Fathers General


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