News in Jesuit Studies

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The Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto hosts an online discussion on the “Unsuccessful ‘Saints’ of the Society of Jesus: Antonio Criminali & Leonard Lessius (16th-20th centuries).” The event takes place on January 28, 2022, between 10:00am and noon EST.


The featured speakers are Elisa Frei and Eleonora Rai, both of whom will focus on a Jesuit “who came close to, yet were never canonized.” Additional details are below and found at the JHI’s website.


The talk is sponsored by the JHI’s Jesuit History Research Group. The entity intends to “establish the University of Toronto as a local interdisciplinary hub for the thriving field of Jesuit studies. The pandemic motivates us to reach out regionally, nationally, and internationally to establish ourselves as an emerging entity in the field of Jesuit studies.” The Frei-Rai talk is one of many of the informal discussions planned by the group, which is lead by Andreas Motsch, FAS French, Jean-Olivier Richard, SMC Christianity & Culture, and Fr. Thomas Worcester, S.J., Regis College.



Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto

January 28, 2022

10:00am-noon EST

Unsuccessful ‘Saints’ of the Society of Jesus: Antonio Criminali & Leonard Lessius (16th-20th centuries)

In the Catholic Church’s tradition, canonizations represent the final step of trials aiming to verify the heroism of virtues and/or the martyrdom of those who died in the “odor of sanctity.” In order to be canonized, those who so die must adhere to specific imitable hagiographical models — i.e., behavioral models of Christian perfection. This joint talk focuses on two Jesuits who came close to, yet were never canonized. The first part describes the ambiguous death of the Italian missionary Antonio Criminali (1520–1549) who was beheaded by a local army on the Fishery Coast (India) in 1549, thus becoming the “protomartyr” of the Society of Jesus. We will analyze the legal reasons why, despite his violent death and the popular devotion that arose around him in India and Italy, Criminali was never canonized. The second part focuses on the Flemish theologian Leonard Lessius (1554–1623), who was considered as a living saint by his brothers of the Leuven College. Not only legal reasons, but specific strategies of sainthood eventually led the Jesuit Postulation to drop Lessius’ canonization cause. We show that the cases of Criminali and Lessius ultimately depended upon evolving views on sanctity within the Society of Jesus from the Early modern period onward.

Elisa Frei is a research fellow at the University of Macerata, with a project examining the Catholic missionaries’ perceptions of sacrifices and self-sacrifice in Asia during the early modern period. She also works as a project assistant for the Digital Indipetæ Database, hosted by Boston College, and is a research associate at the University of York. She has published several articles and is co-editor of Daniello Bartoli’s eight-volume series Asia.

Eleonora Rai specializes in the History of the Catholic Church and Theology (1500s-1800s). After she obtained her PhD from the University of Milan (Italy) and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (France) in 2014, she continued her research in the Italian and Australian academia. She joined the Research Unit History of Church and Theology at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, in 2019, with a project on the intra-Catholic and intra-Jesuit theological controversies on Grace, free will, and eternal predestination; on morality; and on the inspiration of the Scriptures, with particular attention paid to the Jesuit Leuven theologian Leonard Lessius (1554-1623). Further research interests include causes for canonization, hagiographical models, and the broader history of the Society of Jesus (1500s-1800s).

Friday 28 January, 2022 – 10:00 am to noon

Registration required:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

The Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies welcomes applications for its in-residence fellowship program for the 2022-2023 academic year. Applications are due January 15, 2022.


The Institute offers one- and two-semester fellowships to facilitate the completion and/or publication of academic work related to the Society of Jesus. Both types of fellowship come with a stipend, furnished housing, and personal office space at the Institute.


A full call for applications appears below. More information is available at the Institute’s website:



The one- and two-semester in-residence fellowship appointments seek to facilitate the completion and/or publication of academic work related to the Society of Jesus. Preference will be given to applications that propose publication projects for the Institute of Jesuit Sources and IJS Studies during their fellowship at the Institute. Applications are now welcomed from scholars in the fields of history, spirituality, and pedagogy, among others. The submission deadline is January 15, 2022.

The Institute offers two types of in-residence fellowships: Institute Fellowships, a year-long appointment (September-May), and Senior Research Fellowships, a semester-long appointment.

The year-long fellowship includes a stipend of $20,000, while the semester-long fellowship offers a stipend of $12,000. Additional support for research-related travel during the residency may be available. The Institute also provides furnished housing as part of both fellowships. Please contact the Institute with any questions, and please indicate in your application’s statement of purpose if you would require special arrangements for your housing.

Fellowships include personal office space at the Institute and access to the collections in the University’s libraries and those of the colleges and universities in the Boston consortium. Candidates are encouraged to consult the extensive listings of Jesuitica holdings at Boston College prior to submitting their applications. Preference will be given to applicants in the final stages of writing or revising substantive scholarly work. Please indicate in your statement of purpose if you have a preferred publisher or have already signed a contract with one.

While in residence at the Institute, fellows will make one presentation of their work each semester. They are encouraged to collaborate with the Institute’s initiatives and programming and with the Institute’s Research Scholars. They are also expected to engage with the wider academic community by attending events and meeting with the University’s faculty members and other visiting scholars. The fellowships are not academic appointments and have no teaching responsibilities.

In addition to a completed application, candidates should email the following materials to (please include in the subject line “fellowship”):

  • Curriculum vitae
  • A sample of scholarly work of no more than 30 pages
  • Statement of Purpose of 1,500-2,000 words. This statement should describe the project, its scholastic contributions, and how it relates to existing works (with authors, titles, and dates). Also, it should explain the ways in which the fellowship and being in residence at the Institute would assist with the project.
  • Please indicate if you would require special housing accommodations and if your project already has a publisher.
  • Official transcript (for applicants enrolled in school)
  • Lastly, two letters in support of an application should be emailed directly to the Institute by the recommenders.

If necessary, application materials may be mailed to:

Boston College
Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies
Simboli Hall
Attn: Fellowship Programs
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Applications are due January 15, 2022, and candidates will be notified of decisions by January 31, 2022. Questions can be directed to the Institute (, with “fellowship” as the subject).

“Profiling Saints: Understanding the Theological and Cultural Foundations of Catholic Hagiographical Models (1500s–1900s)” is an online conference taking place between December 15 and 17, 2021. The event is organized by Elisa Frei of University of Macerata/Boston College and Eleanora Rai of KU Leuven. It is free and open to the public, via Zoom ( ; Passcode: 1622).


The full schedule appears below.


Wednesday 15th, 2021 (CET)

3.15 pm – 3.30 pm

Elisa Frei and Eleonora Rai (University of Macerata/Boston College and KU Leuven)

Welcome and Introduction


3.30 pm – 4.30 pm
Franco Motta (University of Turin)
Keynote Lecture
Sanctity and Modernity: Opposition or Agreement
Discussant: Michela Catto (University of Turin)


4.30 pm – 5.00 pm
Round Table


5 pm – 5.15 pm


5.15 pm – 6.45 pm
Session 1: Hagiography in Images: the Jesuits
Chair: Tom Santa Maria (Yale University)

Grace Harpster (Georgia State University)
Super Centum Martyres: The Jesuit Martyr Portrait Series before 1622

Steffen Zierholz (University of Tübingen)
Allegories of Light and Fire: Ignatian Effigies Painted on Copper

Rachel Miller (California State University, Sacramento)
The First Apostle of Japan: St. Francis Xavier’s Japanese Ministry in European and Latin American Art


Thursday 16th, 2021 (CET)

3 pm – 4 pm
Session 2: The 1622 Founders’ Canonizations
Chair: Elisa Frei (University of Macerata/Boston College)

Tom Santa Maria (Yale University)
The Ideal Founder Saint? Philip Neri and the Oratorian Quest for Holiness

Robert A. Maryks (City University of New York)
Making Jesuit Saint—Making Jesuit Myth: Ignatius of Loyola and his Early Hagiography


4 pm – 4.15 pm


4.15 pm – 5.45 pm
Session 3: Virtues of Saints: Japan and Ethiopia
Chair: Sabina Pavone (University of Macerata)

Elisa Frei (University of Macerata/Boston College)
Francis Xavier’s Sanctity in the Relatio Rotae (1619) and Daniello Bartoli’s Asia (1653)

Leonardo Cohen (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Patience, Suffering and Tolerance: The Experience of Defeat and Exile among the Jesuits of Ethiopia (1632–1659

Carlo Pelliccia (CHAM — Centro de Humanidades, Universidade Nova de Lisboa and CLEPUL, Universidade de Lisboa)
Saints, Relics and Devotion: the European Experience of the Young Japanese Ambassadors (1584-1586)


Friday 17th, 2021 (CET)

1 pm – 2.30 pm
Session 4: Strategies of Sanctity
Chair: Antonio Gerace (Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose “Giovanni XXIII”/KU Leuven)

Carla Tronu Montané (Kansai University of Foreign Studies)
Historical Memory and Models of Sanctity: An Overview of the Martyrs of Japan

Beatrice Saletti (University of Ferrara)
Lucia Broccadelli da Narni in Ferrara: a Decided-in-Advance Saint Between Policy Needs and Community Realities

Stefan Samerski (University of Berlin)
What about Saints of the French Revolution? Canonization and Beatification after 1789


2.30 pm – 2.45 pm


2.45 pm – 3.45
Session 5: Theology and Sanctity in the Flanders
Chair: Wim François (KU Leuven)

Antonio Gerace (Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose “Giovanni XXIII”/KU Leuven)
From Book to Images: Theology and Sixteenth-century Works-of-art in Southern Low Countries

Eleonora Rai (KU Leuven)
Victim of his Own Doctrine: Leonard Lessius the Saint, Leonard Lessius the Heretic (1500s-1900s)


3.45 pm – 4.45 pm
Session 6: Martyrdom and the Jesuits
Chair: Eleonora Rai

Emanuele Colombo (DePaul University)
Jesuits and the Desire for Martyrdom

Jean-Pascal Gay (UC Louvain)
Finding Martyrs at Home? Jesuit Attempts at Redefining Martyrdom in the Seventeenth Century and Their Censure


4.45 pm – 5 pm


5 pm – 6 pm
Simon Ditchfield (University of York)
Keynote Lecture
Exemplary Lives in the Making of a World Religion
Discussant: Camilla Russell (Sapienza University/Newcastle University, AU)


6 pm – 6.30 pm
Round Table and Conclusions