March 4th 1887 - Beckx Pierre-Jean
XXIIth General of the Society of Jesus
†in Rome (Germanicum)
Pierre-Jean was born on February 8th 1795 in Sichem (Brabant). He was of humble origin and his family was afflicted by many hardships (deaths, robbery and fire). His father was a shoemaker and died already two months before Pierre's birth. For all that Pierre could study and entered in 1815 the seminary in Mecheln. After his ordination on March 6th 1819 he became member of the Society of Jesus and began his Noviciate on October 19th 1819 in the newly established house in Hildesheim.
After some years work in the Diaspora of North Germany he became in 1826 Court Chaplain of Duke Ferdinand of Anhalt-Köthen (convert) up to his death in 1830. He accompanied the ducal widow to Vienna and remained there up to her death in 1848. During those years he made several journeys to Rome, Belgium, Holland ans Paris.
In 1850 he was appointed Rector of the college in Louvain, but already in 1852 Father General Roothaan appointed him Provincial of the Austrian Province, and already on July 2nd 1853 he was elected Roothaan's successor by the XXII General Congregation which met in the Germanicum, and became the twenty second General of the Order.
In his long term of office (30 years) the number of members doubled from about 5.200 to 12.000. Already in 1853 the English as well as the Canadian Assistency were established. Several Missions and Vice-Provinces got the rank of Provinces. Scientific magazines were created, like the 'Études' in France, 'Stimmen aus Maria Laach', 'Katholische Theologie' in Austria, and others.
But also persecutions and expulsions were not missing, thus from large parts of Italy: Naples, Sicily, Venice and Rome. In 1870 Rome was taken by the Garibaldians. The houses of the Society of Jesus and the church Il Gesù were looted. In 1872 took place the consecration of all provinces to the Most Holy Heart of Jesus. Beckx and his assistants had to leave Rome on October 30th 1873 after the expropriation of the Roman General Curia. Beckx shifted the Generalate to Fiesole near Florence in Umbria. He has written many admonishing and comforting letters.
In 1883 a Vicar General was given to him on his request, his later successor Anderledy. Beckx spent the last years of his life in the Roman noviciate St Andrew at the Quirinal and - after the seizure of that house too - in the Germanicum. There he died on March 4th 1887.
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