Cardinal O’Connor Conference: An Expression of Jesuit Values

By Julian Jimenez (CAS ’24) and Maria Victoria Almeida Vazquez (SFS ’25), 2024 Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life Co-Directors.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, and President John J. DeGioia, Ph.D., seated between Maria Victoria Almeida Vazquez (SFS ’25) and Julian Jimenez (CAS ’24). Photo courtesy of conference co-directors.

It was when we sat down for breakfast that the greatness of the moment began to wash over us. One of the highest-ranking Cardinals in the Church, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, was sitting beside us, along with President John J. DeGioia, Ph.D., the president of Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the country, and with Stephen Feiler, the founder of the Conference, in a room so fittingly called the Hall of Cardinals. Our conversation with them and the other guests at the table reinforced the University’s support of the conference’s mission, and how it fits in neatly with Georgetown’s Jesuit identity. Fast forward an hour, and we were on stage welcoming over 600 attendees to the 25th Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. It was an honor to see so many people at a Conference that we had been planning for months, that had taken hours of our free time and decimated our sleep schedule. But the cause was worth it. 

We sat to listen to Cardinal O’Malley deliver the keynote address and we smiled; his speech was what we had hoped for. It was engaging and intellectual, funny and serious, and at times it almost moved us to tears. Not only that, but Cardinal O’Malley’s presence on the Gaston Hall stage was profound. His brown Capuchin habit contrasted beautifully with his red zucchetto.

Conference co-directors welcome attendees to the 25th Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. Photo courtesy of conference co-directors.

Speaking to an audience of mainly young people gave the sense that he was an elder imparting precious wisdom to us. The fact that he is a Cardinal made present the figure of Cardinal O’Connor, and further represented the Church’s role in advancing a culture of life. Gratitude filled our hearts as we stood to clap. 

Next, attendees went to breakout sessions. During this time, we talked to sponsors and thanked them for their support. They had such kind words for us and expressed their admiration and appreciation. At this time, we oddly felt a moment of rest. Everything was falling into place, we were actually…free—free to check out a talk, or to greet attendees, or to just stand still and thank God—it was all going so well. 

Then came the phenomenal panel discussion. Four women from different walks of life talked about the future of the pro-life movement. I think a pro-choice student in the audience would have had to at least feel moved by the grace with which these panelists shared their perspectives. We couldn’t wait until after the panel to share how impressive the panel was. We were regularly turning to one another as it happened to comment on it. 

After the panel, we felt a great relief that our work had paid off. We spoke to many attendees who wanted to thank and chat with us. Seeing the joy on their faces proved the impact of this conference on them. The final event was the Mass for Life. This was probably one of the greatest Masses we have ever been to. The music was beautiful, the altar servers were in ceremonial raiment, and the Jesuit community processed in with Bishop Lori, the Vice President of the USCCB. His homily was an ardent witness to Cardinal O’Connor’s character and legacy, and the Eucharist was a great reminder of our need for God to accomplish the social justice He desires. Looking back, two things can be said: the Conference needs Georgetown, and Georgetown needs the Conference. This year’s O’Connor Conference was one of the greatest expressions of Jesuit values that we have ever seen, and we pray it continues to bring light to hearts and minds.

Please visit this link to view Cardinal O’Malley’s moving keynote address