Paul Nicholson SJ
I’m Paul Nicholson, and I’ve just completed an eight-year appointment as Director of Novices for the four Jesuit Provinces of North-West Europe (Britain, Ireland, Flanders and the Netherlands).
I joined the Society in 1978, having been a pupil at the Jesuit school in Wimbledon, and then studied zoology at Durham University. I can remember as a teenager looking at one or two of the Jesuit teachers I knew, and thinking “I’d like to be like him.” Apart from anything else, they didn’t seem to be afraid to try and answer whatever questions I threw at them, and although God was clearly important to them, they weren’t overly pious. As I got to know more about Jesuit life and ministry, the idea of “a faith that does justice” appealed to me. My father had been a Labour councillor, and to be able to combine work as a priest with a commitment to social justice was and is important to me.
So over the years since my ordination I’ve done two main kinds of work. Some of it has been what we call the “social apostolate” – chairing the Lancaster diocese Faith and Justice Commission, or doing community development work in Sunderland. On the other hand, I’ve worked in spirituality, as director of Loyola Hall, an Ignatian spirituality centre on Merseyside, and training spiritual directors from Georgetown Guyana to Beijing. Since 2006 I’ve been alongside those men who want to join the Jesuits in their first two years of training, helping them to enter into the pattern and practice of our religious life. Now I have three new jobs: as Assistant for Formation, looking after the scholastics (Jesuits in training) based in the British Province; as Socius, or Assistant to the Provincial; and as Editor of Jesuits and Friends.