Arturo at the Round Table

In our Fall/Winter issue of JESUITS magazine, we covered the election of the new Superior General for the Society of Jesus—Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ—elected at the 36th General Congregation in Rome. We provided his background and listed his accomplishments. But what about the Jesuit delegates who elected Fr. Sosa? Were there other attributes they perceived in this Venezuelan priest who most recently oversaw the international Jesuit houses in Rome? Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, a Maryland Province Jesuit, GC36 delegate, and the director of the Vatican Observatory, lives in one of the houses Fr. Sosa cared for. Here is his reflection.

By Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ

 
Author Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ
The international Jesuit houses — including places in Rome like the Gregorian University or the Vatican Observatory, as well as sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere—draw on the whole Society. At the Vatican Observatory, for example, the dozen Jesuits in our community come from four continents, representing eight different Jesuit provinces. Among us, a dozen languages can be spoken. For that reason, our care does not fall under any particular provincial but directly under Father General. In practice, of course, Father General appoints a “delegate” to watch over us.

For the past two years, that Father Delegate was Fr. Arturo Sosa. And so I’ve gotten to know Fr. Sosa as closely as a typical Jesuit might know his provincial. Closer, in fact … he’s the one who nominated me to be the director of the Observatory, and after my appointment he taught me how to function not only in the Jesuit curia but also in the Vatican.

Some of the qualities that make him outstanding are his wide experience in so many different parts of the Society. He has worked with the poor; he has worked at universities. He understands all of our different kinds of works; he understands all of our different social settings and the different assumptions that each of us makes about what we expect in our Jesuit lives and work. More importantly, he knows how to listen.

Without being more specific, let’s just say that all the international houses provide great opportunities to test one’s abilities to listen and act. The differences in “languages” can lead to great misunderstandings even when everyone is speaking the same tongue! But I have seen how Fr. Sosa has navigated these sometimes-treacherous waters with great success and worked to achieve the common good.

One of the themes that I heard at the General Congregations was that when looking for a Father General, one might search for a mystic; or a visionary; or a king. There are times when you want someone to envision new directions, or someone who will lead us closer to our religious roots. But at GC36, the running joke went that we really only needed to issue one document, one that said merely, “Please implement all the previous documents!” At this moment, we know we need someone who can guide us to the places where we know we need to be.

What sort of “king” will Fr. Sosa be? One of his first actions was, literally, to install a round table in his office at the Curia. Around that table he has already gathered a number of different groups within the Society. For instance, the six brothers elected to the General Congregation (I was one) had an hour with him sitting around that table, talking frankly among ourselves (and him) about our hopes and needs. A round table. Not a bad idea for a “king” named Arturo!

In addition to electing Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, as the new Superior General of the Society of Jesus, several decrees were written and approved at GC36 to help guide the Society in its mission to serve where the needs are greatest. To view some of these decrees, visit www.MDSJ.org/gc36decrees.

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