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Frequently Asked Questions about the Jesuits
For more information, please visit www.jesuit.org.
What is a Jesuit? A Jesuit is a member of the Society of Jesus, a religious order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1540.
What is the origin of the word Jesuit? It is an anglicized version of the Latin Jesuita, which is the combination of the two Latin words Jesu and Ita. This translates as "Yes, Jesus."
Are there different kinds of Jesuits? Yes. There are Jesuit priests, Jesuit brothers, and Jesuit scholastics.
What is a Jesuit priest? A Jesuit priest (called "Father") is ordained for sacramental ministry after 12 to 15 years of training.
What is a Jesuit brother? A Jesuit brother (called "Brother") is one who is not ordained and whose apostolic work does not include sacramental or priestly ministry.
What is a Jesuit scholastic? A Jesuit scholastic (called "Mister") is a seminarian still in the process of preparing to be a priest.
What makes a Jesuit a member of a religious order? Members of a religious order take vows of perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience.
What does S.J. stand for? It stands for “Society of Jesus.” You'll normally see these initials after every Jesuit's name.
Why were Jesuits called "Blackrobes"? Jesuits wore a black robe called a cassock that was bound together at the waist by a cincture (belt). For the most part, Jesuits today wear a black shirt with a Roman collar rather than a cassock.
Is it true that the Society of Jesus is the largest religious order of men in the world? Yes. As of January 2005, there were some 21,000 men on six continents and in 127 countries throughout the world. There are about 13,966 priests; 1,921 brothers; 3,054 scholastics; and 909 novices. There are approximately 3,217 Jesuits in the U.S.
What types of work are Jesuits engaged in? Apostolic works that Jesuits are engaged in are education, parish ministry, preaching, pastoral ministry in hospitals, spiritual direction, giving retreats, missionary work in foreign countries, the training of diocesan seminarians, writing and publishing, TV and radio ministry, medicine and psychiatry to name a few. There are 360 Jesuit priests and brothers who staff 110 parishes and over 200 Jesuits serve in 26 retreat houses and spiritual centers in the U.S.
Where do Jesuits work in the United States? Jesuits in the U.S. work in ten regional areas called provinces.
What are the names of these regional areas or provinces? The ten Jesuit provinces in the U.S. are California, Chicago, Detroit, Maryland, Missouri, New England, New Orleans, New York, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
Is someone in charge of these provinces? Yes. Each province is governed by a provincial superior.
Who is the provincial superior of the New York Province? Rev. David S. Ciancimino, S.J., is the Provincial of the New York Province.
What states make up the New York Province? The New York Province includes New York state and North and Central New Jersey.
Who was St. Ignatius Loyola? Ignatius Loyola was a Basque (Spaniard) born of a noble family in 1491. He was the youngest of 11 children.
What did Ignatius do for a living? He was a nobleman, a soldier and a member of the house or court of the Loyola family.
What brought about Ignatius' founding of the Jesuits? A serious injury to his leg in battle in 1521 began a period of conversion in his life that eventually led to his starting a new religious order in 1540 called the Society of Jesus.
Why did Ignatius call his order the “Society of Jesus”? He referred to his co-workers as “companions of Jesus,” which led to the official name of the order, the Company of Jesus (in Latin, Societas Jesu). In English the order become known as the “Society of Jesus.”
What else do we know about Ignatius? He became the first Superior General of his order and died on July 31, 1556. The universal Church celebrates his feast day on July 31.
Why did Ignatius Loyola start the Society of Jesus? The Society of Jesus was founded to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.
How did the early Jesuits go about doing this? They engaged in public preaching, lectures, giving the Spiritual Exercises, and the administration of the sacraments.
What are the “Spiritual Exercises”? The Spiritual Exercises is a book by Ignatius that consists of a set of prayer experiences and reflections designed to be experienced over a period of 30 days under the guidance of a spiritual director.
What’s the purpose of the “Spiritual Exercises”? The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises is to help individuals to live more serious Christian lives, find their personal calling or vocation, discern how to use their gifts or talents to better serve God, to help others, and to find genuine happiness.
What does A.M.D.G. stand for? It stands for the Latin phrase, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, which means, “For the greater glory of God.”
What's so important about A.M.D.G.? It is the motto of the Society of Jesus.
Was education one of the major reasons for founding the Society of Jesus? No. The early educational institutions of the Society were intended only for the training of Jesuit scholastics or seminarians.
Why did Ignatius decide to open Jesuit institutions to non-Jesuits? Pressure from lay people forced Ignatius to rethink the educational goals of the Society; he realized the value of educating leaders for society.
When did the first Jesuit school open for the public? The first Jesuit school started in 1548 in Messina in Sicily.
What attracted lay people to these Jesuit schools? The advanced teaching methods and high moral tone of the Jesuits were big attractions. The Jesuits were among the first to incorporate the Classical teachings of Renaissance humanism into the Scholastic structure of Catholic thought. In addition to teaching about their faith, Jesuit schools were distinguished in their teaching of Latin, Greek, classical literature, poetry, and philosophy. These schools encouraged the study of vernacular literature and rhetoric and thereby became important centers for the training of lawyers and other public officials.
How fast did the educational apostolate of the Society grow? At the time of Ignatius' death in 1556, there were about 1,000 Jesuits maintaining around 100 different educational institutions throughout the world.
How many Jesuit high schools, colleges and universities are there in the world today? There are more than 160 Jesuit educational institutions around the world. These include primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, seminaries, technical institutes and centers for adult learning.
How many Jesuit colleges/universities and high schools are there in the U.S. today? There are 28 colleges and universities and 48 Jesuit high schools in the continental U.S. and one in Puerto Rico.
Are there other schools in the New York Province? Yes, in fact, the New York Province includes the most Jesuit high schools in the country. In addition to Saint Peter’s Prep, there are six other Jesuit high schools in the area, including Canisius High School (Buffalo), McQuaid Jesuit High School (Rochester), Regis High School (NYC), Fordham Prep (NYC), Loyola School (NYC), and Xavier High School (NYC). The province also sponsors three Nativity middle schools, four colleges, and is involved in other educational missions. Click here for more information.
When did the first Jesuit school open in the United States? Georgetown University in Washington, DC, was the first Jesuit college to open in the U.S. in 1789.
Is there an organization and network of Jesuit high schools? Yes, the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA) is an organization serving the needs of Jesuit high schools in the United States. Similar organizations exist for other countries.
Is there a parallel organization for Jesuit colleges and universities? Yes. The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) serves the needs of these institutions.
Where are the offices of the JSEA and AJCU located? Both organizations are located in Washington, DC.
Where can we find today the vision of Ignatius Loyola for Jesuit schools? In 1986 the International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education published the document, Go Forth and Teach: the Characteristics of Jesuit Education.
What's so important about this document? It lists 28 characteristics of Jesuit education that gives administrators and teachers in a Jesuit school a common vision and a common sense of purpose.
Are Jesuit schools part of the local diocesan educational system? Jesuit schools are private, independent schools. However, they work in close collaboration with the diocesan system.
Do all Jesuit schools charge tuition? All but one Jesuit school charges tuition.
You mean there is one Jesuit school that is completely free? Yes. There is only one completely endowed Jesuit high school in the U.S., Regis High School in New York City.
Are there any coed Jesuit schools? Although all Jesuit schools were originally founded for the education of young men, today all the Jesuit colleges and universities are open to both men and women. An increasing number of Jesuit high schools are coed (13). They are:
(Xavier High School, in Colorado, is co-institutional, meaning that its male and female students go to the same school but take separate classes and programs.)
Are all Jesuit high schools college preparatory? Yes. Jesuit schools help to prepare their students for entrance into college and strongly adhere to the mission of preparing leaders for tomorrow.
Do Jesuit high schools focus only on academic excellence? No. They strive to go beyond mere academic excellence through the formation of the whole person: intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, morally and spiritually.
Are Jesuit high schools Catholic schools? Yes. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) are a religious order of the Catholic Church. Jesuit schools do, however, welcome individuals of other faiths who qualify for admission.
Why do Jesuit schools teach theology? They believe that as Catholic schools they have a mission to continue the religious education of their Catholic students and to strengthen the faith of those who are not Catholic.
Are there other programs that foster the religious and spiritual development of their students? Yes, Jesuit schools have pastoral programs that include school Masses, retreats, and common prayers.
Why do Jesuit schools demand a certain number of hours of community service? Jesuit schools believe in developing “men and women for others,” individuals who recognize the needs of others and are willing to volunteer their services to help those less fortunate than they.
Have there been graduates of Jesuit schools that have achieved some national or international prominence?
Yes. Here are a few individuals:
Are there Jesuit saints? Yes, there are 42 canonized Jesuit saints and 137 other Jesuits who have been declared blessed, the first step to sainthood. The following is a list of most of them according to the order of their canonization:
What does the word magis mean? Magis is a Latin word meaning "more."
How does the word magis fit into Jesuit spirituality and ministry? The magis focuses on what is judged to be the greater good, the more courageous response to the challenge of the times, referring not only to ideas and vision but also to action.
Is it true that Jesuits have been in space? No, it isn't true (at least not yet!). However, 35 craters on the moon have been named after Jesuits to honor their work as astronomers and scientists.
Who is the present Superior General of the Jesuits? His name is Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J. He was elected General in 2008 and he resides in Rome.
Who were the other Superior Generals of the past century? They are in chronological order:
Where are the headquarters of the Society of Jesus? The international office is in Rome. The national office in the U.S. is in Washington, DC.