The Society of Jesus—much like “all well-organized communities or congregations”—appoints a person “whose proper duty,” according to the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, “is to attend to the universal good.” For the Jesuits in particular, the superior general’s “duty is the good government, preservation, and growth of the whole body of the Society.” (Rather than militaristic in tone, the name “Superior General” or “Father General” connotes the general or broad responsibilities of the position.) The qualities desired in a superior general appear Part IX of the Constitutions, the selection included in the Portal’s Essential Documents.
In nearly 500 years, there have only been 31 men who have served as the superior general of the Society of Jesus.
Some facts about the 31 fathers general:
— At the time of their election, the men averaged more than 38 years of service in the Society. Since the restoration, that average has been 41 years.
— The generals were an average of 58 years old at the time of their election; three were 70 or older upon election.
— Excluding the current father general, the men have served an average of 5,215 days.
Below are more details for those men (with two others serving as the Superior General for the Society of Jesus in Russia in the years preceding the order’s restoration in 1814).
For more on the rationale for the position of the father general, please consult Antonio de Aldama’s The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus: The Superior General, Notes for a Commentary.
For additional scholarship on the fathers general, please consult these results from the Boston College Jesuit Bibliography.
|Name||Place of Birth||Date of Birth||Date Generalate Began||Age at Election||Years in the Society at Election||Position in the Society at Election||Date Generalate Ended||Duration of Generalate, in Days||Place of Death||Date of Death||Other Details|
|1||Ignatius de Loyola||Loyola, Spain||c. 1491||April 19, 1541||50||< 1||—||July 31, 1556||5,582||Rome||July 31, 1556||Also known as Iñigo Lopez de Oñaz y Loyola
Canonized: March 12, 1622
See his selected letters on the Portal’s Essential Documents
|2||Diego Laínez||Almazán, Spain||1512||July 2, 1558||46||17||Provincial of the Italian Province||January 19, 1565||2,293||Rome||January 19, 1565||Also known as Diego Laynez|
|3||Francis Borgia||Gandía, Spain||October, 28, 1510||July 2, 1565||55||19||Spanish and Portuguese Assistant, Rome||October 1, 1572||2,648||Rome||September 20, 1572||Canonized: June 20, 1670
See his letter in the Portal’s Essential Documents
|4||Everard Mercurian||Marcourt, Belgium||1514||April 23, 1573||59||25||German Assistant, Rome||August 1, 1580||2,657||Rome||August 1, 1580|
|5||Claudio Aquaviva||Atri, Italy||September 14, 1543||February 19, 1581||37||14||Provincial of the Roman Province||January 31, 1615||12,399||Rome||January 31, 1615||Also known as Claudio Acquaviva|
|6||Muzio Vitelleschi||Rome, Italy||December 2, 1563||November 15, 1615||51||32||Italian Assistant, Rome||February 9, 1645||10,679||Rome||February 9, 1645||Also known as Mutio Vitelleschi
See his letter in the Portal’s Essential Documents
|7||Vincenzo Carafa||Andria, Italy||May 9, 1585||January 7, 1646||60||42||Rector of the Roman College, Rome||June 8, 1649||1,248||Rome||June 8, 1649||Also known as Vincenzo Carrafa
See his printed sermons in the Jesuitica collection
|8||Francesco Piccolomini||Siena, Italy||October 12, 1582||December 21, 1649||67||49||Professor of Philosophy at the Roman College, Rome||June 17, 1651||543||Rome||June 17, 1651|
|9||Luigi Gottifredi||Rome, Italy||May 3, 1595||January 21, 1652||56||43||Secretary of the Society, Rome||March 12, 1652||51||Rome||March 12, 1652|
|10||Goswin Nickel||Koslar, Germany (North Rhine-Westfalia)||May 1, 1582||March 17, 1652||70||48||German Assistant, Rome||July 31, 1664||4,519||Rome||July 31, 1664|
|11||Giovanni Paolo Oliva||Genoa, Italy||October 4, 1600||July 31, 1664||63||48||Perpetual Vicar General, Rome||November 26, 1681||6,327||Rome||November 26, 1681|
|12||Charles de Noyelle||Brussels, Belgium||August 27, 1615||July 5, 1682||67||52||German Assistant, Rome||December 12, 1686||1,621||Rome||December 12, 1686|
|13||Tirso González de Santalla||Arganza, Spain||January 18, 1624||July 6, 1687||63||44||Missionary, Spanish Province||October 27, 1705||6,688||Rome||October 27, 1705||Also known as Thyrsus González de Santalla|
|14||Michelangelo Tamburini||Montese, Italy||December 6, 1648||January 31, 1706||57||42||Secretary of the Society, Rome||February 28, 1730||8,794||Rome||February 28, 1730|
|15||Frantisek Retz||Prague, Bohemia||September 13, 1673||March 7, 1730||56||41||Central European Assistant, Rome||November 19, 1750||7,562||Rome||November 19, 1750||Also known as Franz Retz or Francis Retz|
|16||Ignazio Visconti||Milan, Italy||July 31, 1682||July 4, 1751||68||49||Italian Assistant, Rome||May 4, 1755||1,389||Rome||May 4, 1755|
|17||Luigi Centurione||Genoa, Italy||August 29, 1686||November 30, 1755||69||52||Italian Assistant, Rome||October 2, 1757||672||Castel Gandolfo||October 2, 1757|
|18||Lorenzo Ricci||Florence, Italy||August 1, 1703||May 21, 1758||54||40||Secretary of the Society, Rome||August 16, 1773||5,566||Rome||1775|
|—||Franciszek Kareu||Orša, Belarus||December 10, 1731||—||—||—||—||—||—||Polotsk, Belarus||August 11, 1802||Served as the Superior General of the Society of Jesus in Russia: March 1801–August 11, 1802|
|—||Gabriel Gruber||Vienna, Austria||May 6, 1740||—||—||—||—||—||—||St. Petersburg, Russia||April 7, 1805||Served as the Superior General of the Society of Jesus in Russia: October 22, 1802–April 6, 1805|
|19||Tadeusz Brzozowski||Kaliningrad, Russia||October 21, 1749||August 7, 1814||64||49||Superior General of the Society of Jesus in Russia||February 5, 1820||2,008||Polotsk, Belarus||February 5, 1820||Served as the Superior General of the Society of Jesus in Russia: 1805–1814
Became Superior General of the Society of Jesus upon the Order’s restoration in 1814
|20||Luigi Fortis||Verona, Italy||February 26, 1748||October 18, 1820||72||58||Vicar of Rome||January 27, 1829||3,023||Rome||January 27, 1829|
|21||Jan Roothaan||Amsterdam, Netherlands||November 23, 1785||July 9, 1829||43||25||Vice Provincial of the Italian Province||May 8, 1853||8,796||Rome||May 8, 1853|
|22||Pieter Jan Beckx||Zichem, Belgium||February 8, 1795||July 2, 1853||58||34||Provincial of the Austrian Province||March 4, 1887||12,298||Rome||March 4, 1887||Also known as Peter Jan Beckx|
|23||Anton Anderledy||Berisal, Switzerland||June 3, 1819||March 4, 1887||67||49||German Assistant, Rome||January 18, 1892||1,781||Fiesole||January 18, 1892|
|24||Luis Martín||Melgar de Fernamental, Spain||August 19, 1846||October 2, 1892||46||28||Secretary of the Society, Fiesole||April 18, 1906||4,945||Rome||April 18, 1906|
|25||Franz Xavier Wernz||Rottweil, Germany (Württemberg)||December 4, 1842||September 8, 1906||63||48||Rector of the Gregorian University, Rome||August 19, 1914||2,902||Rome||August 19, 1914|
|26||Wlodimir Ledóchowski||Loosdorf, Austria||October 7, 1866||February 11, 1915||48||26||German Assistant, Rome||December 13, 1942||10,167||Rome||December 13, 1942||See his remarks on the Jesuits’ quadricentennial anniversary in the Portal’s Essential Documents|
|27||Jean-Baptist Janssens||Mechelen, Belgium||December 22, 1889||September 15, 1946||56||39||Provincial of the Northern Belgian Province||October 5, 1964||6,595||Rome||October 5, 1964||Also known as John Baptist Janssens|
|28||Pedro Arrupe||Bilbao, Spain||November 14, 1907||May 22, 1965||57||38||Provincial of the Japanese Province||September 3, 1983||6,678||Rome||February 5, 1991||See his remarks at the General Congregations in the Portal’s Essential Documents|
|29||Peter-Hans Kolvenbach||Druten, Netherlands||November 30, 1928||September 13, 1983||55||35||Rector of the Oriental Institute, Rome||January 14, 2008||8,889||Beirut||November 26, 2016||See his remarks at the General Congregations in the Portal’s Essential Documents|
|30||Adolfo Nicolás||Villamuriel de Cerrato, Spain||April 29, 1936||January 19, 2008||71||55||Moderator of the Jesuit Conference for Eastern Asia and Oceania, Philippines||October 3, 2016||3,180||—||—||Also known as Adolfo Nicolás Pachón
See his remarks at the General Congregations in the Portal’s Essential Documents
|31||Arturo Sosa||Caracas, Venezuela||November 12, 1948||October 14, 2016||67||50||Delegate for Interprovincial Houses, Rome||—||—||—||—||See his remarks at the General Congregations in the Portal’s Essential Documents|