Fr. W. Penn Dawson, S.J., a native of Tampa, attended the University of Florida in Gainesville and received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1984 and a Juris Doctor in 1987. He then practiced as a trial lawyer at Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen in Tampa for 23 years, eventually becoming a partner. During this time, Penn began attending Sacred Heart Parish, where he met the Jesuits. In 2005, the parish nominated him for the permanent deacon program in the diocese; while studying for the diaconate, it became apparent to him that he might have a vocation to religious life. Drawn to the Jesuits’ diversity of ministry, Penn left the diaconate program and entered the Society of Jesus in 2009. As a novice, he worked with missionaries in Guyana, South America; lived in a L’Arche community in Mobile, Alabama, and at a homeless shelter in New York City; served as a volunteer chaplain at a juvenile detention center; and taught theology at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri. After the novitiate, Penn studied at Loyola University Chicago for two years, earning a master’s degree in philosophy in 2013. While in Chicago, he also worked as a chaplain to a diverse population at Stroger-Cook County Hospital. Penn did his regency at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where he taught courses on torts, legal ethics and legal philosophy for two years. During the summers, he worked in campus ministry and accompanied students and faculty on service trips to Jamaica and Belize. Penn next headed to Regis College at the University of Toronto to study theology, earning a Master of Divinity degree and a Bachelor of Theology. As a deacon, he served at St. Peter’s Church in Toronto, and last summer he taught a course in Rome on Ignatian spirituality. He serves on the board of trustees at Jesuit High School in Tampa. Penn will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis. His first assignment will be working in pastoral ministry in Belize. (USA Central and Southern Province)
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