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Nobili, John


Missionary; b. Rome, Italy, April 8, 1812; d. Santa Clara, Calif., March 1, 1856. He entered the Jesuits in Rome on Nov. 14, 1828 and subsequently taught in the Jesuit colleges at Loretto and Fermo in Italy. After ordination in 1843, he volunteered for the missions in the Oregon Country of North America. On Aug. 5, 1844, Nobili with his Jesuit companions, Michael Accolti and Peter De Smet, arrived at Ft. Vancouver. From 1845 to 1848 he worked among the indigenous people and settlers of New Caledonia (now British Columbia). During these years, Nobili helped to establish chapels in various forts or trading posts of the Hudson's Bay Company, and his successive missionary journeys extended as far as the southern boundary of Alaska. Unexpectedly, he was recalled from his missionary work by his superior, Rev. Joseph Joset. After making his final profession as a Jesuit in May 1849, he was assigned to accompany Accolti to California. Nobili arrived in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 1849, and then assisted the Rev. Anthony Langlois in the parish of St. Francis and in the pueblo of San Jose, located 50 miles south of San Francisco. In 1850 the new bishop of Monterey, Joseph S. Alemany, OP, asked him to administer the Mission Santa Clara, several miles from San Jose, and to establish there a college for young men. Despite the secularization of the mission, Nobili established Santa Clara College, the first Jesuit and Catholic college in California. Although it was not chartered by the state of California until April 28, 1855, instruction began on March 19, 1851. Nobili served as its first president until his premature death.

Bibliography: g. j. garraghan, Jesuits of the Middle United States, 3 v. (New York 1938). j. w. riordan, The First Half Century of St. Ignatius Church and College (San Francisco 1905).

[j. b. mcgloin]

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