Jesuit Father John Whitney, 43, is the new provincial of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus.

He succeeds Jesuit Father Robert Grimm, who completed a four-year term.

Father Whitney teaches religion and English at Seattle Preparatory School and is the Superior of the Jesuit community there.

Father Whitney entered the Society in 1983 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He earned a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University prior to entering the novitiate, and completed his master of divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in 1994.

Most of Father Whitney's priestly life was spent at Seattle University, where he worked in campus ministry, taught philosophy, served as the Jesuit community minister and as alumni chaplain.

As the provincial, Father Whitney's role will be equivalent to that of a bishop towards his priests. As a bishop is in charge of the priests in his diocese, a provincial is the superior for the Jesuits in his area.

The Jesuits are the largest Catholic religious order in the world with 21,000 members. In the Northwest, there are 271 Jesuits, and 172 of them are in Washington State.

Word of Father Whitney's new assignment came from the head of the Jesuits worldwide, Jesuit Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. The Father General decides who will be provincial after extensive consultation with the men of the province.

'We heard a call for a man of prayer and vision. We heard our brothers looking for a man with generosity of spirit, one who could readily love the brothers and make that love felt, one open to the universal mission of the Society, which is a 'Faith that does Justice,' said Father Grimm.

'We also heard them looking for someone who could make tough decisions, and one graced with intelligence, articulateness, and stamina, who can related well with lay colleagues and the larger public. John Whitney has the qualities we need in a leader,' Father Grimm said.

Father Whitney said he was 'amazed, honored and hopeful that the prayers of the province will sustain him as he works to be a part of God's plan.'

He will be installed on July 31, the feast of the Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The area Father Whitney will head is known as the Oregon Province.

It consists of five states - Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Within the Province, Jesuits sponsors two universities - Seattle and Gonzaga - four prep schools and a middle school.

The Jesuits also staff seven parishes. In addition, Jesuits serve on eight Native American reservations, do retreat and spiritual direction work, serve as prison and hospital chaplains, and work with the poor.