Jesuit Superior General Meets with Canada and U.S. Provincials to Focus on Mission

By Tracey Primrose

May 11, 2016 — On Friday, April 29, Father General Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, turned 80. The Jesuit Superior General, after consulting with Pope Francis and his Jesuit advisors, plans to retire this October. But in his final months in office, he shows no signs of slowing down. He spent his birthday week in El Salvador, meeting with Jesuit provincials from the U.S., Canada and Latin America. And in both large group gatherings and more intimate meetings, the Jesuit leader was quick to deliver the same message:  Jesuits need to be vigilantly dedicated to and prepared for mission and faithfully committed to building the kingdom of God.

After meetings in El Salvador, Fr. Nicolás traveled to New Orleans to meet with Jesuits and lay collaborators in the Central and Southern Province.

The gathering in El Salvador was attended by the nine Jesuit provincials from Canada and the U.S. and their 12 counterparts from Latin America, representing Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Antilles, Brazil, Peru and the countries of Central America. Jesuits from Rome were also in attendance as well as staff from both the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. and the Conference of Latin American Provincials, who helped facilitate the meeting. Also present: the president of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia and the president of the Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar.

The gathering was simultaneously translated in Spanish and English.

The provincials examined a wide range of issues, from the needs of migrants and educational opportunities for the poor to environmental protection and the rights of native people. The group talked about ways to increase collaboration, including joint participation in migration initiatives and the possibility of cross-boundary exchange programs for Jesuits preparing for ministry.

Fr. Nicolás with Jesuits from Canada and the United States.

While the provincials from Latin American and the U.S. and Canada had not met together since 2004, they were grateful for the opportunity to forge relationships in advance of the Jesuits’ General Congregation 36 when they will gather again in Rome with 200 of their brothers to elect a new superior general.

“This was a very important meeting for Jesuits in the Americas,” said Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference. “While our geography stretches from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, our common mission and call to evangelization remains the same. As we prepare to join Jesuits from around the world in Rome this October, we will bring a greater understanding of both the contributions and apostolic needs of the Society in the Americas.”

After several days of meetings, the group took a paseo or field trip to visit sites sacred both to the people of El Salvador and to the Society of Jesus. Part of the group traveled to the chapel where Blessed Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, was martyred while celebrating Mass in March of 1980, and then visited his tomb at the Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador.  The rest of the group went on a pilgrimage to sites associated with Father Rutilio Grande, SJ. Assassinated in 1977, he was the first priest executed by Salvadoran death squads at the outset of the country’s Civil War.

Archbishop Romero’s episcopal ordination. Fr. Grande is pictured to the right.

Close friends, both Romero and Grande spoke out against poverty and injustice, and scholars and theologians agree that Archbishop Romero was strongly influenced by the pastoral work that the Jesuit priest carried out in poor rural communities in northern San Salvador. Archbishop Romero was beatified by Pope Francis last May, and the Vatican has opened the beatification process for Fr. Grande.

After his time in El Salvador, Fr. General Nicolás traveled to New Orleans. His apostolic visit included Mass, a meal and an informal conversation with the Jesuits living in New Orleans and those who traveled from Alabama and elsewhere in Louisiana to meet with him.

Father General with Jesuit novices.

Later that same day, he met with a small group of lay colleagues, leaders from Jesuit apostolates in the area: Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish, Jesuit High School, Loyola University, Manresa Retreat House in Convent, Louisiana, and Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House, as well as several members of the province staff. Fr. Nicolás made a short presentation, offering a moving and sincere expression of thanks, then responded to questions.

Fr. Nicolás (center) meets with Jesuits and lay collaborators in New Orleans.

Fr. Ron Mercier, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits’ Central and Southern Province, noted that the Superior General emphasized the “great gift of our lay colleagues …Their commitment to our mission and the talents they bring make possible the extension of the mission of the Society beyond what we could do alone, even if our numbers were 10 times greater than they are. He called us Jesuits to a fuller appreciation of God’s work through our colleagues.”

Fr. Nicolás (center) with Fr. Mercier (left) and Fr. Ted Dziak, SJ, vice president for mission and ministry at Loyola University New Orleans.

Photos of the El Salvador meeting by Chris O’Connell.
Photos of the New Orleans visit by Therese Fink Meyerhoff.

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