Please join Laura Waterman Wittstock on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 as she reprises a 2009 conversation with Joe Selvaggio. Born and raised in Chicago, Joe attended Marquette University (majoring in math), followed by eight years of seminary training. After earning a B.A. in Philosophy from Aquinas University, he was ordained into the Benedictine priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church in 1965. His years as a priest (primarily in the South) were marked by a keen interest in civil rights. During his ministry at Holy Rosary Church in the Phillips Community in Minneapolis, he decided to leave the priesthood (in 1968) in order to address the issues of civil rights and social justice.
In 1972, he founded Project for Pride in Living (PPL), an organization created to address poverty issues in a south Minneapolis neighborhood by purchasing run-down, inner-city houses and then using a comprehensive approach to rebuild. The “rebuilding” of the neighborhood—by the neighborhood itself—addressed a rich set of goals: job training, youth development, public safety, better transportation, affordable housing, development of problem-solving skills, building a healthy sense of community, leadership development, planning for the future, and overall self-sufficiency within the community.
Joe served as PPL’s executive director for 26 years, retiring in 1996 after completing a $4.5 million capital campaign.