FATHER James 'Jim' Freeman Webb, a founder of Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE), and a former chairman of the Board of Management of Campion and St George's colleges, has passed away.
A Jesuit priest, Father Webb, who died on August 9, was yesterday hailed by local Jesuits as a "dynamic worker for God's reign and a truly blessed Christian man".
The 68-year-old Webb, a native of Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada, throughout his nearly 50 years as a Jesuit, was a pioneer for a number of institutions, programmes and publications. Among them were the Catholic New Times, the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, the Taskforce on Churches and Corporate Responsibility, Riverdale Co-operative Houses, the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice, and the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative.
He moved to Jamaica in 1986, and while working at the St Peter Claver Church in Kingston was part of a team that was active in exposing the plight of women working for companies in the Kingston Free Zone. In response to the needs of these women, he was instrumental in the founding of St Peter Claver's Women Housing Co-operative for which he was subsequently honoured with the National Union of Co-operative Societies Award.
Extending beyond his first Jamaican mission at St Peter Claver Church in Kingston, he moved to Annotto Bay in the parish of St Mary. While pastoring at St Theresa's Church he took up the cause of farmers struggling with difficult hillside terrain. With the help of the Canadian International Development Agency, the St Mary Rural Development Project was founded in 1990. The project was able to negotiate the lease of flat lands for a number of farmers in the area, resulting in life-changing improvements for many, and even produced a national champion farmer out of their midst one year. This work with farmers was accompanied by the establishment of the St Mary Multipurpose Co-operative.
It was during his more than 22 years in Jamaica that he helped organise the establishment of CAFFE. He returned to Canada in 2008 to take up his last official post.
A memorial mass in Jamaica for the Jesuit priest will be announced at a later date.