Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás, superior general of the Society of Jesus, has been appointed president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), which represents the superior generals of more than 200 male religious orders. Fr. Nicolás will serve a three-year term and succeeds Franciscan Father José Rodriguez Carballo.
Founded by the Congregation for Religious, UISG’s purpose is to promote the life and mission of individual institutes that work in service of the church in order to make their collaboration more efficient and contact with the Holy See and the hierarchy more fruitful.
All superiors general of religious institutes or societies are members of the UISG. As superior general of the Jesuits, Fr. Nicolás is the leader of the largest religious order in the world. His long experience in Asia and his ability to govern are qualities the Society of Jesus sought in January 2008 when Fr. Nicolás was appointed superior general.
Fr. Nicolás was born in Palencia, Spain, in 1936. He has a degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and he completed a Master of Sacred Theology in 1971 at Sophia University in Tokyo, where he went on to become a professor of Systematic Theology. He was director of the Pastoral Institute in Manila from 1978 to 1984, and from 1991 to 1993 he was rector of theologate in Tokyo. He served as provincial of the Jesuit Province of Tokyo between 1993 and 1999. From 2004 to 2007, he was president of the Jesuit Conference of Provincials for Eastern Asia and Oceania. [Vatican Insider]
On Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee finished wading through more than 300 amendments to the 800+ page proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill yesterday, approving an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws with a 13 to 5 vote. As the bill now moves to the Senate floor, there’s new and renewed enthusiasm for immigration reform.
Last week, the nine U.S. provincials of the Society of Jesus in the United States sent letters to Congress and the Obama Administration calling for “fair, just and humane” immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million. The provincials made a similar appeal in 2011. Currently, the provincials are attending a Jesuit Conference board meeting in El Salvador, where they will explore this complicated issue in greater depth.
In a wide-ranging interview with National Jesuit News, Jesuit Father Tom Greene, Secretary for Social and International Ministries for the Jesuit Conference, discussed his hopefulness regarding immigration reform, the provincials’ commitment to the 11 million and the role of the “pesky priest” in the ongoing debate.
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Father Frank Case is an American Jesuit with a vision of the international whole of the Society of Jesus. He spent 18 years in Rome, where he received an education in the Society’s global works.
In 1990, Fr. Case became regional assistant representing U.S. Jesuits to Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. In 2005, he was named general secretary, the Society’s No. 2 position. Six days a week, he and other advisers met with the Father General for briefings on Jesuit matters from all over the world.
Fr. Case, who now serves as vice president for Mission and Identity at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., shared some of his insights on the global Society of Jesus.
“Africa was marvelous to watch. With our Oregon Province twinned with Zambia, we still have about five men from our province in Zambia,” he said. “There are a lot of young provincials in Africa … It’s neat to see them take ownership of their society and of the African Church, which is burgeoning, full of life and vitality.”
As for Asia, India has the largest population of Jesuits in the world – more than 4,000 of 18,000 Jesuits worldwide, according to Fr. Case. Vietnam sees healthy Jesuit growth, he says, with 20 to 40 vocations per year.
China has two often-polarized strands of the Catholic Church, the government-run Catholic Patriotic Association and the underground Church, explained Fr. Case. In a sign of its trust of the Jesuits, Fr. Case said, the Chinese government asked American Jesuit universities to collaborate in creating a U.S.-style MBA program in Beijing. The program began in 1998 and thrived until publicity of its successes upset the unusual arrangement. Yet China continues to tolerate a Jesuit presence, Fr. Case said.
When Fr. Case arrived in Rome, the fall of the Iron Curtain was still reverberating.
“When the Berlin Wall collapsed,” he said, “we had [Jesuits] coming out of the woodwork. In one case, two blood brothers were Jesuits, and neither knew about the other. That was the level of secrecy needed all through Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania. One Jesuit was a nuclear physicist in Lithuania. He sat on the equivalent of the Russian atomic energy commission, and certainly no one knew that he was a Jesuit.”
Read more of Fr. Case’s insights in the story by Marny Lombard at Gonzaga University Magazine’s website.
The Society of Jesus’ diversity of ministries and commitment to the poor and marginalized drew Vincent Giacabazi to the Jesuits. Giacabazi, a Jesuit scholastic, says that Pope Francis’ election has helped the Jesuits become well-known for more than just their universities in the U.S.
“Jesuits are also involved in ministry to and accompaniment of refugees and migrants and in other works in the social apostolate, inter-religious dialogue, parish ministry, secondary and primary education, especially among the poor, the offering of the Spiritual Exercises (of St. Ignatius) in various settings and so on,” said Giacabazi.
He entered the Society in August 2005 and is pursuing theology studies at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. Born in Peoria, Ill., Giacabazi attended a Catholic parish and said, “I had certainly thought about (the priesthood), but I wasn’t ready to enter a seminary of any kind.”
Giacabazi first encountered the Jesuits at Saint Louis University. A class on the Gospel of Mark and Catholic social teaching had an active component that had him working at a shelter for women in crisis. Additionally, Giacabazi and his father developed a tradition of going to the preached retreats at White House Retreat, a Jesuit retreat center in St. Louis that focuses on the Spiritual Exercises.
“Out of that experience I learned how to be more attentive to my prayer and how to be attentive to discern the will of God in my life,” Giacabazi explained. “The combination of the professors who inspired me academically, broadened my horizons on how to think, how to write and how to engage the world, as well as the campus ministers dealing with the heart, and mixing those two together with the retreat, I started to think, ‘Maybe I could be one of those guys.’”
During the Jesuit formation process, there are opportunities not just to study poverty and what it means to be rejected, lonely and lowly, but to live it. At the novitiate in St. Paul, Minn., Giacabazi was given a one-way bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, and $30 and told to return in 30 days, relying on the kindness of others along the way.
“It was awesome,” Giacabazi said of his pilgrimage. “Unless a Christian has a direct experience of helplessness and utter poverty — spiritual or actual — it’s hard to relate on an intimate level with people who live that day in and day out. Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) would have had a similar experience.”
Read more about Giacabazi’s experience as a Jesuit in The Catholic Post, the newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill.
U.S. Jesuit Provincials Urge Action in Letters to Congress and Obama Administration
In letters to President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress, the nine provincials of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in the United States are calling for comprehensive and humane immigration reform. More than 200 Jesuit communities, affiliated organizations, parishes and institutions are also lending their support to the provincials’ appeal.
Provincials are leaders in the Society of Jesus, an order of priests and brothers founded in 1540, responsible for colleges, middle schools and high schools as well as parishes and ministries that practice a faith that promotes justice. The provincials’ letters to Congress and the president urge that any proposed immigration reform include a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants as well as a legal employment structure protecting both migrants and U.S. workers, expedited family reunification and an end to policies that exacerbate family separation. The letters to Congress and the Obama Administration follow a similar appeal made by the provincials in 2011.
“The immigration debate provokes emotion on both sides of the aisle and we hope that our elected officials can rise above partisan politics,” said Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference. “Because of our commitment to educating the children of migrants in our schools, serving migrant communities in our parishes and offering men, women and children food and shelter on the border, we see firsthand the costs of current immigration laws. We’ve been calling for reform for many years, and we’ve never been closer. We pray that Congress considers the future of 11 million people hanging in the balance.”
The letter is the most recent action by the Jesuits supporting immigration reform. Earlier this year, the Jesuit Conference, the Kino Border Initiative and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA released a new study, “Documented Failures: The Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” highlighting excessive use of force, particularly dangerous deportation practices and abuse of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, testified at a congressional hearing on the report in April.