Wlodimir Ledochowski General # 26
General from 1915 to 1942
In a family where two sisters had preceded him, the birth of a son on October 7, 1866 was a cause for rejoicing.
He studied at the Jesuit Secondary School, the Theresianum, in Vienna and for a time was page to the Empress. He studied Law at the University of Crakow and then began studies for the secular priesthood. At the age of 23, while attending the Gregorian University on via Del Seminario in Rome, he decided to become a Jesuit and entered the Society in 1889. Five years later he was ordained a Jesuit priest. At first he took to writing, but was soon made Superior of the Jesuit residence in Cracow, then, Rector of the College. He became the Polish Vice-Provincial in 1901 and Provincial of Galicia in 1902. From 1906 until February 1915 he was the German Assistant.
After the death of Wernz the 26th General Congregation was convened which would last from February 2, 1915 until March 18 and be held in the Germanico-Hungarico College. The 49-year-old Wlodimir Ledochowski was elected the 26th General of the Society on February 11 on the second ballot.
Despite the upheaval of the World War and the economic Depression of the 1930s, the Society increased during Ledochowski's term in office.
He called the 27th General Congregation to take place at the Germanico to acquaint the Society with the new code of Canon Law and to bring the Jesuit Constitutions into line with it. He called another Congregation (the 28th)—between March 12 and May 9, 1937—in order for the delegates to appoint a Vicar General as he was now feeling the effects of age and needed competent assistance. He established the Oriental Institute and the Russian College as well as the Institutum Biblicum of the Gregorian University. He saw a certain emancipation of the Society after the Concordat between the Church and the Italian Government was ratified. Property was returned to the Society making it possible for the Jesuits to build a new Gregorian University building transferring from the Palazzo Borgomeo on via del Seminario to Piazza Pilotta within a few paces of the Quirinal Palace. He then built the new Curia Generalis on property acquired from the Vatican on Borgo Santo Spirito-about a hundred meters from St. Peter's Square. The Concordat, somewhat engineered by a Jesuit, Father Tacchi-Venturi, put new life into the Society and its property increased with its influence and reputation.
Ledochowski's Generalate was one of the most productive, physically as well as spiritually, certainly since the restoration. Ledochowski also saw the beginnings of the Second World War and was torn by the sufferings of his Jesuit sons on both sides.
After 27 years and 10 months as General from February 11, 1915 until December 13, 1942—he devoutly rendered his soul to God and, after his funeral in the Gesú his remains were taken to the Society's mausoleum at Campo Verano on the eastern edge of Rome, where they were interred.