Fr. Vincent Pham Van Mam, SJ, Provicial of the Vietnam Jesuit Province
On Saturday, 23 May 2020, together with Jesuits from nearby communites in Hochiminh City, Fr. Vincent Pham Van Mam, SJ, Provincial of the Vietnam Jesuit Province presided over a special memorial Mass at St. Joseph Jesuit Scholasticate’s chapel to pray for Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, SJ, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus who died on 20 May 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Below is his homily at this Mass.
Today, we all gather here in this chapel to be
in solidarity with the whole Society to pray for Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, our former
General, who passed away last Thursday. Fortunately, I met him several times:
when I was studying at the EAPI (almost three years); when I participated in
the Congregation of Procurators in Nairobi, Kenya on behalf of the Vietnam
Province; when he visited Vietnam as the President of the Jesuit Conference of
Asia Pacific; and when he visited our Province twice as the Superior General of
the Society while I was the rector of St. Joseph Jesuit Scholasticate. Also, he
prepared necessary documents about me for Fr. Arturo Sosa, his successor, in
relation to my being appointed to be provincial.
During these days, since his death, Jesuit
media around the world have mentioned his impressive contributions to the
Society of Jesus and the Church during his eight years of generalate. These
contributions are not about a great number of his works or missions, but they
are primarily about his personality as an excellent leader who had the
integration of faith, joy, wisdom, and internal freedom. These contributions
are also his untired efforts in urging and promoting all Jesuits to pursue deep
values of the Gospel and the Ignatian Spirituality that we learned through his
sharing and exhortations.
Through social networks I followed updates on his last minutes in Tokyo, Japan, some of the most frequent expressions used by Fr. Nicolásspontaneously have echoed in my mind: “universality of the Society,” “depth in formation and apostolate,” “internal freedom,” “creativity,” “frontiers,” “do not be afraid”… I imagine he is the man who completely integrated the depth of Jesuit vocation into his life and mission by totally connecting with God and Jesus Christ; at the same time, he passionately taught his fellow Jesuits to follow the same journey as he did. He firmly believes that “Being immersed in God’s Spirit is more important than all our talents, academic degrees, or skills. It is also what makes our apostolic activity affective.” Whenever we obtain this, we will find happiness and reap an abundant harvest.
In today’s Gospel of Saturday of the sixth week of Easter (Jn 28:23b-28), Jesus says that his disciples’ joy may be complete when he leaves the world and fulfills the Passover (his passion and resurrection). In response to the call of God, Fr. Nicolás went out and left his home to travel back and forth between West and East to accomplish his missions. During his constant journeys, he always kept Jesus at the center of his life and mission. His gentle smile, joy, and peace are fruits of a radical abnegation for the sake of the Gospel as well as the result of an untired finding and exploring a transcendent reality in spiritual depth and stability. I believe that his departure today is another Passover through which he will meet his loved one, the God of depth whom he had longed to see, and taught his brothers to look for. In a word, the life of Fr. Nicolás is a living message for all of us. Amen.
23 May 2020 – St. Joseph Jesuit Scholasticate
Translated by Chinh Tran, SJ