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Jesuit Terms J


Common Spanish spelling of the name Xavier.



Noun: A member of the Society of Jesus. The term was originally coined as a put-down by people who felt there was something terribly arrogant about a group calling itself the Company or Society of Jesus, whereas previous religious orders had been content to name themselves after their founder (e.g., "Benedictines," "Franciscans," "Dominicans"). Later the title was adopted as a shorthand name by members of the Society themselves, as well as by others favorable to them.

Adjective: Pertaining to the Society of Jesus. The negative term, now that Jesuit has been rehabilitated, is Jesuitical meaning "sly" or "devious."

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Jesuit A to Z

On the www.jesuitresource.org Website

This mini-encyclopedia of 300-some terms is an expanded multi-authored version of the print publication Do You Speak Ignatian?  offering information about Jesuit Catholic education and related topics including Ignatian spirituality, Jesuit history, Christian theology, and Catholicism.

Authors of individual entries are identified by their initials, and their names can be found in the entry "Authors."

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Jesuit Colleges and Universities

Jesuit Colleges and Universities in the United States

Homepages (Year Founded)

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Jesuit Education

Jesuit education and Ignatian pedagogy: A desktop primer
See Education, Jesuit
Guide to Jesuit Education

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Jesuit Education 21

Ten years after the historic "Assembly '89" at Georgetown, St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia hosted "Jesuit Education 21," a conference that brought several hundred people from Jesuit schools across the country to consider the "future of Jesuit higher education." Unlike Assembly '89, here lay women and men outnumbered Jesuits, reflecting the actual situation in the schools. Two outstanding plenary addresses made important statements about the current problematic, about the challenges facing Jesuit higher ed as we approached the second millennium.

In his keynote address, Peter Steinfels, long of the New York Times and author of the recent study of American Catholicism A People Adrift, spoke of the "feeling that these [mission] efforts remain like beachheads, still isolated conquests that threaten to remain just that and never coalesce into a break-out that would establish secure territory for the colleges and universities to flourish," both as academic institutions and as institutions that operate with a clear religious mission.

Brennan O'Donnell, then professor of English at Loyola Baltimore and editor of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, saw the most important challenge as "getting the facultyor at least a critical mass of itinvolved fully as faculty":

Conversations about Jesuit identity can go on a long time without anyone mentioning issues such as the Jesuit university's opportunity—or responsibility—to be a center for scholarly inquiry into (and in) the Catholic intellectual tradition, or its ability to offer intellectual guidance and scholarly support in the dialogue of faith and culture, or to function as a beacon in the American intellectual scene for powerful new thinking on issues of justice, or to be a place where some of the more relativistic, anti-religious, and even nihilistic recent trends in the humanities are challenged and the ideals of educating for human freedom unapologetically upheld. . . . The greatest shortcoming . . . [is the] relative failure thus far to challenge a majority of the faculty to think of their day-to-day teaching and scholarly life as shaped by their being at a Jesuit institution.

Both addresses are included in Jesuit Education 21: Conference Proceedings on the Future of Jesuit Higher Education, ed. Martin Tripole (Philadelphia: St. Joseph's University Press, 2000).

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Jesuit Elementary and Nativity Schools

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Jesuit High Schools

Jesuit High Schools Worldwide

Click here for Jesuit High Schools in the United States

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Jesuit Higher Education: A Journal 

Jesuit Higher Education: A Journal (JHE) is a scholarly, peer reviewed, open access, online journal focused on the development, advancement, and critique of higher education in the Jesuit tradition. We welcome submissions on the scholarship and practice of Ignatian pedagogy in any academic disciplinary or interdisciplinary context as well as how the Jesuit mission is infused in all aspects of higher education, including student life, experiential learning, and other cocurricular activities.

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Jesuit History

Jesuit history falls into two parts separated by the period of suppression (1773-1814): (1) the "Old Society," 1540-1773, and (2) the "New Society," 1814-present. To read "Jesuit History in Brief: A Personal View", click here;
 to read a 4-page thumbnail sketch, click here.

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Jesuit History: A Timeline of Milestones

1491 - Ignatius Loyola is born in the Basque region of northwestern Spain

1521 - While Ignatius is defending Pamplona, cannon fire shatters his right knee

1522 - Ignatius stays in the town of Manresa while struggling with his relationship with himself and God; this experience forms the basis of his Spiritual Exercises

1528 - Ignatius begins schooling at the University of Paris where he meets Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, and other early companions

1537 - Ignatius and companions are ordained

1540 - Pope Paul III gives Ignatius and companions official approval to found the Society of Jesus

1541 - Ignatius is elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus

1548 - The first lay Jesuit college opens in Messina, Sicily

1556 - Ignatius dies in Rome; 34 Jesuit schools have been founded

1773 - The Society is suppressed by order of Pope Clement XIV

1789 - Georgetown University is founded, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States.

1814 - The suppression is ended by Pope Pius VII with the papal bull "Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum"

1954 - Wheeling Jesuit College is founded, the youngest of the Jesuit universities in the United States; it ends its relationship with the Society in 2019

1965 - Pedro Arrupe is elected the 28th Superior General of the Society

1975 - General Congregation 32 declares that the hallmark of any work deserving the name Jesuit is its "service of faith" of which the "promotion of justice" is an absolute requirement

1983 - Peter-Hans Kolvenbach is elected the 29th Superior General of the Society, which now returns to its own governance

1996 - The Cristo Rey model of college-preparatory education for inner-city youth is inaugurated with the founding of Cristo Rey High School in Chicago

2006 - This Jesuit Jubilee year marks the 450th anniversary of the death of Ignatius and the 500th anniversary of the births of his companions Francis Xavier and Peter Faber

2008 - Adolfo Nicolás is elected the 30th Superior General of the Society

2013 - Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is elected the 266th pope, the first from the Society of Jesus, and takes the name "Francis"

"An Illustrated Timeline of the Life of St. Ignatius Loyola"

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Jesuit Ministries Resources

Alphabetical Listing by Ministry / Apostolate

One Mission, Many Ministries

Charis Ministries (to those in 20s and 30s)

Christian Life Community - USA

In the U.S.

In the U.S.

Headquarters in Rome ("The Curia")

Headquarters in Washington, DC ("The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S.")

Ignatian Spirituality Project (retreats for the homeless)

Ignatian Volunteer Corps (senior volunteers)


Inter-Religious Dialogue

Jesuit Advocates

Jesuit Refugee Service / USA

Jesuit Solidarity Network

Jesuit Volunteer Corps


America (a national monthly journal of opinion)
—Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education (a twice-yearly reflection from a higher education seminar)
Loyola Press
National Jesuit News (reporting news and opinions of American Jesuits around the world)
Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits (a journal of Jesuit history and spirituality)
The Jesuit Post (speaking with our younger peers, a perspective on the contemporary world)



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Jesuit Post, The

An online media platform offering a Jesuit, Catholic perspective on the contemporary world by Jesuits; see the index of topics.
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Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Photo of a colorful segment of stained glass with the silhouette of a family walking together The mission of the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, sponsored by the Society of Jesus, is to accompany, serve, and defend persons driven from their homes by conflict, natural disaster, economic injustice, or violation of other human rights.

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Jesuit Volunteer Corps

A group of volunteers working on an outdoor landscaping project together on a sunny summer dayThe Jesuit Volunteer Corps provides essential services to low-income people and those who live on the margins of our society. Over 275 JVs each year work for and with people who are homeless, unemployed, refugees, people with AIDS, the elderly, street youth, abused women and children, and people with mental illness or developmental disabilities. JVC has become the largest Catholic volunteer program in the country. 

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Jesuits, The

See Society of Jesus

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Jesuits and Jews

On more than one occasion, Ignatius of Loyola, as elected leader of the newly founded Jesuit order, was heard to say that he would like to have been born of Jewish blood because he would then be closer to Christ our Lord. His attitude here is remarkable because there were strong negative feelings against New Christians—people descended from recent converts to Christianity from Judaism or Islam—in his native Basque territory and in all the Iberian Peninsula. New Christians were simply not trusted as genuine Christians and so were forbidden to hold office in church or state.

Diego Lainez, one of the original companions at the University of Paris, was elected to succeed Ignatius as superior general. He was of Jewish blood, and so was Juan de Polanco, Ignatius' secretary and collaborator in the writing of thousands of letters and of the Jesuit Constitutions. But powerful figures like the Archbishop of Toledo tried to force the Society to abide by their limpieza de sangre ("purity of blood") proscriptions.

The same strong front against limpieza continued during the generalates of Lainez and Borja (the third general). But then trouble came. Polanco was the obvious choice to succeed Borja, but a small minority of Jesuits, mostly from Portugal, lobbied Pope Gregory XIII to decree that the next Jesuit head could not come from Spain. Jesuits on both sides of the question knew what the real reason was for the prohibition. The next general congregation elected Everard Mercurian, a Belgian.

Antonio Possevino, an Italian Jesuit likely of Jewish lineage and Mercurian's secretary for several years, wrote a long and compelling "memorial" to his leader, arguing the urgent need for action—a letter—from the general because he alone had the authority to address the growing dissension within the Society. It would be a call for unity and faithfulness to Ignatius' constitutional principles and practice of nondiscrimination. The letter that Possevino called for was never written. The issue did not go away.

"Possevino foresaw, with a clarity that few men of his generation possessed, that the effort to exclude New Christians would inevitably lead to the exclusion of other groups." It would have important implications for the Jesuit mission to non-Europeans. 

See Thomas M Cohen, "Jesuits and New Christians: The Contested Legacy of St. Ignatius," Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits (Autumn 2010).

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Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church and Civil Society

(Decree 14 of Jesuit General Congregation 34 [1995])

See "Women, The Situation of in Church and Civil Society"

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Jesuits, Famous and Not-so-famous, Alphabetical List of

In his excellent book Ignatian Humanism, historical theologian Ron Modras devotes five chapters to the lives of five Jesuits who, he believes, exemplify the Ignatian humanism he has described in earlier chapters. No claim is made that the biographical mini-essays scattered through this A-Z section of our jesuitresource.org website are illustrative of Jesuit spirituality to the same degree. But taken as a group, these 70-some bios surely add up to more than just a bunch of individual pieces. See what you think. Look for the mini-biographies of the following men and woman under their individual names:

"Jesus [the] Christ," meaning Jesus "[God's] anointed one"

The historical person Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians acknowledge to be, by his life (what he taught and did) and his death and resurrection, the true revelation of God and at the same time the exemplar of what it means to be fully human. In other words, for Christians, Jesus shows what God is like and how they can live in response to this revelation: God is the compassionate giver of life who invites and empowers human beings, in freedom, together with one another, to work toward overcoming the forces of evilmeaninglessness, guilt, oppression, suffering, and deaththat diminish people and keep them from growing toward ever fuller life.

In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius has the retreatant devote most of the time to "contemplating" (i.e., imaginatively entering into) the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, so as to become more and more a companion of Jesus. And when Ignatius and his companions from the University of Paris decided to establish a religious order, he insisted that it be called the Company or Society of Jesus [see "Jesuit" -noun].

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Jesus, Full Humanity of

See "Docetism"

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Jesus' Knowledge and Self-Consciousness

See "Docetism"

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Jesus' Prophetic Ministry

A Response to the Oppressive Culture of His Time

Jesus was first and foremost a prophet, a human being with an intense experience of God and God's love for him and for all of God's creation. His prophetic ministry can best be understood in the light of a first-century Palestine dominated by a system of oppression that kept the vast majority of people in hopeless need.  Collusion between the occupying forces of Rome and the Jewish religious leaders (Temple and Sanhedrin) maintained this oppressive culture.  Jesus challenged these powers and offered a picture of how peoples' lives could be radically different in an alternative world he called the "Reign of God," a world intended for them here and now by a good and compassionate God.

Jesus challenged the status quo and offered his alternative vision through stories ("parables") and sayings that were often not about religious realities but about daily political, economic, and social affairs such as farming and taxes, childbirth and parenting, baking and dinner parties, prostitution and  money lending. They were exposures of wicked kings and dishonest land owners and abusive patriarchs. When they did touch explicitly on religion they were not exhortations to more exact liturgical practice, to humble submission to the authorities who were God's representatives, or to financial support of the Temple.  They were characteristically directed against the hypocrisy of religious officials who talked a pious game but did not practice what they preached (see Matt 23:3) and against the ritualistic practices used to cover over hard-hearted moralism imposed on people whose grinding daily reality could not "measure up" to elitist demands (see Luke 13:9-14).  [Schneiders, Buying the Field, p. 475]

He also challenged the dominant culture with provocative individual acts like cleansing the temple and by repeated practices like sharing the intimacy of table fellowship with people that contemporary conventional morality ostracized"tax collectors (= extortionists) and sinners (= prostitutes)."  No wonder that the "powers" had to "eliminate" him or suffer the loss of their world.

Sandra Schneiders, Buying the Field (2013), pp. 474-481.

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Jesus Seminar, The

A group of New Testament scholars and other interested people led by Robert Funk (The Westar Institute)

 Especially active in the 1980s and 1990s, it sought and gained a certain notoriety because of its method, at meetings, of voting on the sayings of Jesus to determine whether and how far they go back to Jesus himself:

  • definitely what Jesus said (red bead)
  • Jesus probably said something like this (pink bead)
  • Jesus did not say any such thing, though it may contain an idea Jesus had (gray bead)
  • Jesus did not say any thing like it; it was added by a later community or the gospel writer (black bead).

More recently the seminar voted on the acts (deeds) of Jesus in a similar way.

Among the best known members of the seminar are John Dominic Crossan (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography [1995]) on the left and Marcus Borg (Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Revelance of a Religious Revolutionary [2008]), closer to mainstream NT scholarship. Borg invested time with one of the best of more conservative scholars, the British (Anglican) N. T. Wright, (The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions [2007]). Luke Timothy Johnson of Emory University is a major critic of the Jesus Seminar.

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Jewish-Catholic Relations

See "Nostra Aetate"

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Juana, SJ (1535-1573)

Drawing of Juana, he only woman known to have lived and died a Jesuit

The only woman known to have lived and died a Jesuit

Second daughter of Emperor Charles V, Juana was married in 1552 to João Manuel, the heir apparent to the Portuguese throne. They were married only two years when her husband died. Shortly thereafter her brother Philip (II), who had married Mary Tudor of England, appointed her Regent of Spain in his absence. And in that same year (1554), Juana approached superiors of the Society of Jesus about becoming a Jesuit. Careful debate and deliberation followed. As Lisa Fullam, a specialist on Juana, puts it: "Juana, widowed at nineteen, was an eminently marriageable young woman. To admit her to the Society would risk enraging her father the Emperor, himself no fan of the Jesuits. But at the same time, to refuse her request was to risk the displeasure of the Regent of Spain... a move that could have serious consequences for the work of the Society there" (Juana, SJ, Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits. [November 1999]).

In their hushed deliberations, Jesuit superiors used the name "Matteo Sanchez" for Juana. They considered many other factors in her case. In the end, they decided to admit her in secret as a "scholastic," a Jesuit with first vows in the process of formation. And all through her short lifeshe died a Jesuit at 38they continued to care for her growth in the spirit. The life of Juana provides an opportunity to clarify not just her own case but the larger question of Ignatius and the Society in regard to women. As Fullam sums up:

[M]ost women in Ignatius's time could not embody the availability for mission that is essential to the Jesuit charism. Ignatius's group was a religious order. The question of the admission of women to the Society was, in most cases, a non-starter in Ignatius's time, because women were either cloistered if they were religious, or not religious if they were not cloistered. On grounds of mobility Ignatius consistently rejected the idea of women belonging to the Society. And Juana's admission underscores the idea that sex cannot be the deciding issue here, Juana was no less a woman after her admission than before. What she was after her admission was a woman living under the religious vows of the Society of Jesus while substantially assisting the Society's work in Spain. To an unusual extent, Juana was able to overcome the catch-22 that kept most women from being able to live as Jesuits: her political influence was an avenue to a kind of apostolic availability for the work of the Society, and at the same time it served as leverage that enabled her to force the question of her admission on the Jesuit leadership. And, as it turned out, they let her in. Beyond that, they admitted her in a strikingly ordinary way. The infanta Juana, Regent of Spain, became a scholastic. An extraordinary person in extraordinary circumstances was seen to fit into a very ordinary niche. It is her ordinary admission, freely undertaken, that is salient about Juana's case: when all was said and done, the Jesuits decided that Juana was a Jesuit, an unusual Jesuit, to be sure, but a Jesuit nonetheless. (ibid.)

A Woman Jesuit

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Judaeo-Christian Vision

Here is a version of the Judaeo-Christian vision or story, told with certain emphases from Ignatius Loyola.

The great and mysterious Reality of personal love and self-giving that many call God is the origin and destiny of all creation, the whole universe. God is present and at work in everything, leading it to fulfillment. All things are originally good and potentially means for those creatures called human beings to find the God who made and works in them. Still, none of these things are God, and therefore they are all radically limited.

Indeed, in the case of human beings (who somehow image God in a special way), their relative freedom results in a new dimension of being whereby not just good but also evil exists in the world: selfishness, war, dominationracial, sexual, economic, environmentalof some over others. Human history, then, is marked by a struggle between the forces of good, or "life," and evil, or "death."

God has freely chosen to side with struggling, flawed humanity by participating more definitively in human life and living it "from the inside" in the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth. This irrevocable commitment of God to the human enterprise grounds and invites people's response of working with God toward building a community of justice, love, and peacethe "kingdom" or "reign" of God that Jesus preached and lived.

As with Jesus, so for his followers, it takes discernmenta finely tuned reading of oneself and one's culture in the Spirit of Godto recognize in any given situation what helps the coming of God's reign and what hinders it. In the face of human selfishness and evil, the way ultimately entails self-giving, going through suffering and death in order to gain lifeindeed, life everlasting. And along the way, because the followers of Jesus are wary of idolizing anyone or anything (that is, making a god of them), they are less likely to become disillusioned with themselves or others or human history for all its weight of personal and social evil. Rather do they continue to care about people and the human enterprise, for their hope is in God, the supreme reality of personal love and self-giving.

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Justice means to have moral righteousness, goodness, equality, and impartiality.  Pope Francis has stated that, “There is no democracy with hunger, nor development with poverty, nor justice in inequality.”   ~DM

See also Service of Faith and Promotion of Social Justice and Reconciliation

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JESUIT A TO Z: An expanded version of the publication "Do You Speak Ignatian?"