General from 1906 to 1914

Father Wernz was born on December 4, 1842 in Rotweil, Wurtemburg in Germany on the edge of the Black Forest. He was the first of the eight children of parents with deep faith and piety. From an early age he had expressed his desire to be a Jesuit, perhaps influenced by the fact that his parish church in Rottweil had been a Jesuit church before the suppression and still retained many reminders of the Society. The paintings of so many Jesuit Saints and the fact that the yearly parish mission was given by Jesuits probably helped him to make that important decision. He entered the Society on December 5, 1857, made his Novitiate at Gorheim near Sigmaringen, and took his first Vows on December 8, 1859. His Philosophy studies were made at Aachen and Maria Laach and when the Kulturkanipf of Chancellor Bismarck expelled the Jesuits from Germany, the exiled scholastics found refuge in the Jesuit College, Ditton Hall in Lancastershire in England and, finally, in 1881 moved to St. Bueno's in Wales. After a year of private study he became Professor of Canon Law at Ditton Hall and later at St. Bueno's in Wales. Between 1882 and 1906 he taught Canon Law at the Gregorian University on via del Seminario, the last two years spent there he also served as its Rector. He was a renowned Canonist and was much sought after by various Vatican Congregations on which he served with devotion and conscientiousness.

After the death of Father Martin, the Vicar General summoned a Congregation for August 31, 1906, but it began after a day's postponement on September 1 and would last until October 18. On the third ballot taken on September 8, the 64-year-old Wemz was elected General.

During his generalate he vigorously promoted the spiritual life, opened missions and created provinces in all parts of the world. The whole continent of North America was one of his special interests and he approved the setting up of provinces, houses, and colleges the length and breadth of that vast territory. Martin had set up the famous Monumenta Historica and Wernz continued his support and encouraged Jesuit writers to take up this important work, which they did with enthusiasm. He was instrumental in the founding of the Jesuit periodicals "Voces e Maria ad Lacum" which became "Stimmen der Zeit" in Germany and another, "Przeglad Powszechny," in Poland.

One of his last letters written on December 25, 1913 to the Society was on the celebration of the centenary of the Society's restitution, to take place the following year.

Wernz had been General for seven years and eleven months, from September 8, 1906 until he died on August 19, 1914. His death occurred only a few hours before that of the saintly Pontiff Pope Pius X and a mere three weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. It would be a difficult time for his successor to begin leading an international Society in a world internationally shattered.

His tomb can be found in the Jesuit Mausoleum at the Roman Campo Verano cemetery.