Catholic Educational Heritage: Jesuit

Loyola University Chicago

At Jesuit institutions, students are challenged to realize and develop their God-given gifts and talents, and are encouraged to place themselves at the service of others. This foundation of Jesuit education has remained constant since St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits) and founded the first Jesuit schools in Europe.

The beginnings of Jesuit education start with college roommates. St. Ignatius banded together with other students from the University of Paris to dedicate their lives in service to God and the church. This small group of friends sought to make a difference in the world through helping those in greatest need. They quickly realized that education would be a powerful tool in accomplishing their mission of service.

The goal of Jesuit spirituality is to find God in all things. This spirituality has lead Jesuit scholars in the pursuit of knowledge in all academic disciplines, from physics to history, for God can be found in the pursuits of the mind. As teachers and innovators in education, the Jesuits developed a liberal arts curriculum infused with Christian humanism, which remains a distinguishing feature of Jesuit education to this day.

Academic, spiritual, and social development are at the heart of a Jesuit education, and these interrelated pursuits cannot be separated from each other. To develop and grow in these areas, students use three common methods: experience, reflection, and action. They are encouraged to take their day-to-day activities and classes, think critically about them, engage in a dialogue of their reflections, and use the fruits of those reflections to shape the activity of their lives.

The 28 Jesuit education institutions of higher learning in the United States are unique in many ways, but all share a common set of values that foster distinctive communities of learners. The first of which is cura peronalis, the “care of the individual person.” This helps shape a community of faculty, staff, and students that offer a deep and loving care for another. In the words of St. Ignatius, “Love is seen more properly in actions than words.”

Magis, “the more,” helps develop a drive throughout Jesuit schools that pushes the limits. Excellence is the standard and then some. The more strives to create a better world—more just and more aligned to the vision of the Gospels.

Ad Majorem dei Gloriam, “for the greater glory of God,” is the motto of the Jesuit order and many Jesuit schools. Ultimately, the pursuits of the playing field, classroom, laboratory, chapel, service, work, and many other activities that fill the days at Jesuit campuses are for the purpose of giving God glory.

St. Ignatius encouraged Jesuit graduates “to go forth and set the world on fire.” Today, Jesuit graduates can be seen doing just that as leaders in government, education, business, law, and all professional sectors throughout the world. 

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