Education in the Jesuit Tradition

‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God’ (G.M. Hopkins SJ).

Jesuit Education is a global enterprise with a long and distinguished history. The involvement of the Jesuit Fathers in schools goes back to Messina in Sicily in 1548 and continues to this day. The story is some 466 years old and still unfolding. Today there are 3,897 Jesuit educational institutions in 90 countries teaching 2,928,806 pupils. It wasn’t by accident that they were called the ‘schoolmasters of Europe’.

What characterises and propels the Jesuit vision of education is best caught by the following reflections:

  • God is at the heart of his creation, and God is at work in human culture and human history. This is the world which forms the object of our study and the context of our lives. Jesuit education is therefore conducted in a spirit of reverence and from a radically religious perspective: facilitating the discovery of and encounter with God is its core-value.
  • Jesuit education sees the human person, understood in the context of his eternal destiny, as the central focus of the enterprise and insists on individual care and concern for each one (cura personalis).
  • Relationships and pastoral structures reflect this focus. Through the curriculum, co-curricular activities and the environment of the school, our mission is to help each student to grow holistically and lay the foundations for life-long growth, liberated from ignorance and the other forces which inhibit growth, learning to think for himself, developing his diverse competencies, finding his own distinctive ‘voice’, becoming ever more fully his unique self.
  • We are defined as persons above all by our values, by the habitual moral choices we make. Jesuit pupils are to be men of conscience, able and willing to stand up and be counted in the name of the truth, prepared to use their skills of self-expression and advocacy for those who may have no voice, and committed to choosing the path that is right, not the one that is merely popular or fashionable.
  • This approach to education includes growth in realistic knowledge, love and acceptance of oneself and an understanding of the world we live in, the conflicting forces and values which operate in human society, and the unjust structures produced by sin, in which we can all be complicit and which diminish human lives.
  • For Jesuit education, Jesus Christ is at once the human face of God and the model of all human life, responding totally to the Father’s love. His way of compassionate love is not a way but the way.
  • This conviction is reflected in the provision of pastoral care for all involved, aimed at encouraging spiritual growth and the development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is also reflected in the practice of communal prayer and worship and the celebration of the sacraments as constitutive parts of the school’s rhythm of life. Service programmes are consciously promoted as a way of imitating Jesus Christ, the ‘Man-for-Others’, in his complete self-dedicaton, and of helping to build the Kingdom of God.
  • Jesuit education is intended as a preparation for a life of active social commitment. Jesuit students are encouraged to understand their own ‘place’ in the world, in terms of educational and socio-economic opportunities, and to use these opportunities in the compassionate service of others, especially those whose opportunities have been less than theirs or who are the victims of poverty and injustice. Religion is deeply personal but not private: faith which does not express itself in love for others and the passionate quest for justice lacks authenticity. We aim to facilitate the emergence of young men who will exercise leadership in terms of these values and seek to be agents of change, not more or less passive upholders of the status quo.
  • The commitment to excellence – in terms of intellectual rigour and all aspects of the enterprise – is at the heart of Jesuit educational philosophy. The Jesuit motto is ad maiorem Dei gloriam (God’s greater glory) – Ignatius was always seeking ‘the magis’ (‘the more’).
  • Jesuit schools are intended to be communities of life, work and worship. Staff, Jesuit and lay, collaborate in service of shared values, a common task and an overarching vision, as reflected in the Characteristics of Jesuit Education.
  • Pupils are encouraged to respect and care for one another as friends and companions, in the spirit of the Gospel. The community of the Jesuit school embraces not only all those within it – pupils, teachers and members of the wider staff – but also, very particularly, parents, along with members of the Board of Management, past pupils, and others associated in any way with its operation.