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Father Adolfo Nicolás, S.J.


The University was informed today that former Jesuit Superior General Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., passed away on May 20 in Tokyo, Japan, at the age of 84. 

Father Nicolás was elected Superior General by the 35th General Congregation in January 2008, and he served in that position until his resignation in October 2016. During that time, Fr. Nicolás made innumerable contributions to the progress of the Society of Jesus and the Church, said current Superior General Arturo Sosa, S.J. in a letter announcing Fr. Nicolás’ death. 

Born in Palencia, Spain, in 1936, Fr. Nicolás joined the Society of Jesus in 1953 and was ordained a priest in 1967.  He was missioned to Japan, where he served as a professor of theology, rector of the scholastics and provincial, and later dedicating himself to social work with immigrants in Tokyo. He also served in the Philippines before and after his time as Superior General. 

President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., had the opportunity to meet with Fr. Nicolás on several occasions, the first being a 2009 one-on-one lunch in Rome. A picture from that lunch hangs on the wall of Pestello’s office, and he says he has long treasured the memories of that lunch. 

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Fr. Nicolás. He was warm, gracious and humble, and I was honored to have spent time with him,” said Pestello. “He was an inspirational and faith-filled leader who cared deeply about Jesuit higher education and the important role it plays in shaping servant leaders of the future. I ask everyone in the SLU community to pray for Fr. Nicolás.” 

Pestello also heard him speak at one of the international assemblies of the leaders of Jesuit schools and universities, and met with him again when Fr. Nicolás met with the U.S. Jesuit university presidents and board chairs in the October of 2013. 

In a web tribute, Mark Raper, S.J., quotes Fr. Nicolás as saying that Jesuit education must first be good education. It should model a way to reach the poor. 

Upon Fr. Nicolás’ retirement in 2016, Fr. Federico Lombardi spoke of the two words the retiring Superior General repeated constantly: “universality” (of the Jesuit vocation and mission) and “depth” (spiritual and intellectual, for the sake of the mission). 

You may read more about the life of Fr. Nicolás at his memorial website

In the coming days, Saint Francis Xavier College Church will offer a liturgical celebration, commemorating Fr. Nicolás’ life and praying for his eternal rest.