January 25, 2024 — It’s hard to know where to start an interview with Jesuit Fr. Leo O’Donovan. At 89 years old, Fr. O’Donovan’s could boast a hefty list of accomplishments and accolades — though he’s not much interested in bragging.
A theologian by training, he studied under the prominent Jesuit Fr. Karl Rahner in Munich, where O’Donovan’s own body of work would eventually earn him The Knight Commanders Cross of the Order of Merit, with Star, of the Federal Republic of Germany.
For over a decade, Fr. O’Donovan served as president of Georgetown University. He also served on the board of the Walt Disney Company and the National Council on the Arts.
Through his many leadership positions, he has become friends with global leaders such as German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and President Joe Biden — to name a few.
Contrary to what his impressive CV might imply, Fr. O’Donovan is easy to talk to. He’s an eager storyteller, drawn to engaging people, whether that be his first-grade teacher, a Dominican nun, or his mentor Karl Rahner.
For the last eight years, Fr. O’Donovan has served as the director of mission for the Jesuit Refugee Service in the U.S, a position which he calls “an incredible privilege.”
Our conversation covers all this and more.
AMDG is a production of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.