Thirty 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.