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Ignatian Year

Jesuits in the service of education

Worldwide, there are about 16,000 Jesuits who continue to serve society through education with special emphasis on benefitting and uplifting the poor, oppressed and indigenous people

Rev. Dr. Dominic Savio, SJ | Published 31.07.22, 05:14 AM
St Xavier’s College

St Xavier’s College

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All over the world, the Jesuits are commemorating 500 years of the Cannonball Moment in the life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Society of Jesus.

For the Jesuits, this jubilee year has been an occasion for their spiritual renewal. It has also been a time of evaluation, re-evaluation, and renewal of all their ministries through which they have been serving their brothers and sisters all over the world since 1540 when the Society was formed.


At the same time, it has been a time of renewal for the faculties who teach in their many institutions, their Alumni/Alumnae, the Lay Associates and Collaborators and others who are with them.

It has also been a time for their students and others to learn about Saint Ignatius, the Jesuits, and their work all over the world, especially in the field of education.

In this renewal, the Jesuits have kept their focus on the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs). These are: Showing the Way to God; Walking with the Poor; Journeying with the Youth and Caring for our Common Home - Mother Earth.

St Ignatius was a self-seeking young man in 16th century Spain, running after his own glory like any other young man of his time. His ambition was to become a famous soldier, be recognised by his king and marry the princess he loved.

While defending the fortress at Pamplona, Spain on May 20, 1521, against the French, a cannonball shattered one of his legs and broke the other. This is the cannonball moment and what followed during his convalescence, transformed his life.

Over the months he experienced the movement of God in his deepest and he started discerning the will of God as God granted him a new vision.

He was transformed from self-seeking to God-seeking, and his new desire was not self-fulfilment but the fulfilment of the will of God through loving service to Him and to his fellow human beings. Himself transformed, Ignatius inspired transformation in others.

Eventually, he and his companions, the first Jesuits, effected significant change in the society of their time in various ways, but especially through the ministry of Education.

By the time St Ignatius died in 1556, the Jesuits were already operating a network of 74 schools and colleges on three continents, including St. Paul’s College which was set up in Goa in 1542 by St Francis Xavier, and which was the progenitor, so to speak, of hundreds of schools and colleges and universities which today bears his name in India.

The Jesuits now operate over 800 schools, and 60 higher educational institutions, including universities, autonomous and non-autonomous colleges, research centres, management institutes, BEd colleges, engineering and law colleges, colleges of theology and philosophy and three universities.

Statistics from the last academic year show there are 243 Jesuits and 6820 teaching and non-teaching staff who are forming 1,24,177 students in all these institutions every year.

Worldwide, there are about 16,000 Jesuits who continue to serve society through education with special emphasis on benefitting and uplifting the poor, oppressed and indigenous peoples.

Jesuit Education is not confined to the classroom.

It is designed to develop the whole person, the intellect, imagination, emotions and conscience. It forms women and men for and with others, in and through sharing of gifts, pursuing justice, having concern for the poor and marginalised, as well as protecting Nature and our world, the Creation of God, and our common home.

Jesuit education teaches that each person is a unique creation of God and so one has to grow in the best possible way being the image and likeness of God.

We have to respect, love and serve others and seek the happiness of the common good through service to all. Jesuit education teaches solidarity and kinship, and service rooted in justice and love.

It urges and inculcates a striving after excellence in the truest spirit of the college motto: Nihil Ultra, Nothing Beyond.

Given this service of the Jesuits in education, we can look at some key Ignatian principles that guide us not only in education but in all our other ministries and fields of service, such as involvement in social justice, ecology, migration and displacement, and dialogue with other faiths.

In our life and service, we Jesuits genuinely want to know and practice the will of God in the important and even in the smallest things of life.

That is, we want to know and do what will give us the greatest happiness in the service of God and our fellow human beings, here and now and also at any moment of our life to come. That is where the role of Discernment comes in.

Discernment, which helps us to seek and know the will of God by guiding us to be neutral and detached, is called ‘Ignatian Indifference.’

Ignatian Indifference’ does not mean not caring. Rather it is a state of inner freedom, openness, harmony and balance that allows us not to be prejudiced, predisposed or premeditated in our choice of options.

This inner freedom gives us the insight and clarity to know, love and follow the will of God and to grow in relationship with Him and our brothers and sisters and share in His work.

It is the power to be detached enough from things, people, or experiences to be able either to take them up with us or to leave them aside, depending on whether they help us to serve God.

In other words, it is the capacity to let go of what doesn’t help me to love God and others.

This brings me to my conclusion that the Jesuits go to these lengths and get involved so intensely because, in all their service and ministries, their single desire is to serve God in all things and in all persons. And they do this entirely to the Greater Glory of God.

The Glory of God necessarily entails the service of people. Hence the greater glory of God for Jesuits is inseparable from the greater universal good of all people.

T his is the essence and spirit and underlying principle upon which the Jesuit model of education is built.

Rev Fr. Dr. Dominic Savio, SJ is the principal of St Xavier’s College (Autonomous)

Last updated on 31.07.22, 05:14 AM

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