On Oct. 14, in Rome, the General Congregation of the Jesuit order elected Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, S.J., of Venezuela as the 31st Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the head of the Jesuit order. In the order’s 476-year history, there has never before been a leader from Latin America. The election has prompted reflection from Catholic leaders and students across campus, especially in light of Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition and Sosa’s personal connections to Georgetown.
Father Matthew Carnes, S.J. described a complex array of responsibilities that await Father Sosa in his new office. As the head of the order, Sosa will frequently meet with regional advisors to discuss worldwide Jesuit missions, and will conduct vetting processes to appoint new leaders for these missions. He will also supervise initiatives such as the opening of new Jesuit schools, and must officially sign off on the inductions of all new members to the order.
Fr. Sosa, a native of Caracas, has been a member of the Jesuits since 1966, and was a visiting professor at Georgetown Center for Latin American Studies in 2004, according to the order’s website. Sosa was also involved in conflict mediation between Hugo Chávez and the Venezuelan government during Chávez’s failed coup attempt in the early 1990s, according to the BBC.
Carnes was optimistic about the for the new Superior General’s potential impact on the Jesuits. In particular, he expressed the need for the Jesuits to both provide intelligent Church leadership and to combat global injustice. “There are still so many divides across economic class, race, national identity, gender–and Jesuits at our best stand at intersections. My hope is that this next General is going to be someone that helps us know how to stand in those spaces that often make people very uncomfortable,” Carnes said.
Carnes also noted that Georgetown itself stands to learn from and offer thoughts to the new Superior General. Georgetown’s delegation to the election in Rome included Father David Collins, S.J., who brought along a copy of the recent report from Georgetown’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation. “My hope is that he’ll give a copy to the incoming General, because it models so much of what serious Jesuit reflection looks like, especially an honest reckoning with our own sinfulness and our own limitation, but also our willingness and our desire to seek a kind of reconciliation in the world,” said Carnes. “I often look up to a General like he’s going to say something to us, but I think actually we have something to give to him too.”
Catholic student groups on campus reacted optimistically to Fr. Sosa’s election. Max Rosner (COL ‘18) of the the Georgetown Knights of Columbus said the organization is particularly intrigued by Superior General Sosa’s involvement with higher education. “We hope that his election will reinvigorate Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit identity,” Rosner said.
Members of Georgetown’s Catholic Daughters were hopeful about the order’s direction under Sosa. “I am excited to see how his background as a teacher and researcher will impact Jesuit universities like Georgetown,” said MyLan Metzger (COL ‘19), the student spiritual advisor of the Daughters. “He has spent a lot of his time with the Jesuits at universities in Latin America, so I am eager to see if this will impact his service to the Jesuits as Superior General.”