Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., was elected superior general of the Society of Jesus on Saturday, Jan. 19 in Rome. As leader of the Jesuits, Father Nicolas will succeed Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., who is stepping down at the age of 79.
A European with extensive experience in East Asia and a mastery of five languages, Father Nicolas’ distinguished career has prepared him for his new position as an international religious leader.
“Father Nicolas believes that the West has a lot to learn from the East about spirituality and its effect on human living,” said John J. Cecero, S.J., Fordham psychology professor and rector of the Jesuit community at Spellman Hall. Father Cecero’s research focuses on the relationship of spirituality to mental health.
“I’m enthusiastic about his generalate because I believe he will continue to focus Jesuits and our colleagues on listening to the East, especially voices that emphasize Eastern spirituality, justice and a commitment to the faith across the entire spectrum of cultures.”
Father Nicolas was born in Palencia, Spain in 1936. He earned a degree in philosophy in his native country and made the decision to enter the novitiate to become a Jesuit. He went on to study theology in Japan, where he was ordained in 1967.
After completing a master’s degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Father Nicolas returned to Asia, where he held several positions. In the 1970s, he served as a professor at Sophia University in Tokyo; was the director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila from the late 1970s to the early 1980s; held leadership posts in the order in Japan in the 1990s; and was moderator of the Jesuit Conference for Eastern Asia and Oceania from 2004 to 2007.
“The universal enthusiasm for the election of Father Adolfo Nicolas certainly bodes well for the future of the Society of Jesus,” said Charles L. Currie, S.J., president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. “Father Nicolas combines all of the qualities needed at this time: charismatic leadership; long experience in linking education and intellectual life to concern for justice and the poor; a great sensitivity to different cultures; and a deep spirituality. To all of these he adds a great sense of humor.”
The process of electing a new superior general involves a period of discussion about possible candidates (known as “murmuratio”) followed by a vote by Jesuit delegates from all over the world. The current delegation includes Santa Clara University President Paul Locatelli, S.J., and Canisius College President Vincent Cooke, S.J.
“We are indeed fortunate to be able to build so enthusiastically on the strong legacies of Father Nicolas’ predecessors, Father Arrupe and Father Kolvenbach,” Currie said. “Our colleges and universities look forward to working with him.”