Beloved Don Pedro “Man For Others” – Article #6: VISION AND MISSION

This year, 2023, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s famous exhortation “Men and Women for Others” we are delighted to share article #6 of the series Beloved Don Pedro “Man For Others”.

This series of articles written by Fr. Hedwig Lewis SJ, a great Jesuit writer of Gujarat Province in India, 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 #6 “VISION AND MISSION’”.


Following in the footsteps of Francis Xavier, Fr Arrupe set out from Seattle (USA) for Yokahama (Japan) on 30 September 1938 and arrived at the Bay of Tokyo on 15 October. He would remain in Japan until 1965 – for 27 years, over a third of his life. Fr Arrupe recalled his first impressions of Japan:

“At that time I did not focus on the missionary experience but on negative personal aspect: the discovery of a reality different from what I expected and above all the feeling of loneliness. I began working with the German priests in a country whose language I did not know.”

In Tokyo, Fr Arrupe put all his energy into learning the very difficult Japanese language He also did his best to acquire a thorough knowledge of Japanese culture, in particular of calligraphy, flower arrangement and the tea ceremony, which remained with him for the rest of his life. He also adopted the Japanese fashion of squatting on a small mat as his favourite posture for praying. It was during his period as well, in particular, as he himself related on one occasion while celebrating Mass with a fellow Jesuit on the summit of Mt Fuji, that he deepened his determination to bring Christ to the then 80 million people of Japan who did not know Him.

After studying Japanese for 18 months in Tokyo, Fr Arrupe was sent to Ube (in 1940), an industrial city near Hiroshima, where he could practice what he had learned, at the ‘Settlement’ (a social work of Sophia University).

Pastoral ministry

After remaining at Ube a few months, he was appointed missionary and parish priest in Yamaguchi, a rural and  historically noteworthy city in western Japan, some 200 km from Hiroshima.

His natural sensitivity helped him win the hearts of the people about whom he was to write later with such affection and insight. He made his first converts, with some of whom he corresponded for the rest of his life. It was here that he baptized a young man, Hayashi, who would become the first professed Jesuit of the Japanese Province and who was named substitute delegate from Japan for the GC 33.


It was as parish priest in Yamaguchi that he learned to suffer for Christ as well. Right after Pearl Harbour, during the frigid Japanese winter he was imprisoned for 33 days in an unheated cell of four metres square, without bed or table. He was interrogated, at times for 36 hours at a stretch, as a spy, a charge that was proved to be completely without foundation.


On 13 March 1942, Fr Arrupe was transferred to the Jesuit residence at Nagatsuka, six kilometres Hiroshima. He was named Vice-Rector and Master of Novices

It was at Nagatsuka at 8.10 in the morning of 6 August 1945, when he was in his office, that he experienced the world’s first atom bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima and laid waste the city, killing some 80,000 people instantly. Fr Arrupe saw the blinding flash of light. Moments later he heard the roar, and the bomb’s seismic power threw him across the room and to the floor, showering on him bits of broken glass and falling plaster. The Jesuit house in Nagatsuka suffered severe damage.

Soon after, refugees began streaming in from the city. Fr Arrupe utilized his medical skills in the service of the wounded and the dying, transforming the novitiate into a make-shift hospital for over 200 grievously scarred human remnants, for six months. During that time, only two people died: an extraordinary record.

On 22 March 1954 Fr Arrupe was appointed Vice-Provincial. On 18 October 1958 he was appointed as first Provincial of the new Province of Japan, which comprised of over 300 Jesuits from around 20 countries. He was the first Spaniard to hold that position in what had been a mission of the German Jesuits, and he was to hold it for 11 years, instead of six since in 1958 the V-P became a full-fledged Province and he had a new term. Large numbers of young Jesuits from all over the world, but particularly Spain, began to join the Jesuits in Japan.

On 22 May 1965 Fr Arrupe was elected Superior General  of the Society of Jesus.


Fr Pedro Arrupe used to refer to his life as a “zigzagged path’. He once explained what he had meant by that:

“I think I can clarify this expression by mentioning some of the cities in which I had very moving experiences, experiences that have made me what I am today: Madrid, Lourdes, Loyola, Valkenburg, Vienna, Cleveland, New York, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and others. Consider also that the Society prepared me to be a professor of moral theology and I became a missionary in Japan…

“Every moment of my formation in the fields of medicine and psychiatry was, in spite of appearances, a step that prepared me for my activities in Japan. I am really convinced that if, from my very beginning of my life in the Society, my studies had been oriented towards the Japanese Mission. I would not have received a better formation for this work  than the one I received in preparation for teaching in the field of medical morality. For example, during that period I learned German and English (two essential languages in a mission that was first entrusted to Germany before become international), I became friends with a number of Jesuits who would later be my companions in Japan, and the medical knowledge which I acquired at that time would become of utmost service to me after the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.”


“[An] important personal event was my imprisonment for one month in Yamaguchi. Japan was at war and I was suspected of espionage. That, however, I didn’t learn until the very end. Without anything except a sleeping mat I spent days and nights in the December cold, entirely alone. I was tormented by the uncertainty of the reason for my imprisonment. Many were the things I learned during this time: the science of silence, of solitude, of severe and austere poverty, of inner dialogue with the ‘guest of my soul’. I believe this was the most instructive month of my entire life.”


On Christmas Day Fr Arrupe was feeling miserable when suddenly he heard voices outside his cell. While some continued talking (so as to deceive the guards), others, in muffled voices, sang a Christmas carol, which he himself had taught his Christians. Fr Arrupe instantly realized that his people, heedless of the danger of being detected and punished, had come to console him. It lasted only a few minutes; but the Prince of Peace had filled Fr Arrupe’s heart with tranquillity and joy.That was his happiest Christmas. He had learnt what it meant to be powerless, and how much joy loving deeds can bring to the powerless.


Fr Arrupe was making his usual rounds of the streets of the bombed city with medicines, bandages and food for the helpless victims, when he came across a hut of tin and poles where a big house had once stood. In the hut he found a young Christian girl named Nakamura San. Her whole body was one big wound, full of burns and pus oozing out. When Fr Arrupe sought to clean her wounds the flesh just fell off – rotten and swarming with maggots. Fr Arrupe knelt by her side, dumb with horror and compassion.

It was then that Nakamura opened her eyes, and with eager joy she asked him, “Father, have your brought me Holy Communion?” Fr Arrupe nodded. With tears of joy the fervent girl received the Bread of Life. Soon after that she breathed her last


Man of Vision

Don Pedro was animated by a lively and deep-rooted faith that saw the guiding hand of God in human history, in all lives and particularly in his own life. He spoke easily and gracefully of how God had led him throughout the different stages of his life and had ceaselessly cared for him.                                         Vincent T. O’Keefe SJ

Pedro Arrupe was a man of God, and a man of the world in the best sense of that term. He was far from being worldly, but his vision embraced the entire universe, and the missionary heart enfolded all peoples.       J. Correa-Affonso SJ

Arrupe defined Inculturation “the incarnation of Christian life and of the Christian message in a particular cultural context in such a way that this experience not only finds expression through elements proper to the culture in question…, but becomes a principle that animates, directs, and unifies the culture, transforming and remaking it so as to bring about a ‘new creation’.”

He also identified the attitudes that should characterize efforts at inculturation: docility to the Spirit, “the moving force of inculturation”, discernment “in the face of the myriad essential and accidental elements that constitute… (a) culture”, humility, patience, discreet charity  and a love that is universal, “that maintains, at all costs, communion with the entire pilgrim People of God united under the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ”.

This was Pedro Arrupe’s vision for the modern missionary, a programme he had followed himself in all its main points as a missionary in Japan.  Robert Rush SJ