New Dean Named for Jesuit School of Theology

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 10, 2023 — The esteemed Jesuit theologian, speaker, and leader, Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, S.J., STL ’98, Hon. ’12, will become the new dean of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University (JST-SCU) on Aug. 15. He is currently president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, responsible for leading the inter-provincial mission of the Society of Jesus in the region.

A stirring public speaker, Orobator is especially known for his scholarship and talks on ecclesiology—or the study of the Church—as well as theological ethics, human rights, and human dignity, especially fuller participation of women in the life of the Church.

A delegate to the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus and one of the most important theological voices in Africa, Orobator recently spoke at the Continental Synodal Assembly for the Church in Africa about how a “listening Church” should be home for sisters and brothers who feel left out because of marginalization, patriarchy, or clericalism in the Church.

“We are delighted to welcome Fr. Orobator, an internationally acclaimed theologian with a deep knowledge of the international needs of the future church, to lead our Jesuit School of Theology,” said Julie Sullivan, president of Santa Clara University. “In addition to his strong administrative and leadership skills, the Jesuit School of Theology and the University will benefit immensely from Fr. Orobator’s global presence and thoughtful vision of the future of theological education.”

Jesuit Theologate

In this new role, Orobator will lead one of two theologates in the United States that provides advanced degrees and education to Jesuit priests and brothers, and also educates religious and lay men and women in culturally contextualized theology in preparation for a broad range of ministries in service to the Church and world. As an ecclesiastical faculty, JST-SCU grants degrees with the approval of the Church through the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education.

“I am elated and grateful for this opportunity to join JST-SCU,” said Orobator, who will become dean of the school 25 years after completing his graduate studies there. “JST-SCU is a special place for me, and this is an opportunity to give back and to work alongside faculty, staff, and students to build on the solid and impressive spiritual, intellectual, and institutional foundations of the school in order to envision and shape a more illustrious future.”

“I envisage for JST-SCU an enhanced capacity to deliver a solid and innovative theological education and ministerial formation with a global mindset, and a sustained engagement with diverse cultures and traditions—especially in areas witnessing rapid changes in the fortunes of religious beliefs and practices,” he added.

Orobator joins the 89-year-old Berkeley-based institution as the School is preparing to craft its vision for the next five years and beyond. JST-SCU is coming to the end of its 2018-2023 strategic plan, which focused on public engagement, ministerial formation and excellence, and innovation. Orobator will play a significant role helping to craft and execute a new strategic plan which will, in part, focus on preparing scholars and ministers to serve both the local and the global Church.


Orobator grew up in Benin City, Nigeria, practicing traditional African religion. After visiting the local Jesuit parish as a teen for Easter vigil Mass, Orobator became enamored with Catholicism and the Jesuit Order. He saw the works of the American Jesuits as fully devoted to the service of others, resonant of an African anthropology of Ubuntu that teaches “a person is a person through other persons.” After two years of college, where he studied linguistics and African languages, he joined the Jesuits in 1986 and was ordained in 1998.

Fluent in four languages, Orobator received his Ph.D in theology and religious studies from the University of Leeds in England, his MBA from Georgetown University, and his licentiate in sacred theology from JST-SCU, from which he also received an honorary doctorate in 2012. He received a bachelor’s degree in theology from Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Institut de Philosophie Saint Pierre Canisius in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He was previously provincial superior of the Jesuits of the Eastern Africa Province. He has taught theology and religious studies at Hekima University College, St. Augustine College of South Africa in Johannesburg, and Marquette University in Milwaukee. He serves on the board of directors of Theological Studies and the board of directors of Georgetown University.

He is author of the books “Theology Brewed in an African Pot;” “Religion and Faith in Africa: Confessions of an Animist,” based on Duffy Lectures he delivered at Boston College; and “The Pope and the Pandemic: Lessons in Leadership in a Time of Crisis,” a Catholic Media Association award winner. He is editor of “The Church We Want: African Catholics Look to Vatican III,” co-editor of “Feminist Catholic Theological Ethics: Conversations in the World Church,” and a member of the editorial board of the journal Marriage, Families & Spirituality.

Orobator takes over the deanship following the passing of former dean Joseph Mueller, S.J., in January.

About the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

The Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, located in Berkeley, California, is a preeminent international center for the culturally contextualized study of theology. Its mission is to inspire and prepare men and women to become leaders in the Church, academy, and society, serving others through a faith that does justice. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, JST-SCU educates and trains Jesuits, religious, ordained, and lay students from across the United States and from 40 other countries for lives dedicated to ministry and scholarship.

Media Contact

Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121

May 10, 2023

New Dean Named for Jesuit School of Theology

Message from Julie Sullivan President of Santa Clara University

Related Articles