PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — The new leader of Jesuits in the western United States is both a champion and student of migrants.

Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, 55, was founding executive director of the Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative, a humanitarian aid ministry serving on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

He took his new post July 31 and will be based at the Jesuit community in Portland, but he will also spend time at the Jesuit offices in Los Gatos, California.

Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, former executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, is seen in this undated photo. He is now leader of the Jesuits in the 10 western states. Father Carroll took his new post July 31, 2021, and will be based at the Jesuit community in Portland. (CNS photo/Jesuits West, courtesy Catholic Sentinel)

Father Arturo Sosa, superior general of the worldwide Jesuits, called Father Carroll “humble and zealous.”

“He is a visionary with audacious apostolic imagination who can also put ideas into practice, building partnerships and institutional networks for the sake of the greater good,” Father Sosa said in a statement. He praised Father Carroll for working across borders at a time when civil society is so divided.

The new provincial is a trained administrator who earned an executive MBA from Georgetown University in 2017.

The priest succeeds Father Scott Santarosa as head of the 10-state province. Both men served at Dolores Mission in East Los Angeles, a parish full of migrants and families hit by poverty and gang violence.

“Sean has become a respected leader, administrator, bridge builder and collaborator, known by all for his kind heart,” Father Santarosa said.

Father Carroll was born in Massachusetts but spent most of his childhood in Southern California. After graduating from Servite High School in Anaheim, he earned a history degree from Stanford University. The next year, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in California, professing first vows in 1991.

He has served at Fordham University in New York, Loyola High School in Los Angeles and Colegio del Sagrado Corazon in Montevideo, Uruguay. He was associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Oakland, California, and associate pastor of Dolores Mission.

In 2009, he was named leader of Kino Border Initiative, the border ministry named in honor of Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino, a 17th-century missionary who ministered in Sonora.

The initiative has grown from a modest dining room to an organization that last year provided more than 100,000 meals to men, women and children who were recently deported and others seeking asylum in the U.S. It also provides overnight shelter for more than 100 people and services including first aid, legal support and pastoral accompaniment.

When he was a Jesuit novice, Father Carroll had served in a house for migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, where residents taught him about connection and solidarity. He learned Spanish better so he could form deeper relationships.

The learning continued at the border initiative and will affect his work as provincial, he said.

“Trust in God. It’s a powerful lesson the migrants taught me over the years,” he said. Amid violence, separation and scorn, immigrants place themselves in God’s hands and press on, he said.

“God is deeply present in their struggles,” he added.

His first task as provincial, he said, is to get to know the Jesuits in his care. He expects to discern next steps with them.


Get to know Fr. Carroll and Kino Border Initiative with episode 197 of Catholics Matter.