Jesuit, Benedictine, Dominican: Why do some Catholic colleges and universities identify themselves like this?

Julie McCullohJulie McCulloh
Dean of Admission
Gonzaga University

As you’re researching Catholic colleges and universities, you might notice that they describe themselves with terms like “Jesuit,” “Lasallian,” “Benedictine,” and more. This is because Catholic universities are often referred to by the religious order that founded and sponsors them.

For example, there are 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, and they were were founded by priests and brothers from the Jesuit order, also known as “the Society of Jesus.” These schools uphold the main tenets of the Jesuits, including cura peronalis, which means “care of the individual person,” and magis, “the more,” which essentially encourages you to strive for excellence. 

The Benedictine order, which was established by Saint Benedict in sixth-century Italy, can be summed up in the motto of pax, or peace, and the ethics of prayer and work. Franciscan schools follow the teachings of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, and they uphold tenets like respecting the dignity of all creation, through service-learning, hospitality, and social justice.

Of course, Catholic institutions are similar in many ways too; they all value things like giving back to their communities and helping students grow both academically and spiritually. Whether a Catholic college is founded by a religious order or is a diocesan college directly reporting to the local Catholic bishop, all Catholic colleges are missions of the Catholic church, and Catholic religious studies faculty members are in conversation with the local Catholic bishop.

Here are some of the more common Catholic educational traditions you might see (though there are many others, not to mention independent Catholic colleges!):

  • Benedictine
  • Christian Brothers
  • Diocesan
  • Dominican
  • Franciscan
  • Holy Cross
  • Jesuit
  • Lasallian
  • Sisters of Mercy
  • Sisters of St. Joseph
  • Vincentian
You'll find more information and examples here.

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