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Theological Notebook: The Jesuits Elect Fr. Adolpho Nicolás their 30th Superior General

The Jesuits have today elected Fr. Adolpho Nicolás, S.J. as the new Superior General of the Society of Jesus. A short description says of him, "Fr. Nicolás, S.J. is 71 years old and was born in Madrid, Spain. He studied theology in Japan and has spent much of his ministry in Japan, as theology professor at Sophia University, as the Director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, as Provincial of Japan, and most recently as the Moderator of the East Asian Assistancy." It sounds like the mix of Jesuit Christian spirituality and heritage along with his deep experience of the emerging churches of Asia and their cultures is what made him the choice that captured the imagination and hopes of his fellow Jesuits.

One of my professors here at Marquette, David Schultenover, S.J., who is an expert in modern theological history and who succeeded my dissertation director Michael Fahey, S.J. in the lofty role of Editor of Theological Studies, is a delegate at the Society of Jesus' 35th General Congregation in Rome, where they have been conducting this business of electing their 30th Superior General, the 29th successor to Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society. The Jesuits, as members of the Society are called, are the largest religious order on the planet, with some 20,000 members, and are famed for their educational and mission work. Marquette University, where I am finishing my doctoral work, is among their many universities, which in the United States alone also include such other leading universities as Boston College, Georgetown, Creighton, the University of San Francisco, and the various Loyola Universities and Colleges.

Fr. Schultenover has been blogging from the General Congregation and his entries describing his experiences can be found on a page the Society has been keeping on the General Congregation on the Creighton University website, which I linked above. As I also wrote above, the Jesuits have today elected Fr. Adolpho Nicolás, S.J. as the new Superior General of the Society of Jesus. While that particular event has yet to make it to Fr. David's blog, it's an interesting, more "street-level" glimpse of this current event in Church History, and so I thought I'd mention and link all this here. I copy and include for my own notebook, the Jesuits' news release Official U.S. Jesuit Conference News Story, with reaction of U.S. Provincials (the leaders of the various "provinces" of Jesuits here in the States).

35th General Congregation Elects Adolfo Nicolás, SJ
posted by: on Saturday, January 19, 2008
Choice of Superior General Seen as a “Bridge to All Parts of the World”

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2008 – After four days of prayer and personal conversation known as murmurationes, the 217 Jesuit electors gathered in Rome from around the world have chosen Adolfo Nicolás, SJ as the 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was the President of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania and the former Provincial of Japan. He is now Father General to nearly 20,000 Jesuits worldwide, including 2,900 in the United States, and the 29th successor to St. Ignatius Loyola who founded the Jesuits in 1540.

Jesuit Conference of the United States President Father Thomas Smolich, SJ, who served on the Coetus Praevius (a planning committee for GC 35) with Father Nicolás, said, “The electors chose the man God had in mind.” Smolich added, “Our new Father General is profoundly spiritual; when you talk to him there is a depth that is striking.”

In an age where diverse cultures, religions and ways of life interact on an unprecedented scale, Father Nicolás is widely viewed as among the leading Jesuit experts on inter-religious dialogue. “His history as a scholar and theology professor, educated in both Tokyo and Rome, and his multiple language skills of east and west were also important to this international body of educators,” said Father Fred Kammer, SJ, provincial of New Orleans and one of the electors. “His experiences of the dynamic emerging Church in such countries as India, Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines and his vision for spreading the Gospel appealed to many – reminding them of the great missionary St. Francis Xavier,” according to Kammer.

New York Provincial Father Jeff Chojnacki, SJ added, “his election is a bridge to all parts of the world.” It is a bridge expected to reach across not only geographic divisions. Father Shogo Sumita, SJ, current provincial of Japan, recalled how Father Nicolás moved from the provincial residence to one of poorest neighborhoods. “He has a deep grace of Ignatian spirituality and a creative imagination. After serving as provincial, he decided to live and work with the poor,” said Father Sumita.

Father Nicolás was born in Spain, earned a degree in systematic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, taught at the Sophia University in Tokyo, directed the East Asia Pastoral Institute in the Philippines, served as presiding secretary of the 34th General Congregation in 1995, and speaks five languages. His visits to the United States have included stops at the Arrupe Experience, an annual preparation program for American Jesuits nearing ordination.

The Provincial of Maryland Father Tim Brown, SJ sees the election of a man with this breadth to be a “sign of unity and peace.” New England Provincial Father Tom Regan adds, “We are delighted that such a holy man, one who has such a vision of the world, has been selected to lead us.”

“And at 71 years old,” says Father Smolich, “Nicolás walks faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

For more information as it becomes available directly from the Curia, please visit
Tags: asia, catholicism, jesuits, teachers, theological notebook

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