Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine

Letter from Rome

Paul Locatelli writes home to his fellow Jesuits in California. Below are edited excerpts.

Jan. 20, 2008

We did a most amazing thing in electing Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., as our next General. We elected an inspirational, wise, holy, and effective leader who will build on the foundation of Father Kolvenbach’s generalate.

Yesterday was one of the most profound experiences in my life. I am most grateful for all in the California Province, especially those who elected me to represent them at this Congregation.

A word on the flow of the day. Many were up early to pray and reflect on the election. At breakfast there was a quiet anticipation, an excitement about an important “thing that was about to happen” mingled with both confidence and hope that the Holy Spirit would guide us when balloting began.

Around 7:40 a.m. we began to gather in the Chiesa de Santo Spirito in Sassia, which is immediately across from the entrance to Curia, for the Mass of the Holy Spirit ad electionem. I suspect that from all the electors, the abiding prayer was asking for the grace of Holy Spirit to guide our minds and hearts to judge wisely.

Following Mass, we gathered in the Aula; the session began with an hour of prayer. Father Kolvenbach entered at 9:27 and walked to the front. At precisely 9:30 he stood, said “Deo gratias” and exited; we stood and sang the “Veni, Creator Spiritus.” Citing the 11th part of Constitutions, Jacques Gellard, the regional assistant for Western Europe, outlined key points to consider in the election of the new General.

Papal Audience
Papal Audience: Benedict meets with Adolfo Nicolás and the Jesuit General Congregation.
Photo: Courtesy Society of Jesus
We prayed in silence—the tranquility among electors was interrupted only by an occasional cough. I prayed for indifference, the freedom to choose whom I judged best according to the dozen or so qualities and the freedom to accept whomever would be elected; and an indifference of reflecting, understanding, judging, and deciding for the good of the Society and for the greater glory of God. We needed to elect someone who could both effect a positive relationship within the Church and with Pope Benedict and respond to the needs of the Church.

Balloting began at 10:30. The first ballot took less than an hour, with only a few getting a significant number of votes. During the second balloting, it fairly soon became clear that Adolfo Nicolás would become our new General. When he received the 109th ballot, there was spontaneous applause for several minutes. We were extremely happy with the choice, and we felt that the Holy Spirit was truly at work in our midst.

Adolfo fulfills the dozen or so qualities that I looked for in a General, and more. His election is a vote for the future; a vote of hope; a vote of confidence in our mission of faith, culture, justice and dialogue; a vote for renewal of our spiritual and apostolic life grounded in the Spiritual Exercises, the Constitutions, and the spirit of Vatican Council II. He is a Jesuit for all seasons.
I am excited about working with him.

Now, the other work of the Congregation begins…. Please continue to pray for us; our work is not finished.

Fraternally in Christ,


P.S. I’m now off to a party.

To read additional letters from Paul Locatelli, S.J., visit the President's Web site.