This year, 2023, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s famous exhortation Men and Women for Others. This seminal address of Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, then General Superior of the Society of Jesus, to an international congress of alumni of Jesuit schools at Valencia in 1973, began a process of reflection and self-evaluation that led to the worldwide renewal of Jesuit education.

In his address Fr. Arrupe exhorts educators to form ‘men and women for others’. This has changed not only the vision of Jesuit education but also Jesuits and their collaborators. The Golden Jubilee of the famous speech is an opportunity for all educators, students, parents, and stakeholders in our schools to reflect on what it means to be ‘men and women for others’. More than ever, today, we need to be ‘men and women for others’, for a peaceful, justice-oriented, and fraternal world.

For this, we would like to offer a series of articles written and shared by Fr. Hedwig Lewis SJ, a great Jesuit writer of Gujarat Province in India, which was released in 2017 during the Birth Centenary Celebrations of Arrupe. His reflections are beyond time, and very much relevant to us today. The series, Beloved Don Pedro “Man For Others”, covers anecdotes from Fr. Arrupe’s life, his writings, lived experiences, and spiritual thoughts.

All educators in our global community are invited to learn and reflect on who Fr. Pedro Arrupe was and his legacy to Jesuit education!

We will be sharing one article per month. You are all welcome to share your reflections and comments in the comment section located at the bottom of each article.

We wish you an enjoyable journey getting to know Fr. Pedro Arrupe and the roots of his famous exhortation “Men and Women for Others”.

Here is article #1 “ROOTED IN LOVE AND FAITH”.   



The Seed Sprouts

Pedro Arrupe was born on 14 November 1907, in the Basque city of Bilbao, Spain. He was the only son among five children, and his youngest sister was fourteen years older than he. Pedro was baptized the following day in the fine gothic Cathedral of St James. His father was a wealthy architect, and his mother a caring housewife. Pedro and his sisters were nurtured in the Faith and brought up in love and comfort.


Supplement to the Gujarat Jesuit Samachar, March 2007
Edited by Hedwig Lewis SJ

For six years [1916-22] Pedro attended the school managed by the Piarist Fathers. In 1918 he joined the Sodality of Our Lady, becoming a member of the executive council in 1920, first as head of the drama section, later as vice-prefect. He also contributed several articles to the Sodality journal “Flores y Frutos”.

Family anecdotes

In his “Autobiographical Conversations” with Jean-Claude Dietsch SJ, [between Christmas 1980 and Easter 1981, less than six months before he suffered a disabling stroke], published in his book One Jesuit’s Spiritual Journey, Fr Pedro Arrupe gives intimate glimpses of his life

“My family was very close, very quiet, and very patriarchal in the Catholic sense,” revealed Arrupe to an interviewer in 1980.. “I felt very happy in the family group. There were no major problems; we went to Mass together, and there was a feeling of complete trust among us.”

Marcelino Arrupe, his father, was an architect who built many houses in Bilbao and its neighbourhood. Fr Arrupe described him as being “very good, very kind”, and by temperament, a “doer”. He had an “outstanding tenor voice” and whenever he sang in the chapel of the Jesuit school in a neighbouring village, crowds would gather to listen to him. He was also an enthusiastic promoter of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. Every year, during Holy Week, he used to organize a retreat for prominent citizens of Bilbao. One of the fruits of the retreat of 1901 was the founding and editing of the Catholic paper “La Gaceta del Norte”, soon to become popular throughout the region.

Each year in Bilbao, according to a long tradition, there used to be a procession in honour of the Sacred Heart. From the age of three, Pedro joined his father at the procession. They would walk “side by side”, recalled Fr Arrupe, “the tall Marcelino Arrupe carrying a large candle and tiny Pedro Arrupe, happy to be there carrying proudly his little candle. It was a well known sight.”

When Pedro was 18, and in Madrid studying Medicine, his father fell ill. Pedro rushed to Bilbao to find his father partially paralyzed. That year his father passed away. “During those final days,” he remembers, “the procession of the Sacred Heart went by the house. I can never forget his look at the moment. It was a communion of memories, faith, and hope. For me it was very moving.”

Father Arrupe’s mother, María Dolores Gondra Arrupe, “a very holy woman”, had died when he was only ten. She was scheduled for an operation, and the young children were sent to live with his married sister for a few weeks. “When I returned, she had just died. Before taking me to see her for the last time, my father said, ‘Pedro, you lost a saintly mother. But remember always that you have another even holier Mother in heaven’.”


Glimpses of Fr Arrupe’s Personality

A man on a mission

It may seem strange, but it is a fact that I never had a real personal conversation with Fr Arrupe… Still Don Pedro was among those men who do not need words to communicate; his mere presence proclaimed a message of a man sent by the Lord to help the Society renew itself in the spirit of the Vatican Council.

Fr Arrupe brought with him extraordinary gifts of the Spirit: the gift of being deeply rooted in the founding inspiration of Ignatius, the gift to be imbued with the prayerful spirit of discernment taught by the Spiritual Exercises, the gift of trusting always and everywhere his fellow Jesuits to be real contemplatives in apostolic action, and the gift of an incredible optimism to inaugurate a new style of religious life, rooted in Christ’s love, in order to save a world of unbelief and injustice. Some called his optimism ingenuous, and his challenge to renew imprudent and naïve. However, to see him was to understand that here was a man sent by the Lord to be in a very difficult time a Servant of Christ’s Mission. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ

Optimism personified

Don Pedro was a warm, magnanimous and sensitive man of the Gospel whose faith enlivened incredible optimism. He maintained that his optimism was based on hope: “The real optimist is the one with the conviction that God knows, can do and will do what is best for mankind.” Almost always seen smiling, he loved singing in groups and his favourite spiritual was “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.” Joseph MacDonnell SJ

Pedro Arrupe’s trust in God never wavered, and he communicated this in his soft, warm smile. This was not the smile of denial but of insight. This smile sprang from a heart that knew God’s love and loved God’s creation. It was the smile of one who could challenge students to be “men and women for others,” challenge them in fact to be like himself.

In 1981, Pedro Arrupe suffered a severe stroke, and for the next decade he showed how one can find God in suffering and decline. In 1983, he ended his last public message, “I am full of hope!” Someone had to read the message for him, but Pedro Arrupe was smiling.

Servant Leader

While Fr Arrupe, as General, was visiting Latin America, a shoe-shine boy off the streets suddenly asked him if he could shine his shoes. Fr Arrupe bent down and whispered something into the boy’s ears and then stretched his legs to let the poor kid polish his shoes.

As the enthusiastic fellow went about the task through which he eked out a meagre living, those accompanying the General looked on, understandably feeling very embarrassed. When the boy had finished his task, Fr Arrupe, to everyone’s astonishment, reversed roles. He knelt down to polish the shoe-shine’s shoes.¨