Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine

Adolfo Nicolás, S.J. – An Introduction


Paul Locatelli, S.J. Secretary for Higher Education, Society of Jesus

April 24, 2010

Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., as Superior General of the Society of Jesus, is the 29th successor to St. Ignatius. I want to offer three points about who he is.

Citizen of the world

Born and raised in Spain. Educated in Spain, Japan, and Rome. Lived most of his life in the Asia Pacific region, and now a global leader from Rome. Following his studies of philosophy in Alcalá, he went to Japan to immerse himself in the Japanese language and culture. He studied theology at Sophia University and was ordained in 1967 in Tokyo. Later he went on for graduate studies in theology at the Gregorian University, Rome.

Adolfo Nicolás, S.J. is a person with a world view who brings together the best of Asian and Western cultures - and, at the same time, who understands and appreciates every culture represented in this room and the importance of each. He understands and speaks with deep insight about the spirituality of the East and of the West, the economic development challenges and issues of wealthy and impoverished societies, and the concern over the relationship of the North and the South.

With his vast knowledge and experience, he will offer us new insights and inspire new ways of thinking and acting to help shape a globalizing world.

Citizen of the Church

He joined the Society of Jesus in the novitiate at small village near Madrid. After his studies in Rome, he returned to Japan as a professor of theology. Later, he has served in several leadership roles, among them: the director of the Pastoral Institute at Manila, Philippines; rector for young Asian Jesuit students of theology; Provincial of the Japanese Province; and president of the East Asia-Oceania Assistancy… now the Asia Pacific Assistancy.

As a theologian and spiritual person of depth and imagination, he leads with extraordinary energy and vision in service to the Church and Pope as well as service to the People of God. With his experience working for several years in the pastoral care of poor Filipino and Asian migrant workers, he brings to his office a special care - a preferential love - for the poor.

For an increasingly complex and secular world, he offers us insights and ways to address the challenges of global secularism, of the new atheism of the developed world, of the poverty of inequality, and of the superficiality of globalization.

Companion of Jesus, friend of the Spirit, and person of God

As a member of the 35th General Congregation, I watched each elector greet and embraced him. We could experience in the aula an immense joy and sense of peace. Joy and peace are the qualities that he brings to his life, in his role as General, and as an exceptional servant leader.

Joy describes his presence - a joy that comes from his deep and abiding faith in God and fellow human beings. Peace likewise describes his presence - a peace that comes from a clear and forceful commitment to justice that one sees in the words and actions of the ancient prophets and Jesus. Most see in him many other qualities: affection and humor, that he is energetic and prayerful, that he exhibits intelligence, prudential judgment, compassion, imagination, and insight in “reading the signs of the time.”

It is easy to see him as a companion of Jesus and friend of the Spirit in and for the world of the 21st century. And he will challenge us to truly live a justice of faith with joy and peace.