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:
- Bellarmine Preparatory School (1928), Tacoma, WA
- Brebeuf Preparatory School (1962), Indianapolis, IN
- Cristo Rey High School (1996), Chicago, IL
- Gonzaga Preparatory High School (1887), Spokane, WA
- Jesuit high School (1956), Portland, OR
- Loyola Academy (1909), Wilmette, IL
- Loyola School (1900), New York, NY
- Red Cloud Indian School (1937), Pine Ridge, SD
- St. Ignatius College Prep (1870), Chicago, IL
- St. Ignatius College Preparatory (1855), San Francisco, CA
- Scranton Preparatory School (1944), Scranton, PA
- Seattle Preparatory School (1891), Seattle, WA
- Cheverus High School (1917), Portland, ME
- Walsh Jesuit High School (1965), Cuyahoga Falls, OH
(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:
- Kathleen Abernathy, FCC Commissioner, Marquette University 1982
- Alan Alda, Actor and TV star of M.A.S.H., Fordham University 1956
- Pearl Bailey, Singer and entertainer, Georgetown University 1985
- William Bennett, Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Gonzaga College High Washington D.C. 1961
- Enrique Bolanos, President of Nicaragua, Saint Louis University 1962
- John Bourgeois, Director of the U.S. President's Marine Corps Band, Jesuit High School in New Orleans
- Andre Braugher, TV actor of Homicide, Gideon's Crossing and City of Angels, St. Ignatius College Prep (Chicago) 1980
- Joseph Brennan, Two-term Congressman and two-term Governor of Maine, Cheverus High 1952
- Jerry Brown, Two-term Governor of California and Mayor of Oaklan, St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco 1955
- Pat Buchanan, Former Senior White House Advisor who served Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, Gonzaga College High, Washington, DC 1956
- Campbell Brown, Co-anchor of NBC's Today Weekend, Regis University 1991
- August Busch IV, President of Anheuser-Busch, Saint Louis University 1987
- Brandi Chastain, Two-time Olympic gold winning soccer player, Santa Clara University 1991
- Sandra Cisneros, Author whose novel The House of Mango Street started a whole movement in Hispanic literature, Loyola University Chicago 1976
- Thomas L. Clancy, Jr., Author, Loyola Blakefield 1965 and Loyola College in Maryland 1969
- Will Clark, Baseball player with the San Franciso Giants and Texas Rangers, Jesuit High School in New Orleans
- Mary Higgins Clark, Suspense writer, Fordham University 1979
- Bill Clinton, President of the United States, Georgetown University 1968
- Tony Coelho, Former Congressman who authored the “Americans with Disabilities Act,” Loyola Marymount University 1964
- David Cone, Baseball player with the New York Mets, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, Rockhurst High School
- Harry Connick, Jr., Singer and entertainer whom Sinatra referred to as “The Kid,” Jesuit High School New Orleans 1985
- Christopher Connor, CEO of Sherwin Williams, Walsh Jesuit High 1974
- Bing Crosby, Singer and actor, Gonzaga University 1924 and Gonzaga High School
- Bob Denver, TV star of Gilligan's Island, Loyola Marymount University
- René Descartes, Philosopher & Mathematician, Collège LaFlèche (Anjou) 1612
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Author, Creator of Sherlock Holmes, Stonyhurst (Lancastershire)
- Manuel Esquivel, Former Primer Minister of Belize, Loyola University New Orleans 1962
- Patrick Ewing, NBA All-star of the Knicks and Magic, Georgetown University 1985
- Geraldine Ferraro, 1984 Vice Presidential Candidate, Fordham University 1960
- Thomas Foley, Former U.S. Speaker of the House, Gonzaga University
- Doug Flutie, NFL player, Boston College
- John, James, & Leon Gorman, Owners of L.L. Bean, Cheverus High School 1949,'50,'52
- Jim Hendry, General Manager of the Chicago Cubs, Spring Hill College 1977
- Alfred Hitchcock, Director, St. Ignatius College (London)
- Mike Holovak, Former General Manager of the Houston Oilers, Boston College
- Robert Kennedy, Attorney General and Senator, Georgetown Prep (DC)
- John Kerry, Senator and 2004 Democratic Presidential Nominee, Boston College 1976
- Gene Krantz, Former NASA Director of Mission Operations, Saint Louis University 1954
- Nathan Lane, Actor, St. Peter's Prep
- Vince Lombardi, Nine-season Green Bay Coach with a 98-30-4 record, Fordham University 1937
- Lisa Madigan, First woman Attorney General of Illinois, Georgetown University 1988 and Loyola University Chicago 1994
- Ellis Marsalis Jazz Pianist and father of musicians Wynton and Branford
- Loyola University New Orleans 1986
- Jim McKay, Sports announcer, Loyola College in Maryland
- Sean McManus, President of CBS Sports, Fairfield Prep 1973
- Frank Murkowski, Two-term Senator and Governor of Alaska, Seattle University 1955
- Bill Murray, Actor, Loyola Academy in Wilmette and Regis University
- Bob Newhart, actor, St. Ignatius College Prep (Chicago) 1947 and Loyola University Chicago 1952
- Chris O'Donnell, Actor, Loyola Academy (Wilmette) 1988 and Boston College 1994
- Joe Paterno, Football coach at Penn State University, Brooklyn Prep (closed)
- Jesuit High School in New Orleans 1947, 1955
- Lou Piniella, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals Rookie of the Year, and manager of the Seattle Mariners, Jesuit High School Tampa 1961
- Peter Rozelle, Former NFL Commissioner created the Super Bowl, University of San Francisco 1950
- Tim Russert, NBC moderator of “Meet the Press,” Canisius High 1968 and John Carroll University 1972
- Antonin Scalia, Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Xavier High School New York 1953 and Georgetown University 1957
- Don Schula, Former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, John Carroll University
- Rusty Staub, Former Houston Astro and announcer for the New York Mets, Jesuit High School in New Orleans
- Clarence Thomas, Justice of the United States Supreme Court, College of the Holy Cross 1971
- Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru, University of San Francisco 1971
- Spencer Tracy, Actor, Marquette High School
- Denzel Washington, Oscar wining actor, Fordham University 1977
- George Wendt, Actor who starred as Norm in Cheers, Campion Jesuit High 1966 and Rockhurst University 1971
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:
- Ignatius of Loyola, S.J.
- Francis Xavier, S.J.
- Francis Borgia, S.J.
- Stanislaus Kotska, S.J.
- Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.
- John Francis Regis, S.J.
- Francis Jerome, S.J.
- Paul Miki, S.J.
- John Soan de Goto, S.J.
- James Kisai, S.J.
- Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.
- John Berchmans, S.J.
- Peter Claver, S.J.
- Peter Canisius, S.J.
- Robert Bellarmine, S.J.
- René Goupil, S.J.
- Isaac Jogues, S.J.
- John de la Lande, S.J.
- Anthony Daniel, S.J.
- John de Brebeuf, S.J.
- Gabriel Lalemant, S.J.
- Charles Garnier, S.J.
- Noel Chabanal, S.J.
- Andrew Bobola, S.J.
- Bernardine Realino, S.J.
- John de Brito, S.J.
- John Pignatelli, S.J.
- Alexander Briant, S.J.
- Edmund Campion, S.J.
- Robert Southwell, S.J.
- Henry Walpole, S.J.
- Nicholas Owen, S.J.
- Thomas Garnet, S.J.
- Edmund Arrowsmith, S.J.
- Henry Morse, S.J.
- Philip Evans, S.J.
- David Lewis, S.J.
- John Ogilvie, S.J.
- Claude de la Colombière, S.J.
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:
- Luis Martín, S.J.
- Franz-Xavier Wernz, S.J.
- Wladimir D. Ledóchowski, S.J.
- Jean Baptiste Janssens, S.J.
- Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
- Peter Hans-Kolvenbach, S.J.
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.