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A conversation with Father General Adolfo Nicolás SJ

About Japan then--Providence and history again. I never volunteered for Japan and I didn’t know much about that country. When I was in the Juniorate, Father General Janssens wrote a letter--by the way, I think it was a good idea, and now that I am the General maybe I could write one in the same line. So the General wrote a letter to the whole Society asking for volunteers for many places. He wrote: "We have requests for people to help in different parts of the world, so those of you who feel the call, please come forward."

So I thought: they need help and I am a Jesuit. I took for granted that being a Jesuit was a universal vocation, that I was a Jesuit not only for Spain but someone who could go anywhere. So I volunteered, saying: "You need people, I am 'people', so if I can be of help anywhere, I will go."

I wrote him at the beginning of my philosophy studies; one month later the provincial called me and said, « You wrote to Father General, offering yourself for the missions, but you still can say no.” He wasn’t very happy because he had other plans. He had already appointed me to study philosophy for two years and then study mathematics to teach in an engineering school in Madrid.

"I volunteered so I will go," I answered.

So he asked me "What about Japan?"

And I said: "OK, Fine."

It was a challenge, because after I left his room I thought "Japan, than means that I have to keep studying for the rest of my life." I had an image of Japan as a high culture, difficult language, and so forth. And I think I was right--I had to study all my life. So, then everything changed; I finished philosophy and oriented the rest of my formation towards Japan.

I think it was not accidental. It was one of these things that happen historically, but, on second thought, I can say that maybe it was the best choice. If I had had to choose the territory where I could be missionary, I might have chosen Latin America, Africa, or other places where I saw more visible needs. After reflection, Japan was the best choice because since the very beginning I felt Japan and I: we were a perfect fit. I felt very much at home with Japanese people and the Japanese way of being. I’m not the kind of wild Spaniard who is spontaneous and explosive; I am more of a quiet person. And that way, in Japan, went well; and I felt very comfortable all along.

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