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For over thirty years the San Francisco-based publisher has produced hundreds of works of theology, spirituality, philosophy, history, apologetics, fictions, catechesis, and biography. Here's the story of one of the world's largest Catholic publishers...

The story of Ignatius Press is one that began over thirty years ago, and a story that has not ended yet.

Although Father Fessio is the backbone of Ignatius Press, there are others who joined him, laymen who share the same passion and vision. The cliché saying, "There is no ‘I’ in team" might well be applied to founding group of men and women who first signed on to a project that, to many outsiders, must have appeared doomed from the start.

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Father Fessio spent his formative years as a Jesuit training under European theologians, including Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, and Henri de Lubac. These eminent teachers and thinkers were also prolific authors, providing a wealth of theological and philosophical reading material. Upon returning to the United States he used some of his books, written in French and German, as the basis for discussion among friends, where the priest would translate a paragraph, read it, and then lead a meditation based upon the writings. It wasn’t long before someone suggested that he publish these works in English, making them available to a far wider audience.

Then came the birth of the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. A Great Books style program, it was designed to emulate the classical education that used to be provided by the Jesuit order. Naturally, since it was located at a Jesuit university, many at the school itself did not warmly welcome it. But within a very short time, the excellence of the program was evident in its graduates. Also, in putting together the Institute, the need for solid theological works in English became even more apparent. The ball began to roll.

Guadalupe Associates, which would become the parent company of Ignatius Press, was founded as a non-profit in 1977, providing finances (in a small way) that could be used for the production and printing of the books that were envisioned. Production editor Carolyn Lemon was brought on board and talented young translator Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis began working on a free lance basis. Over the next year of 1978 the first two books took shape, with the small staff working long hours in a stuffy room at the Institute offices. Finally, 1980 saw the publication of Woman In the Church, by Louis Bouyer, and Heart of the World by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Twenty-four years later, these two books remain in print, but have been joined by hundreds of other titles; many now considered to be the authoritative text on their respective subjects.

Today, Ignatius Press is considered one of the top religious publishers in the world. New books cover not just theological matters, but world issues and culture. Branching out into video production as well with the Footprints of God series and the movie John of the Cross, Ignatius has been at the forefront of the changes in society and the Church. The Press also publishes Catholic World Report and Homiletic and Pastoral Review, periodicals that support and inform the faithful on news, theology and pastoral matters.

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