In 2008, when former Pope Benedict XVl was photographed with Jesuits assembling from around the world in Rome, a man was seen in the background looking like he had organized the entire event. It wasn’t far from the truth.
Then, beloved Canadian Jesuit Brother Art White was in fact assisting with General Congregation 35, a massive assembly of Jesuits from around the world, which ran for a few months. His expertise in all things administrative has had him in Rome for assignments on and off for 10 years. He has served as secretary to various Jesuit assistancies and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). He was also in Rome for two sessions of the Second Vatican Council, worked at three General Congregations, and served five sitting or future Superior Generals of the Society of Jesus.
“Basically, my entire Jesuit life was spent in communicating a daily, joyful service in different locales and situations,” says White.
Being blessed with an even temperament has also helped White fit anywhere he has been assigned. These have included 30 years editing the Province Newsletter, (internal news for Jesuits), serving as a minister in various houses for 25 years, and serving as a secretary to six provincials for 28 years.
“I truly appreciated my assignments. I caught on to the computer quickly and had a good knowledge of English grammar and clerical procedures,” says White.
Born in 1936, White’s first contact with Jesuits came at St. Paul’s High School and St. Ignatius Parish. After he entered, the Jesuit novitiate taught him many things, but two skills stand out as helping in his future: typing and cooking. Both helped him in his future work and communities.
Historically in the Society of Jesus, brothers were involved in manual work serving as cooks, building maintainers, electricians, groundskeepers, and so on. White was an exception like brothers who were proficient in banking or teaching. As White says, “It is consoling to know many brothers are now involved in spiritual direction, teaching, researching, rather than the old-style manual work regime.”
“It has been a rewarding and fulfilling vocation,” says White.
Today, White is minister of the La Storta Jesuit Community in Pickering, ON where he continues to do various projects for the Archives of the Jesuits in Canada. He can still be found attending all gatherings and meeting with friends and donors. “Having met so many benefactors and friends of the Society, I am conscious how much we owe them and how much they depend on our spiritual support,” says White.