BY FREDDY GRAY
THE SOCIETY of Jesus in Britain has appointed a new leader.
Fr Michael Holman, a London-born priest, will replace the outgoing Fr David Smolira as the provincial of the British Jesuits.
Currently on sabbatical in America, Fr Holman returns to take up his new post on July 31 – the feast day of St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.
The appointment was made following two meetings – known as “consults” – hosted by Fr Smolira. The group issued a terna, a list of three candidates, with Fr Smolira’s preferred choice at the top.
The terna was then sent to Rome for Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the Jesuit Superior General, to make the final decision.
Last week, Fr Kolvenbach announced that Fr Holman had been chosen.
After hearing the news, Fr Holman said: “I look forward to this new opportunity to serve Jesus Christ and the Church.
“Becoming a Jesuit is the best thing that has happened in my life. I am proud of the considerable contribution the British Jesuits have made and are making to the Church and wider society in the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Guyana.
“There is evidence everywhere of a longing for the kind of purpose and meaning to life that only a close relationship with Jesus can satisfy.
“That is why the Jesuit vocation is as urgent and necessary today as it ever was.” Fr Holman was born and brought up in Wimbledon, South London, and attended Wimbledon College at the same time as Fr Smolira.
He has studied at Heythrop College, University of London; Campion Hall, Oxford; The Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Fordham University, New York, and he holds degrees in philosophy, theology and education administration.
While completing his final year of training in 1995, he worked for six months as a prison and hospital chaplain in Guyana, South America.
He has also taught in Jesuit schools in Glasgow and Sheffield, and went on to serve as a “brilliant” headmaster of Wimbledon College for nine years until July 2004.
He is regarded as a gentleman by people who know him and he has a reputation for being a good preacher.
The office of provincial changes hands every six years. Fr Smolira announced the start of the search for his replacement on January 7, when he sent a letter to all British Jesuits asking them to nominate a candidate. He gave a list of 10 qualities the new provincial should have.
The identity of the two other candidates on the terna is uncertain.