Governors State to present honorary doctorate to Father Michael Pfleger

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Father Michael Pfleger. (Photo provided)
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Information provided by Governors State University

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. (May 12, 2022) – Governors State University will honor the Reverend Michael Pfleger, activist and social justice champion, with an honorary doctorate degree during the 2022 Commencement ceremony at the Tinley Park Convention Center on May 14, the 47th anniversary of his ordination.

Michael Pfleger, priest and community advocate

­­­­­­­­­­­­The Archdiocese of Chicago ordained young Pfleger as a priest on May 14, 1975. In 1981, at the age of 31, he became the youngest full pastor in the diocese. Pfleger, who is white, leads St. Sabina, Chicago’s largest African American Catholic Church. He has been a beloved fixture in the South Side community for nearly a half century — even before he began shepherding the St. Sabina flock. Today, the preacher is known as an outspoken and fearless advocate for social justice, racial justice, and anti-gun violence.

Creating solutions to problems plaguing his community, Pfleger has founded the Employment Resource Center, the Ark Youth Center, the Saint Sabina Social Service Center, the Samaritan House for the homeless, Saint Sabina’s 80-unit Elders Village and the Beloved Community, Inc.

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To address gang violence, Pfleger created the Peace Tournament in 2012. During the annual event, he brings together young men from rival gangs to play in a basketball tournament to promote peace. NBA officials referee the games.

As part of the church’s violence intervention efforts, St. Sabina hosts a youth group, Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere (BRAVE). In January 2022, the church hosted the funeral of BRAVE leader LaNiyah Murphy, a GSU student who, during her freshman year, was a victim of gun violence on the far south side. Pfleger delivered passionate remarks about the young advocate.

Recognizing Pfleger’s work

For his advocacy and commitment to equality, Pfleger has been recognized nationally and by historic Civil Rights groups and change-makers, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Rosa Parks Award); the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (Keeper of the Dream); and the National Black Prosecutors Association (Thurgood Marshall Award).

In 2003 and again in 2017, Pfleger delivered the keynote address for the national Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service, and at the request of the King Family, Pfleger was one of the speakers to eulogize Coretta Scott King in 2006.

The Rev. Pfleger received his B.A. in Theology from Loyola University, his Master of Divinity from the University of St. Mary of the Lake and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from North Park Theological Seminary.

Governors State University President Cheryl Green said Pfleger was chosen to receive an honorary doctorate for his uncompromising commitment to social justice, a core value of the university’s.

“When we look at individuals fighting for social justice on the South Side of Chicago, very few have greater visibility and impact than Father Michael Pfleger. His achievements have benefitted underserved communities and marginalized populations in Chicago and beyond, and his demonstrated commitment to advance the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion reflects goals and principles embraced by the university’s Social Justice Initiative,” Dr. Green said.

Pfleger will be honored during the 4:30 p.m. ceremony during which graduates will receive degrees from the College of Education and the College of Health and Human Services. Admission to the commencement ceremonies is by ticket only.

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