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What Are Religious Orders at Catholic Colleges All About?

Catholic universities are often referred to by the religious order that founded and sponsors them. Here's an expert look at the most common and their values.

Julie McCullohJulie McCulloh
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
Gonzaga University
As you’re researching Catholic colleges and universities, you might notice terms like Jesuit, Fransican, 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 more than 20 Jesuit colleges and universities in the US, 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 can be summed up in the motto of pax, or peace, and the ethics of prayer and work. Whereas, 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 still similar in many ways; 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 more of the common Catholic orders you might see:

  • Christian Brothers
  • Diocesan
  • Dominican
  • Holy Cross
  • Lasallian
  • Sisters of Mercy
  • Sisters of St. Joseph
  • Vincentian

Find great schools of all Catholic orders using our featured Catholic college lists.  

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