The Jesuits have named Fr Dermot Preston as their new Provincial for Britain.
Fr Preston, who is currently regional superior in Guyana, will succeed current Provincial Fr Michael Holman, who has been appointed principal of Heythrop College in west London.
Born in 1957, Fr Preston joined the Jesuits in 1979 and was ordained in 1990 after teaching chemistry and RE at St Aloysius’ College in Glasgow for his regency.
He has worked in Guyana for five years and also in South Africa, where he was ecclesiastical assistant to the Christian Life Community. Before that he was vocations director for the British Province for a number of years.
He is also a noted film buff who has written about the Catholic influence on Alfred Hitchcock’s filmmaking.
Writing to the British Jesuits, Fr Holman said: “I know you will all want to join me in congratulating Dermot and in assuring him of your prayers and your support now and long after.”
Fr Holman, who was headmaster of Wimbledon College in south London from 1995 to 2004, will take up his appointment at Heythrop after the end of his six-year term of office as Provincial in July.
Meanwhile the British Jesuits are preparing to welcome their Superior General on his first visit to the British Province since his election in January 2008.
Fr Adolfo Nicolás will arrive on Tuesday, where he will be greeted by the British Provincial. After meeting the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, he will be taken to the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, where the Jesuits’ Province Meeting will be taking place.
Among the engagements the Father General will have at the meeting will be the opportunity to talk to men in formation, as well as Mass for the Jubilarians of three years (2010-2012).
There will also be an opportunity for questions and answers from delegates.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster will celebrate Mass on the Thursday, and Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien will speak at the Jubilarians’ Dinner.
On Friday Fr Nicolás will preach at Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Wimbledon, at which the Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark will be the principal celebrant.
The Superior General’s final engagement will be at the new Jesuit centre in London. On Saturday morning he will officially open the Hurtado Jesuit Centre, which will provide a new home for the Jesuit Refugee Service, as well as a base for various other apostolic works of the province.
The centre is named after St Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit who worked tirelessly for the poor, especially among children, and founded the Hogar de Cristo.
Last month Fr Nicolás sent a letter to the world’s 18,000 Jesuits ordering a revision to the order’s General Curia.
He explained that the decision was made after he received :a series of guidelines” from delegates who attended the Jesuits’ 35th General Congregation in 2008.
Among the changes announced were the addition of three principal secretaries “whose concerns and responsibilities will respond to important dimensions of our mission that should be present in all apostolic sectors”. The superior general added that this includes, “the service of faith, the promotion of justice and collaboration with others”.
Meanwhile, this week the Society agreed to one of the largest pay-outs in history to settle a sexual abuse claim in the northwest United States.
The Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, agreed that they and their insurers will pay £102 million to settle sex abuse claims made by more than 500 people against priests who worked in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.