Luigi Fortis was born in Verona in February 26th 1748. A boy of promising intellect with a considerable capacity for academia, he entered the Society at the age of 14, studied in Bologna and was teaching humanities at the University of Ferrara in Northern Italy when the Brief of Suppression was promulgated in 1773. Then only 25 years old Luigi returned to Verona to become a private tutor in mathematics. His vocation to priesthood remained through the trauma of the Suppression and he was to be ordained a priest five years later. Keeping an eye on events in Russia he contacted the Jesuits, expressing the desire to join them. Due to the 'limbo' the Jesuits were in, an uneasy balance between Rome and Catherine the Great, and without wishing to exacerbate tensions he was advised to remain in Italy until the situation Improved.
Things were to improve quickly, particularly with the support of the Duke of Parma - Fernando. The Duchy became a foothold for the Society, where it experienced a partial restoration. In 1793, 20 years after the Suppression Fortis renewed his vows as Jesuit in Parma and taught History and Physics at the College of the Nobles. His blissful return to being a Jesuit schoolmaster was only to last 11 years, as he was to move twice due to the French armies invading - firstly to Naples and then 5 years later back to Verona. This gives us an insight to the turbulence created by the Napoleonic Wars.
After the Societies Universal Restoration in 1814 Fortis became the provincial in Italy and was named an assistant to the exiled general Fr Brzozowski. He was to replace him as General after the fractious 20th General Congregation at the age of 72 and for 8 years he led the Society through a crucial period of rebuilding. Key moments were him overseeing a revision of the Ratio Studiorum, which had failed to keep up with the rapid changes to the academic landscape during the Enlightenment. Anxious to accentuate continuity with the Society founded by Ignatius, he was to reject requests to allow Jesuit colleges to accept fees which would be overturned by his successor Roothaan. He also had to adjudicate a messy affair in Baltimore in which the incumbent archbishop was demanding property and stipends to be handed over to him from the Jesuits. Most septuagenarians are looking forward to a quiet life.... not the general of the Society of Jesus!