Reflection of Fr. John McGarry, S.J. on the Election of Fr. Alfonso Nicholas as 3oth Father General of the Society of Jesus
California Bulletin 08.05
January 19, 2008
Dear Brothers in Christ,
Greetings from our Curia in Rome where, as you now undoubtedly know, today the delegates of the 35th General Congregation have elected Fr. Adolfo Nicolas as the new Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
It is with great joy and gratitude that I share this news with you about Fr. Nicolas, who is from Madrid, Spain and who entered the Society there in 1953. He has a doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. For most of his Jesuit life, Fr. Nicolas has served in Asia. He is a Theologian, who taught at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, where he also directed a Pastoral Institute. He was Provincial of the Province of Japan, and most recently has been serving as the Moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceana. Fr. Nicolas is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and French.
I had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Nicolas during the murmuratio, and I can tell you, with confidence, that he is a man of prayer and deep love for Jesus, for the Society, and for the Church. He is a very bright man, a competent Theologian, a creative thinker, a man of vision, a Jesuit with zeal for the Gospel and for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the people he is sent to serve. He is a faithful servant of the Church. Most obvious when you meet him, talk to him, listen to him, or observe him with others, is his warmth, his love for people and the joy with which he lives his religious and priestly life by seeing God in others.
We are indeed blessed, my brothers, to have Fr. Adolfo Nicolas as our new Superior General.
I must share with you how grateful I am to have been a part of this process, so rooted in our history and in our way of proceeding. The period of murmurationes made me so proud to be a Jesuit because each of us took very seriously the call to consult with each other one on one about the qualities of the men the Lord was asking us to consider as our leader in the Society of Jesus. The opportunity to speak with Jesuits from all over the world about their hopes and desires in seeking to serve the Church and the People of God as Jesuits was nothing short of a great blessing and a grace. To listen to each other and especially to the Holy Spirit as we articulated the qualities that we felt the Society needs in the new Superior General was an exercise of love, humility and trust. We were obedient in listening to the Spirit in seeking the guidance we needed for the election. We began each day of the murmurationes with mass in language groups. We ended each day with benediction together in the Chapel of St. Francis Borgia. We had plenty of time for private prayer each day as well.
This morning Fr. Frank Case, the Secretary of the Society of Jesus, celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit in the Church of the Holy Spirit across the street from the General Curia. We all concelebrated with him in asking the Lord's blessing as we prayed: Come Holy Spirit.
From the Church we walked in silence to the Aula of the General Congregation and once again sang in prayer: Veni Sancte Spiritus. Fr. Kolvenbach, to whom the Society is greatly indebted, led us in prayer. Fr. Jacques Gellard, one of the General Assistants, gave us a beautiful exhortation on the election and our duty to the Society and the Church in this process. We followed this by 40 minutes of silent prayer together in the Aula. It was during this time that I felt very strongly the reality of the prayers of so many, including all of you, for all of us as we sought God's will and the Spirit's lead. It was an amazing experience as all 217 electors prayed in silence together. God was with us. We Jesuits are at our best when we pray and serve together.
The election itself was very moving because I realized how much it was deeply rooted in our prayer and conversation. Fr. Kolvenbach and the Secretaries took the oath to steward the election carefully and truthfully, and then in procession we deposited our votes into the voting boxes in solemn silence.
Fr. Nicolas was elected on the second ballot, and we gave him a warm and sustained applause of gratitude and support. After Fr. Nicolas prayed his oath as the new Superior General, we once again processed in joy to greet him individually so that we could congratulate him, thank him, and promise him our prayers and support.
We completed the process by joining together with the Jesuit Community of the Curia and Canisius House (Ernie Martinez, Calprov member, is the Superior) in the Main Curia Chapel of St. Francis Borgia for a Te Deum with our new Superior General, at the end of which he gave us his blessing.
Tomorrow, Sunday, January 20th, Fr. General Adolfo Nicolas, will preside and preach at a mass for all the Jesuits in Rome at the Church of the Gesu, followed by a reception at the Gregorian University.
There is much more you will learn about Fr. Nicolas in the days to come. Already there is much information on various websites, including SJ Web and the Creighton University special website for the Congregation. You will be able to see photographs of the various activities.
I ask that all members of the California Province join me in giving thanks to God for our new Superior General. The Lord has blessed us with a holy man who will inspire the young and the old through his passionate and energetic leadership and spiritual depth.
Paul Locatelli, Mike Kennedy, Tom Smolich and I are all doing well and gaining much through this powerful experience of the Society. Thank you for your constant prayers and support. Keep them coming. The Province is never far from my thoughts and prayers as we represent you and the whole Society in the 35th General Congregation.
Gratefully in the Lord,
John P. McGarry, S.J.