U.S. Jesuit to Lead Jesuit Refugee Service : Thomas H. Smolich, outgoing president of the U.S. Jesuit Conference, to be the next director

Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior of the Jesuits, has named Thomas H. Smolich, outgoing president of the U.S. Jesuit Conference, to be the next director of Jesuit Refugee Service.

The JRS international office in Rome announced the appointment July 29. Father Smolich will succeed German Jesuit Father Peter Balleis.

Advertisement

Before taking up the new post Nov. 1, 2015, Father Smolich will study French and work on special projects at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in California; will spend four months with JRS in eastern Congo, working with displaced Congolese as well as refugees from Rwanda and other parts of Central Africa; and will spend time with JRS Middle East, helping respond to the needs of displaced people within Syria and refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, and Amman, Jordan.

JRS, founded in 1980, has 10 regional offices around the world; with more than 1,800 staff and volunteers, including 70 Jesuits, it serves more than of 950,000 refugees each year.

"I'm deeply honored and grateful that Father General would ask me to do this because JRS really speaks to the heart of Jesuit identity and our Jesuit mission. It's going where the need is greatest," Father Smolich said in a statement released by JRS.

Because of its work in war-torn regions, JRS employees and volunteers often find themselves in the crosshairs of global conflict, the statement said. In June, Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar was kidnapped in Afghanistan and his whereabouts were still unknown in late July.

"The church often is called upon to do dangerous work," Father Smolich said. "I think one has to prepare for this as much as one can, but ultimately, realize that this is where we are called to be -- on the frontiers -- and the frontiers are sometimes dangerous."

Father Smolich entered the California Province of the Jesuits in 1974 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He was provincial of the California Province from 1999 to 2005.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

 Pope Francis arrives in procession to celebrate Mass marking the feast of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 20. The pope at his "Regina Coeli" announced that he will create 14 new cardinals June 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Eleven of the new cardinals are under the age of 80 and so have the right to vote in the next conclave.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 20, 2018
Images: AP, Wikimedia Commons
Bishop Curry described Teilhard as “one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.”
Angelo Jesus CantaMay 19, 2018
Both men were close to each other in life, and both are much revered by Pope Francis.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 19, 2018
The Gaza Nakba demonstrations this week have done nothing to advance the situation of Palestinian refugees, nor did they provide relief to the people of Gaza, who dwell in an open-air prison, hemmed in and oppressed at every turn.