On Friday, July 31, the Catholic Church and the 15,560 Jesuits all over the world mark the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish saint who is the founder the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits, as well as for creating the “Spiritual Exercises” often used today for retreats and individual discernment.
The Jesuits remain numerous today particularly in several hundred universities, colleges and schools worldwide, and Pope Francis himself is a Jesuit. The South-Asian region of the Order is the largest with 4,900 Jesuits, conducting two universities, 82 higher educational institutions, 200 high schools and other centres of communication and social service. The USA is the second largest with 3,600 Jesuits with 28 universities under their management.
There are around 400 Jesuits in West Bengal working in one university (St. Xavier’s), six colleges and 11 high schools where around 42,000 students are served. Besides these elite schools, the Jesuits in Bengal are actively involved in 16 rural centres with around 3,600 children, particularly, tribals living and studying.
Perhaps Jesuits impart the best-known education in India. The Jesuit educational initiative is the largest private network in India today. Jesuit values and strategies flow from the Ignition charism and legacy, which are centred around:
AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM, the Jesuit Motto meaning “For the greater glory of God”;
CURA PERSONALIS, meaning, “care for the person entrusted to Jesuit formation”;
MAGIS, meaning more or greater — greater service to greater number of people;
NIHIL ULTRA — there is nothing beyond in one’s search for wisdom;
FORMING MEN AND WOMEN FOR AND WITH OTHERS — Forming Leaders with commitment and a sense of social justice;
UNION OF MINDS AND HEARTS — it refers to the unity of individuals in mind, heart and spirit;
CONTEMPLATIVES IN ACTION, meaning to cultivate a deep synchronising relationship with God and His creation; and
FINDING GOD IN ALL THINGS — it is the essence of the unique spirituality of Ignatius: “God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle — and my heart and my thoughts.” It is a way of discerning God’s presence in our everyday lives.
I wish all Jesuits, their students, alumni/ae and stakeholders a happy feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. May Ignatius bless all of us.