nine books including Continuing Christ in the Modern World: Christian Social Concerns in the Light of Vatican II; Food, Energy, and the Major Faiths; Journal of a Southern Pastor; The Church and Culture Since Vatican II: The Experiences of North and Latin America; and The Gospel of Peace and Justice.

[p. m. pelzel]