A colleague’s big move; a story about the new nastiness

Our good friend and colleague John Norton, who until 2003 helped us patrol the halls of the Vatican as a member of our Rome bureau, is the new editor of Our Sunday Visitor, the national Catholic weekly newspaper based in Indiana. And therein lies a story because John is a Southern Californian who was welcomed to Indiana by a snowstorm. He writes about the experience but more importantly about his commitment to the best in Catholic journalism in this week’s edition.

Also this week in OSV, who can resist the cover art (left) for a story on nastiness in our society today? Much of the rudeness, the article says, is because of the Internet, where anonymity, blogs and instant messaging have changed how people interact with one another.

Not just the usual death-row conversion story

An amazing story about a death-row inmate in Oregon who “evangelizes across the world” is in the current edition of the Catholic Sentinel in Portland, Ore. The inmate, Jeff Tiner, was once a white supremacist who now is devoted to St. Josephine Bakhita, the 19th-century African slave who was cited at the beginning of Pope Benedict’s recent encyclical on hope as an example of liberation and redemption.

And if you remember the huge national controversy a decade ago over a sacramental confession between an accused Oregon triple-murder suspect and a priest that was secretly taped by the authorities, you should read all the way to the end of the story to see how Tiner later became that man’s confirmation sponsor.

Jesuit General Congregation facts and figures

Logo for Jesuit meetingThirty U.S. Jesuits will be among the 225 delegates to the order’s General Congregation, which begins Monday in Rome. According to the Jesuit press office: 31 percent of the delegates are from Europe, 28 percent are from Asia and Australia, 18 percent are from Latin America, 15 percent are from North America and 8 percent are from Africa.

When Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was elected superior general of the Society of Jesus at the 1983 General Congregation, the average age of the delegates was 51.6 years old. Father Kolvenbach was just a few months shy of his 54th birthday at the time.

The average age of the delegates who will elect Father Kolvenbach’s successor is 56.19 years. Of the 225 delegates, 10 are between 70 and 79 years old; 67 delegates are in their 60s; 90 delegates are in their 50s; 58 of them are in their 40s; and only one is still in his 30s. (The published information does not name him, however.)

The Jesuits’ April 2007 statistical report said there were 19,216 Jesuits around the world and their average age was 57.34 years.

Father Jose DeVera, director of the Jesuits’ press office, said they expect the new general to be elected sometime around Jan. 19. First, though, the delegates must vote to accept Father Kolvenbach’s resignation. After formal presentations on the state of the order, there are four days of prayer and quiet conversation, formally called “murmuratio” or murmuring, when delegates discuss the qualities of confreres who might make a good general.

Immediately prior to voting, the delegates gather for a special Mass to invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

UPDATE: Father Kolvenbach, in an interview with Vatican Radio and the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the choice of his successor will indicate what Jesuits expect from the society for the future.