An endowment fund has been launched to honour the legacy of Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 2008 to 2016. The fund will support the work of the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI), where Fr Nicolás was director from 1978 to 1984. The mission of EAPI is so close to his heart that after his resignation as Superior General in October 2016, he asked to return to EAPI as spiritual director and consultant.
The Adolfo Nicolás EAPI Endowment Fund was officially launched on August 4 at a testimonial dinner held at the Ateneo de Manila University, hosted by the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific and the Philippine Province. More than 100 Jesuits and friends gathered to honour Fr Nico, as he is fondly called, and to bid him farewell as he was to leave for his home province of Japan on August 6.
Several of Fr Nicolás’ friends sent video testimonials. Among them were current Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa, Regional Assistant for Asia Pacific Fr Danny Huang, Myanmar Mission Superior and former JCAP President Fr Mark Raper and former Japanese Provincial Fr Shogo Sumita.
Fr Nicolás had not wanted a testimonial dinner or to be immortalised in an endowment fund, but he agreed to both because of his affection for EAPI.
“We know you are one who does not wish to be in the limelight … but you have allowed it only because you believe it is for EAPI and not for yourself,” said Philippine Provincial Fr Primitivo Viray Jr SJ.
This attitude was, as Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific President Fr Tony Moreno SJ said, “typical of Fr Nico, always self-effacing, never self-referential”.
His humility was clear in his message to the guests, read for him because of his slowed speech. In it, Fr Nicolás said,
In this distinguished audience, there certainly are those who ask themselves for the meaning of today’s supper. Why a person, Adolfo Nicolás, who otherwise appears to be rather normal, in a time of so many, would give his name to a pastoral Institute and to fundraising? The answer is simple: because he believes in pastoral institutes.”
Fr Nicolás believes that “in Asia it is not enough to say that we must be humble and imbued by the sense of mystery and the like. Rather, we have to show the way, and this is pastoral”.
EAPI serves the local churches in Asia Pacific with its focus on pastoral formation in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. It envisions a new way of being Church by offering priests, religious men and women and laity a unique experience of learning and formation in community. The endowment fund will be used primarily to provide scholarships for participants from poorer countries and for maintaining the facilities.
In my years in Rome, I had the chance to visit almost the whole world. I am convinced now that Asia is the Way, Europeans and Americans are preoccupied with Truth, and Africa and Latin America with Life. We need all the cultures of the World to have the fullness of Christ.” ~ Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and an EAPI alumnus, flew to Manila for the occasion. “Surely Fr Nicolás will be embarrassed by my words of appreciation. It comes from my heart because I have personally tasted his love for our Myanmar Church,” said Cardinal Bo who is the fund’s honorary chairman.
Cardinal Bo spoke of how EAPI has helped pilgrims like him find healing and a sense of belonging to a universal society. “For many priests and church personnel who came from Myanmar, emotionally, spiritually bruised and broken, the stay in EAPI was comprehensively healing… We went back with a great resolve to be better disciples of Jesus.”
Cardinal Bo said that EAPI needs to reinvent itself as a new generation of Christians and Church emerges. “Politically and socially the world is on a spiral. Institutions like EAPI are vital. I am glad it is seeking monetary support for new efforts. The name of Fr Adolfo Nicolás is a live wire to this effort.”
The testimonial dinner raised about US$200,000 towards the endowment fund. “The total target is of course huge, but for this initial phase of fundraising, we have set for ourselves the modest target of about US$1 million,” said EAPI Director Fr Peter Pojol SJ.
He thanked the many people who gave their support. “We continue to count on you and many others like you to further the work of EAPI and the dream of Fr Nico,” he said.