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.
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 1960s and early 1970s, 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 wasnt
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
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
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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