The Jesuit Mission: Seeking God in All Things
The Society of Jesus – or the Jesuits for short – is the religious order of men in the Catholic Church who founded Loyola College, Williamnagar along with many other colleges and universities around the world.
From the beginnings of the Society of Jesus – education and spiritual ministries and outreach to the marginalized have been at the core of the Jesuit mission.
Who are the Jesuits?
The Jesuits are an apostolic religious community called the Society of Jesus. They are grounded in love for Christ and animated by the spiritual vision of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, to help others and seek God in all things. As members of a worldwide society within the Catholic Church, the Jesuits are committed to the service of faith and the promotion of justice.
The “S.J.” appearing after the name of vowed Jesuits stands for “Society of Jesus,” the formal name of the order. Today numbering just under 16,000 priests, brothers and scholastics, Jesuits are spread out in almost every country of the world. Throughout their history, Jesuits have been pastors, teachers, and chaplains, as well as doctors, lawyers, diplomats, and scientists.
The Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic religious order of men founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola and a small group of his multinational “friends in the Lord,” fellow students from the University of Paris. They received official recognition as a religious order in the Catholic Church from Pope Paul III in 1540. They saw their mission as one of being available to go anywhere and do anything to “help souls,” especially where the need was greatest. St. Ignatius was the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Presently, Fr. Arutro Sosa S.J. holds that responsibility.
The Jesuit seal, featuring a cross and nails symbolizing the crucifixion; a sunburst, an ancient symbol that also echoes the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, and the IHS Christogram, which became identified with the nascent Society of Jesus almost from its origins. IHS is both an acronym of “Iesus Salvator Hominem” (Jesus, Saviour of Humankind) and the first three letters of the Greek name for Jesus (IHƩOYƩ)
St. Ignatius: Founder of the Jesuits
Ignatius was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1491, the youngest son of a nobleman. A soldier and courtier in Spain, he was driven by a desire for fame, honour and nobility. While defending a castle in Pamplona against a French siege, however, he was struck by a cannonball that shattered his leg and left him bedridden for months. Out of boredom during his recovery, he turned to the only books available in Loyola castle’s library – the Life of Christ and the Lives of the Saints.
These readings led Ignatius to experience an interior transformation that changed his whole life. A new desire to serve Jesus replaced his former hopes of knightly glory, and he eventually decided to study for the priesthood. He left Loyola and set out as a pilgrim to the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat. There he spent all night in vigil and offered his knight’s sword to Our Lady. Exchanging his rich garments for those of a beggar, he spent the next eleven months living in a cave in nearby Manresa. Testing himself through mortification and prayer, he reflected deeply on the life and teachings of Jesus. He kept careful notes of his experiences in prayer, notes that formed the basis of the Spiritual Exercises. This book, revised and adjusted throughout his life, was used by Ignatius to lead others to an experience of God by meditation on the life of Jesus.
While a student in Paris, the 38-year-old Ignatius drew together a small group of friends who gathered in extended prayer and meditation according to his Spiritual Exercises. His closest colleagues were Francis Xavier and Peter Faber, 23 year-old students and roommates. Over the next few years, they were joined by others who ultimately made vows of poverty and chastity on August 15, 1534, in a chapel near Paris.
The spring of 1539 found Ignatius and his companions in Rome where they engaged in serious discussions about how they might work together to serve God in the Church by helping souls. What emerged was a formula for their future. On September 27, 1540, Pope Paul III approved this formula and the Society of Jesus was born.
How did the Jesuits become associated with education?
While Ignatius did not direct Jesuits to open schools, he soon discovered how greatly people’s lives could be improved by an education rooted both in gospel values and the humanistic revival of the Renaissance. He began to see the task of education as one of the most important ways of promoting “the betterment of souls.” The Jesuits quickly built a reputation as teachers and scholars. Students from all over Europe flocked to the burgeoning schools, and Jesuit missionaries opened schools where none before had existed. Many of these schools catered to students who might otherwise not receive a formal education, and the Jesuits committed themselves to educating everyone they could.
Jesuit education has always had characteristics that distinguishes it from other pedagogical approaches. These characteristics are rooted in the Ratio Studiorum (Latin for “Plan of Studies”), the 1599 document that standardized the worldwide system of Jesuit education. In 1993, the Society of Jesus published “Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach,” a document that clearly identifies and articulates the Jesuit model of learning and teaching in the contemporary context.
As “Ignatian Pedagogy” emphasizes, Jesuit education “aims to form leaders in service, in imitation of Christ Jesus, men and women of competence, conscience, and compassionate commitment.” In order to enable this formation, Ignatian pedagogy is fundamentally structured on experience, reflection, and action. Through these elements, “teachers . . . accompany their students in order to facilitate learning and growth through encounters with truth and explorations of human meaning.”
How does this tradition continue at Loyola today?
The spirituality and values of Ignatius and the early Jesuits marked the schools they founded. Thus Loyola continues to offer its students a distinctive education. St. Ignatius visualized that students of Jesuit schools, colleges and universities would become “contemplatives in action.” The phrase refers to women and men committed to the service of others and to a faith that does justice in the world. He wanted that students educated in Jesuit institutions should become agents in search of the common good. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus from 1983 to 2008, stressed that Jesuits involved in higher education should strive to provide students with knowledge and skills to excel in whatever field they choose. Contribute to the education of women and men as good citizens, people of competence, conscience and compassion dedicated to the service of faith and the promotion of justice.
What is cura personalis?
During the time of his conversion, Ignatius experienced God not as distant and removed, but as a teacher personally involved in his life. Early Jesuit educators similarly worked to develop a reverent familiarity with their students, which allowed Jesuits to educate them on an individual basis according to the particular needs and gifts of each student. The Latin phrase associated with this Jesuit focus on the individual is cura personalis or “care of the whole person.” Caring for the whole person means knowing the student beyond what a certificate can reveal. In keeping with this age-old tradition, Loyola faculty and administrators strive to learn about students personally – their backgrounds and life histories, their strengths and limitations, their struggles and hopes. These teachers and mentors seek to build personal, trusting relationships with students so they will feel comfortable asking questions, taking intellectual risks and making mistakes and learning from them.
Why and when was Loyola College started?
The Jesuit Fathers and Brothers, belonging to the Northeast India called Kohima Region, were keen to start a premier University College offering undergraduate degree programmes to students who have very little opportunity for quality higher education and where such a service would do the greatest good. The study conducted in the year 1999-2000 by Fr. Dr. Alphonsus D’Souza S.J. of the North Eastern Social Research Center (NESRC) at Guwahati indicated that the socio economic and human development indices of the various communities of people in the Northeast point to the Garo tribal community in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya as having the lowest scores on most of the variables. The East Garo Hills District, where Loyola is situated, has been identified by the government of India as one of the districts in the country with the lowest enrolment in higher education. This is one of the reasons why this tribe and the district was chosen to locate Loyola College.
In 2005 when Fr Dr Philip Abraham SJ was assigned to Dawagre to start the Jesuit Mission, he met the then DC, Mr. Vijay Kumar, and made fervent pleas for land to set up a Jesuit degree college at Williamnagar. The DC, who was convinced that a quality college would do wonders for the people of the area, requested the Government of Meghalaya to allot 40 bighas of land contiguous to the existing allotted land in 2009. Thus Loyola Higher Secondary School, the forerunner of Loyola College, started in June 2010 with Arts and Commerce streams. The University courses began in 2013 and the college is affiliated to North Eastern Hill University (NEHU). The first batch of 57 students began the 1BA programme in Garo and English Honours and Pass Course.
Jesuits at Loyola College
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (everything for the greater glory of God)
The Jesuits of Loyola College are members of the worldwide Society of Jesus. With a primary focus on giving you the best Jesuit education, we infuse Jesuit principles into both the curriculum and the student experience at Loyola. Finding God in all things is just one of the values on which St. Ignatius founded the Jesuit religious order 480 years ago. On campus, you will see members of the Jesuit community as your principal, staff, pastors, and administrators. We believe that God can be found in all things; in the people we work for and with and in reaching out to those in need to create a just society. Whatever our endeavours, we try to live by the Ignatian motto Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (everything for the greater glory of God.
The Jesuits at Loyola College are privileged to work in partnership with the Religious of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi (OSF) and other dedicated lay colleagues in living out their shared commitment to the mission of the College.