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Milan Jesuits appoint female rector

The Jesuits in Italy have appointed 44 year old science teacher and mother of two Gabriella Tona to the post of rector of their prestigious Milan high school Leo XIII.

United Press International reports that Ms Tona is the first woman head of a Jesuit senior high school in Italy and possibly anywhere.

It says that on being told of the appointment, her first reaction was: "But don't you realise that I am a woman?"

The choice of a lay person to head the school was partly dictated by necessity.

"We are few in number and we're getting old," declared Tona's predecessor Fr the first woman head of a Jesuit senior high school in Italy De Mari. "This is why we need lay help."

Other Jesuit schools have lay headmasters and rectors, but the Italian Jesuits have gone one further and appointed a woman to the job.

"We know some people will have doubts about our choice, but that doesn't interest us," De Mari told the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera Tuesday.

"Our choice was dictated by changes in the world and in our own order. I've been nursing this dream for 30 years, and for 30 years I was unsuccessful in putting it into effect. So I certainly don't have any regrets."

A Jesuit source said on Wednesday that the appointment won approval within the order's Milan community after a lengthy internal discussion. But now the Jesuits have closed ranks behind the decision.

Bartolomeo Sorge, the leading Italian Jesuit sociologist and theologian, and editor of the Society's monthly "Aggiornamenti sociali" (Social Updates) has expressed his approval.

"I view this renewal of the work of our order with favour," he commented. "And there is more renewal to come."

Jesuits appoint woman rector (United Press International 4/8/04)

Gesuiti in Italia
Istituto Leone XIII

6 Aug 2004