In 1972, Rufo Mendizábal, S.J., oversaw the publication of the Catalogus defunctorum in renata Societate Iesu, a necrology of the more than 32,000 men who died in the Society between 1814 and 1970. The catalogue was a compendium of several earlier efforts to collect and publish personal information of deceased Jesuits. Alexander Vivier, S.J., one of those earlier chroniclers, wrote of his catalogue in 1897, “I have no doubt that this register is going to be useful to those who write of the events of our lives; for here they will find notations of times, places, and persons attached, knowledge of which is of very great interest for the writing of history" [quotations in this section translated by Claude Pavur, S.J., Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies].
Mendizábal collected, corrected, and updated these various catalogues in a single volume “so,” as he explained, “that those who write or want to research our histories may not waste their time.” His volume presents the entries in chronological order, assigning to each a numerical value that corresponds to an alphabetized index of names.
Those entries consist of a man’s surname and forename, his dates and places of birth, entrance to the Society, and death, and his grade in the Society.
In an refreshing expression of modesty, Mendizábal confessed that he was not as “diligent” as his predecessors, “and thus I rightly assume that mistakes are not absent from this catalogue.” Among the changes he made was to translate the names of places “into the vernacular attending to today’s political configurations.” Many of those places are, of course, from a vernacular long out of date. Individuals’ forenames were all Latinized, a common tactic in the multilingual religious order.
Mendizábal’s volume remains an indispensable resource for identifying information about individual Jesuits who died in the Society in the century and half following the order’s restoration in 1814. By providing a digital version of his work, the editors and developers of the Jesuit Online Necrology hope to make the contents of the Catalogus defunctorum more accessible but also interactive. Individual Jesuits will be more easily discoverable, through the database’s search capabilities. Further, the personal information for all of these individuals who dedicated their lives to the Society of Jesus are integrated, yielding an unprecedented macro-view of this unique group of men. Of those who lived and died in the Society following the order’s restoration, we can now explore what was the most common date of entry and the most common place of birth or death. We can determine what year saw the most admissions, the most births, and the most deaths among this group of men who died as Jesuits.
Mendizábal recognized that in such a large and complicated work adjustments would be necessary, and he requested that any changes to his printed volume be submitted, thereby “sowing ‘trees that another age may enjoy.’” Likewise, the editors of the Jesuit Online Necrology welcome corrections, additions, suggestions for additional visualizations, and general comments (firstname.lastname@example.org).