After Nearly Two Decades in Rome, U.S. Jesuit Has Unique Global Perspective on the Society

Jesuit Father Frank Case

Photo via Gonzaga Magazine

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.

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