The Rev. William F. Ryan, the founder and for seven years the director of thd social justice oriented Center of Concern here, leaves next week to take over as provincial superior of English speaking Jesuits throughout Canada.
The slection of the genial softe-spoken priest, trained as an economist, to such an important post is being viewed in church circles as a quiet endorsement of the work done by the center under his leadership.
Although it has attempted to maintain a low profile, the center has contributed its resources to a vast number of undertakings, both secular and religious, in its seven years.
The center, housed in a two-story white house in a residential neighorhood adjacent to Catholic University, was developed in response to 1970 request from the United States Catholic Conference for an action research center forcusing on justice and peace issues.
Father Ryan, 52, former social action director for the Canadian Catholic Conference, was asked to make the feasibility study and subsequently was named director of the center at its opening in May 1971 by Father Pedro Arrupe, superior general of the jesuit order.
Although the center was launched by Jesuit initiative and with Jesuit funding, it has continued as an autonomous institution.
Its staff of 10 men and women are in constant demand throughout the country as experts on topics ranging from world hunger to to role of women, were questions related to justice are under consideration.
more than 20 per cent of the center's income came last year from stipends to staff members.
The bulk of the insitution's income comes from donations, with smaller amounts from grants and sales of publications.
One of the most notable publications produced by the center was a treatise ghost-written by center staffer Joe Holland and issued as a pastoral letter of the 23 Roman Catholic bishops of the Appalachian region.
Entitled "This Land is Home to Me - A Pastoral Letter on Powerlessness in Appalachia," the document raised troubling questions about the reasons for the bitter poverty in that section of the country.
Center staff members appear regularly in such forums as United Nations agency conferences, the International Development Conference and the World Bank.
A memorandum by economist Mary Burke on "A More Creative Role For Women in World Development" was distrubuted by the U.S. Department of State for International Women's Year conferences.
In 1975, staffer Burke, along with Sister Elizabeth Carroll and Jane Blewett, were among the organizers of the first nationwide conference, in Detroit, to explore in justices to women in both church and society.
"A major effort of the center since its inception has been to provide substantive analysis of key social justice questions, in order to advance understanding and action," a report of the center explains.
As a matter of policy, Father Ryan explained, the center has made its expertise available to projects of other institutions, both secular and religious, rather than starting ventures of its own.
"We want to keep ourselves in the position of trying to influence people, rather than building institutions," said Father Ryan. "It's been our policy to try to put the words into other people's mouths," he said.
Father Ryan is succeeded as director by the Rev. Peter J. Henroit, a political scientists who has been a staff associate at the center for the past six years. True to the center's concern for international justice problems, Father Hurnroit, 41, recently has returned from living and working for a year in a squatters' barrio in Medellin, Colombia.