Go in Peace

Remembering Eileen Egan

Eileen Egan, the irenic, indomitable Catholic pacifist who first coined the term "seamless garment" to describe the unity of Catholic teaching on "life" issues, died in New York on October 7. She was eighty-eight.

A modest, unassuming woman, often photographed wearing a scarf and glasses at the side of Mother Teresa or Dorothy Day, she was small of body but brilliant of mind. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "the just man justices." Egan, the peaceful woman, "peacified." She spent a lifetime actively serving the victims of war and promoting alternatives to armed conflict.

Born in Wales, she moved with her family to New York in 1926. A graduate of Hunter College, she was drawn to the Catholic Worker movement in the early 1940s. But Dorothy Day felt that Egan’s vocation lay elsewhere, and Egan began a career as a freelance journalist. In 1943 she joined the staff of the U.S. bishops’ War Relief Services (later known as Catholic Relief Services, or CRS). Her first assignment was in Mexico, where she worked with displaced Polish war refugees. The following year she was posted to Barcelona, where she ministered to victims of the Holocaust. She then headed the CRS office in Lisbon. Back in New York briefly in 1945, she was out of the office the July day a B-45 crashed into CRS headquarters on the seventy-ninth floor of the Empire State Building. Ten fellow staff members were killed. The following year, Egan was...

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About the Author

Patrick Jordan is a former managing editor of Commonweal.