THE SOCIETY OF JESUS
St. Ignatius of Loyola
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, was born in 1491, as the last child of a large Basque family of Spain. The name Loyola came from the ancestral castle which was the family heritage of St. Ignatius. According to the traditions of his family, Ignatius was trained for arms and the etiquette of court life. He enlisted himself in the border wars with France and was badly wounded in battle. As he was convalescing at Loyola, he read Gospel narratives and the lives of saints and was inspired to follow Christ by giving up all worldly ambitions and trappings of power and embracing a life of poverty, sacrifice and service after the example of his saintly mentors. He began this new life at the age of 31, and spent a year of severe penance and intense prayer in a solitary cave on the banks of the river Condoner near the town Manresa. He recorded his experiences in a book called “The Spiritual Exercises” which became the soul and center, the rule and character of every Jesuit who came thereafter. Reflecting on the crisis in the Church of his time, he felt the need of the hour was learned and holy priests, free of greed and ambition and ready to serve the poor and to bear witness to the love of Christ for all.
To achieve this objective, he set himself in right earnest to study from grammar school to college and university in the various Spanish centers of learning and finally took his Master’s Degree from the Sorbonne University, Paris. At the same time, he won over a group of brilliant and likeminded university men (like St Francis Xavier) molded them by the Spiritual Exercises and welded them into a religious fraternity which became the Society of Jesus or Jesuits, as they popularly came to be known in the course of time.
The Society of Jesus is world-wide organization of religious men numbering about 20,000 spread all over the world, of whom over 3,800 are working in the 20 provinces of India. In Andhra Pradesh alone, there are about 200 Jesuits working in schools and colleges, youth services and social work centers, in parishes and in mission out-reach programmes, and in almost any and every form of service and ministry of the church.
- Is world-affirming system; it assists in the total formation of each individual within the human community; it includes a religious dimension that permeates the entire education, it is an apostolic instrument that promotes dialogue between faith and culture.
- Insists on individual care and concern for each person. It emphasizes activity on the part of the student and encourages lifelong openness to growth
- Is value-oriented. It encourages a realistic knowledge, love and acceptance of the self.
- Proposes Christ as the model of human life. It provides adequate personal care and concern for others It celebrates faith in personal and community prayer, worship and service.
- Is a preparation for active life-commitment. It serves the faith that does justice, seeks to form “men and women for others” and manifests a particular concern for the poor.
- Is an apostolic instrument in the service of the Church as it serves human society. It prepares students for active participation in the Church and for the service of others.
- Pursues excellence in its work of formation and witness to that excellence.
- Stresses lay-Jesuits collaboration and relies on a spirit of community among administrators, teachers, parents, alumni and benefactors in an atmosphere that promotes community.
- Adopts means and methods in order to achieve its purpose most effectively with a common vision and common goal. It assists in providing the professional training and on-going formation that is needed especially for administrators and teachers.