Monday, August 20, 2007
JIM CONWAY SENDS BIO FOR NDHS CLASS OF 1957 REUNION -- FROM THE CONGO
JIM Conway in front of the pyramids of the Nubian 'black pharoahs".
Meroah, the Sudan
After graduation from NDHS in June of 1957, Jim thought the priesthood could be a way of serving his fellow men, and headed for the Los Angeles Diocesan Seminary next to the San Fernando Mission. The adjacent San Fernando Cemetery family plot holds his father, mother, grandmother and sister.
Jim's ordination to the Paulist Fathers took place in New York City nine years later, and he then headed out to Utah to work with Spanish-speaking farm workers.
After almost a year, Jim was moved to New York City to work with youth gangs on the West Side. The Paulists gave him the old Paulist Press book warehouse to use. He transformed it into a disco called the “Cave” where Puerto Rican and Afro-American youth met, danced and discussed their problems. Ten boys were assisted to join drug-rehabilitation programs through the disco.
Jim was asked in late 1967 to join the Newman Center Catholic Chaplaincy program at the University of California at Berkeley. He worked, as the youngest staff member, with the undergraduate and graduate students, who were immersed in the Free Speech movement, the People’s Park, the United Farm Workers Union (Cesar Chavez) and international social issues. In 1971, Jim asked the Paulists for a “leave of absence” to go to Brazil and Chile and write a thesis on liberation thinking and social change through Christianity. The thesis was published and Jim continued his leave of absence. He taught at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California in the Department of Religious Studies for a couple of years.
In 1974 Jim married Maruja Velez Gonzalez from Peru, and started an overseas career together with her. They are still together 33 years later. After extensive years of overseas living, the Conway children all reside in the West side of LAX. Their son Manuel is a lawyer in Los Angeles-and graduate of UCLA and Loyola Law School. A second son Jim is a Senior Environmental Analyst for the City of Santa Monica whose offices are above the carousel of the old pier. Maruja and Jim's daughter Maite, born in Africa, is Executive Director of a LAX publicity agency specialized in travel companies and restaurant publicity. She did her university work in Toulouse, France and at UCSB. “Cirque du Soleil” recently scouted her to do the publicity for their new Las Vegas show. She declined; didn’t want to live in that city.
Since 1974, excepting two years, Jim and Maruja have lived overseas—Jim recalls his career as serving in the armpits of the world. In Latin America, they served in Peru, Brazil, and Chile. In Asia, they served in Bangladesh and Indonesia. (7 years)
In Africa, they have served 17 years total, including Niger, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Sudan, Egypt, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On the upside, they lived 2 years in the UK, where Jim did an MA in Development Economics, (and could market himself as a Socio-Economist) and five years in Rome at the headquarters of the UN World Food Program.
Jim retired from the United Nations World Food Program after twenty years, and does freelance consultancies. He still plays a lot of tennis and bridge; and travels as a hobby.
Today, Jim and Maruja work in Congo, Kinshasa for the US government. Jim is Director of the Food for Peace program. His email is James@webconway.com.