John Joseph Egan

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Monsignor John Joseph Egan (9 October 1916 – 19 May 2001) was an American Roman Catholic priest and social activist. After initially studying business at DePaul University, he transferred to Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary, completing his studies under the visionary rector Msgr. Reynold Henry Hillenbrand at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. He promoted racial integration and was one of the clergymen who marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1965 protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. For many years he was a member of the board of trustees of the Industrial Areas Foundation. The Egan Urban Center at DePaul University is named in his honor. Egan's papers are housed in the manuscript collection at the University of Notre Dame Archives (see "Msgr. John Egan" or "John J. Egan Papers" at The scope and background notes include an extensive list of his accomplishments.

Father Egan was better known to his friends—both lay as well as clerical—as Jack Egan. Ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago, he worked several years in its inner city. Saul Alinsky, godfather of broad-based community organizing, influenced the young priest. In turn, Father Jack later prevailed upon Alinsky to pen his book Rules for Radicals. [Told in a personal interview to Fr. Juan Romero of Los Angeles.] Father Jack accepted a position at the University of Notre Dame where he founded and directed CCUM, the Catholic Commity on Urban Ministry, dedicated to promote Catholic social teaching. One of Father Egan's unsung accomplishments of the early seventies was to deliver about twenty-five non-episcopal leaders of the Catholic Church in the country to a PADRES-sponsored meeting held at the Mexican American Cultural Center (now called Mexican American Catholic College) in San Antonio, Texas. The focus of the meeting was to garner greater recognition and respect for the "Hispanic Agenda" within the institutions of the Catholic Church in the United States.

John Joseph Egan figures prominently in the 2009 book Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America by Beryl Satter. WFMT critic Andrew Patner interviewed Ms. Satter in April 2009. This interview can be downloaded from and specifically discusses her discovery of Monsignor John J. Egan and his work with the Contract Buyers' League starting at 44:40 in the downloadable MP3 file.

United Power for Action and Justice was created in part by Monsignor John J. Egan.

Further reading[edit]

  • An Alley in Chicago: The Ministry of a City Priest (1991), by Margery Frisbie

NOTE: the University Archives at Notre Dame have created an online version of this book which is available at