Who are the Jesuits

The Society of Jesus is a religious order of men in the Catholic Church. Founded in 1540 by St Ignatius of Loyola and a group of close companions, the Jesuits, as they came to be called, were soon taking the Gospel to every corner of the globe. Pioneers of Catholic renewal in the Counter-Reformation, Jesuits were creative in establishing new ways of evangelising, especially in their educational activities.

Today, over 16,000 Jesuits carry out their mission in more than a hundred countries, serving alongside many thousands of partners-in-mission, religious and lay. Jesuits serve in a wide variety of capacities: as writers and doctors, parish priests and chaplains, teachers and researchers, spiritual directors and artists, astronomers and linguists. The mission is and always has been rich and multi-faceted.

All this reflects a unique spirituality. St Ignatius wrote his Spiritual Exercises to give Christians an experience of the love of God in such a way that it could become the very centre of their lives. Ignatian spirituality sets a person free to find God’s will for them by a process of spiritual discernment, and then generously to put it into practice.

This spiritual approach means that Jesuits typically engage with people and cultures by finding out how God is already at work in them, and then by helping them to co-operate with God to go further and deeper. That is why Jesuits speak of being called to seek the magis, the ‘more’ which impels them to cross frontiers and to reach those places others have not yet visited. Pope Paul VI put it well:

Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there has been and there is confrontation between the burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, here also there have been, and there are, Jesuits. -   Pope Paul VI Addresses the 32nd General Congregation of Jesuits, 3rd December, 1974.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Jesuits have been called to serve a faith which is close to the poor and which readily enters into dialogue with other religions and human cultures. In 2016, the Thirty-Sixth General Congregation called Jesuits to see themselves as ‘Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice’. 

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religious order, Catholic, 1540, St Ignatius, brothers, priests