Matt Malone remembers former America editor and Fordham president Joseph O’Hare

Father O’Hare shares a laugh with New York Mayor Ed Koch. Photo courtesy of Fordham UniversityFather O’Hare shares a laugh with New York Mayor Ed Koch. Photo courtesy of Fordham University

Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., is a towering figure in the history of America magazine. As America’s 10th editor in chief, Joe presided over the magazine’s 75th anniversary, stewarding the journal through some of the most tumultuous events of the 20th century and through difficult years for both the nation and the city he loved.

George W. Hunt, S.J, America’s 11th editor in chief, once wrote that “Joe O’Hare was the most intellectually broadly gifted Jesuit” he had ever met. “Not only a lucid and persuasive writer, but an excellent extemporaneous speaker…. And not an ideologue, being instinctively suspicious of enthusiasms ‘not thought through as to their consequences.’”

Joe O’Hare had a quick, nimble mind that was the master of its own house. No one has ever accused him of being “predictably anything.”

Father Hunt was spot on. Joe O’Hare had a quick, nimble mind that was the master of its own house. As a Jesuit novice, I had the opportunity to comment on an editorial idea that Joe had proposed. I said that we should publish the piece only if we truly had something new to say and that the text should not be predictably left-wing.

Joe’s response: “No one has ever accused me of being predictably anything.”

Which was not quite true. He was predictably insightful, warm and friendly, a world-class raconteur with a spellbinding Irish charm. Always supportive of me, he was one of the first to congratulate me when I was named editor in chief. As a subtle homage to Joe, the first sentence of my first Of Many Things column was the same sentence that he had written in his first column some 40 years earlier. When I saw him later, he wryly remarked: “Thanks. Homage is one word for it. Plagiarism is another.”

One of the last times I visited Joe was when I went to update him about the progress of the America postgraduate media fellowship that would be named in his honor. He greeted me with that jolly, mischievous smile that was so familiar to those of us who were lucky enough to know him. “Matt,” he said, “How’s our favorite magazine?”

My answer, then and now: “All the better for its long association with Joe O’Hare.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Wilton Gregory said he hopes Pope Francis will find him to be “supportive, encouraging and trustworthy” in his role as a cardinal, but his primary ministry is still to be the archbishop of Washington.
Join America Media as we prepare for the coming of our Lord with special daily Advent reflections on The Word podcast.
America StaffNovember 27, 2020
St. Francis’ poverty was not cold and brutal but actually, in a way, worldly. It was a poverty that anyone today searching for what is real and authentic might relate to.
Jason M. BaxterNovember 27, 2020
The image displays five photos of the five members of the prayer service's organizing committee: Moira Egan, a white woman in her 50s with dark hair (top left); Kathleen Friel, a white woman with short hair wearing glasses (top middle); Ricardo da Silva, S.J., a white man who is bald with a brown beard, wearing glasses (top right); Father John Mulreany, S.J., wearing clerical carb that is black, and glasses (bottom left); Allison Connelly, white woman, light brown hair and glasses (bottom right)
An New York City parish organized a fully accessible prayer service for people with disabilities, who even in the church are often forgotten on the margins.
Erika RasmussenNovember 27, 2020