A child on his/her mother’s back (or hands) does not worry about the journey, so says an African proverb. The child feels secure, cared for, protected and loved by the mother. When around mid-morning of Monday, 3 October 2016, Fr. General Adolfo Nicolás tendered his resignation to General Congregation (GC) 36, there was certainly no doubt that that was a “matter of greater moment!” He did it with so much graciousness, calm, peace and interior freedom—and, I should add, with joy! Shortly before noon, GC 36 accepted the resignation of the 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus on the Feast day of the 3rd Superior General of the Society, St. Francis Borgia. As Fr. Nicolás walked back into the Aula, the standing ovation was prolonged and deafening! A rare historical event of enormous importance had just taken place before our very eyes! Different emotions welled up. Somewhat strangely, I felt like a newly bereaved orphan—not only “orphaned” as an individual, but it seemed as though the entire Society of Jesus had just lost a good, caring and beloved parent! Indeed, the Society had just “lost” her General, her spiritual servant-leader. But, as has been true from the time of the First Superior General of the Society, Ignatius of Loyola, the Society continues to remain in God’s providential hands.
God’s hands have always guided the Society since the 16th century. Our ‘ancestors” in the Society, though dead, are still, in some sense, an integral part of the One Apostolic Body of the Society. This was powerfully ritualized towards the end of the opening Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, 2 October, in the Church of the Gesù. After Communion, Fr. General Nicolás gave a vote of thanks to Fr. Bruno Cadoré, the Master General of the Dominicans who presided and preached. Afterwards, Fr. Nicolas led the six Presidents of the various Jesuit Conferences to the Chest of Relics of Jesuit Saints and Blessed. There they said a series of prayers, read by each president in his native language, with the opening and concluding prayer by Fr. General. For me, this was a very moving experience, symbolizing the unity and continuity of the living Jesuits with our Jesuit companions—ancestors—who have gone before us to their eternal reward.
Beginning yesterday afternoon, and continuing all day today, we have been meeting in small groups. There we share our Jesuit vocation stories and the various ministries through which we have been engaged in the service of the Lord and the Church. We also discuss some of the current state of affairs in the universal Society. We are getting to know one another gradually. Conversations over tea and meals are enlightening. These are only the initial days of the Congregation. We have begun well. As we journey along in the coming weeks, we abandon ourselves in the hands of God.
Chuks Afiawari, S.J.