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Historic visit with Jesuit Superior General invigorates U.S. Jesuit college and university leaders

November 1, 2013

The Rev. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, recently met for the first time with all presidents and chairs of the boards of trustees of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, including Loyola University New Orleans President Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D., and Board Chair J. Kevin Poorman.

During this historic meeting at Loyola University Chicago in mid-October, Nicolás shared his thoughts on how the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Society of Jesus and for whom Loyola University New Orleans is named) can inspire the presidents’ and chairs’ leadership of their institutions today.

“In the understanding of St. Ignatius, the principal function of a leader is to help the members of a community grow to become the living presence of God in the world,” said Nicolás. “In the Ignatian concept of service, there is always the very important fact that growth leads to transformation. If there is no transformation, the process has failed.”

Since he was elected to his position as superior general in 2008, Nicolás has spoken across the world as the leader of the Society of Jesus. This was his first meeting with both U.S. Jesuit presidents and board chairs, two groups that also met together for the first time to discuss ways they can strengthen their relationship as collaborative leaders in Jesuit higher education, especially in light of the declining number of Jesuits on campuses across the country. Nicolás recognized the significant presence of lay leaders (including eight lay presidents) at Jesuit institutions and also encouraged them to promote Jesuit vocations on campus.

Nicolás challenged the presidents and board chairs, along with the Jesuit provincials of the U.S., to decide how they can more effectively lead their institutions in the future, asking, “What selfless actions—based in the freedom, generosity, and shared values as a community committed to Jesuit higher education—might God be asking you to lead at your particular institution?” He then asked the same question about the way all 28 institutions could collaborate with each other. He said, “I have no doubt that you are the right group to begin with consideration of these questions, for you have the talents and temperament, the head and heart, to do what needs to be done.”

Nicolás concluded his talk by thanking attendees for their service to U.S. Jesuit higher education. He said, “Jesuit, Catholic institutions of higher education would not be the important apostolic instruments they have become without you. They will not flourish in the future without your commitment and hard work. Thank you for being part of this important apostolate of the Society of Jesus.”

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