Whenon 8 January 2022, Fr. Jose Luis Arana, was called, at the age of 91(73 years in the Society) to his eternal reward, it was not only the Gujarat province but the Universal Society who had lost a Jesuit stalwart. Fr. Arana, epitomized the best of what it meant to be a Jesuit in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
He was a missionary in the complete sense of the word. Like his countryman St. Francis Xavier, he left his native Spain to serve the poor and marginalized in the villages of Gujarat. His heart was with the Adivasis; for long years he accompanied them: he brought the Word of God to them. He was convinced however, that would be meaningless if it did not correspond with the Adivasis having a more dignified and humane life. Fr. Arana ensured that, through the numerous educational and developmental programmes he brought to them. He loved the tribals and they loved him too. His frugal life-style reflected his closeness to them.
Fr. Arana was a visionary. It was not without reason that in 1968, when he was just thirty-eight years old, he was appointed the Provincial of Gujarat (then a ‘Vice-Province’). At that time (thanks to Fr. Pedro Arrupe) he was the youngest Jesuit provincial in the world. As Provincial, besides being known for his decisive stands on several important issues, he was also greatly appreciated for his ‘cura personalis’ – his remarkable ability to accompany and to listen to his Jesuit companions, whatever the age or experience. He encouraged Jesuits to have the creative courage to think out-of-the-box and to trod the unbeaten path! Given his administrative capabilities, he held at various times the responsibility of Vicar-General both of the Ahmedabad and Baroda Dioceses. He was also novice-master and tertian instructor for some time.
Fr. Arana was truly a great Jesuit and a wonderful human: he will be missed by many!
Cedric Prakash, SJ