What is a Jesuit?

“Jesuit” can be found in the names of schools, churches and religious communities throughout the United States and the world. But what does it mean?


Jesuit defines a Catholic religious order known as the Society of Jesus. For Jesuit communities and schools around the world — including Regis University — the word establishes identity and spurs us toward lives of service and compassion.

To be a Jesuit is to work for peace and to seek justice, to work as a companion of Jesus in transforming the world. It is to find God in all things and advocate for those whose voices often are not heard, including the poor, immigrants and refugees.


A Cannonball and a New Life: The Roots of Jesuit Spirituality

The Jesuit order was founded by one of the world’s most famous spiritual figures, St. Ignatius of Loyola, in 1534. Born in the Basque region of Spain in 1491, St. Ignatius had hopes of battlefield glory cut short when a cannonball shattered his leg. During months of healing, with nothing but spiritual writings to keep him company, he began to reimagine his life’s direction.

While studying at the University of Paris, Ignatius began to attract companions, whom he led in spiritual exercises. Soon, Ignatius and his friends set off with a simple mission: to serve and nourish souls. Eventually, they arrived in Rome, where they started a formal religious order — vowing to establish schools and meet spiritual needs in communities across Europe. 


Education and Service: Jesuits as Faith-Centered Difference Makers

Today, with more than 16,000 members, the Society of Jesus is the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church.

The order has established retreat houses, social ministries, advocacy organizations and countless other efforts. One of the best known is the Jesuit Refugee Service, which works in 50 countries to aid those who have been forced from their homes. Along with helping others grow closer to Jesus, advocating for criminal, economic and environmental justice has been a renewed focus of the Society’s mission since 1975.

But the Jesuits are perhaps best known for their commitment to providing a distinctive and transformational education.

The reason: An education pointed toward thoughtful reflection and action cultivates “men and women for and with others” — people who make the world a kinder, more humane place.


The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, which represents 28 North American Jesuit institutions, emphasizes the service-oriented mindset this way: “Students are engaged in a process of exploring the distinctive and constructive ways in which their knowledge and talents will best serve society.”

At Regis University, we bring the Jesuit mindset to the forefront of faith, reason and culture. Our Jesuit identity is why we help our students grow spiritually in multifaceted ways. It’s also why we invest in service learning, provide medical care in foreign lands and partner with communities for sustainable development.

In short, Jesuit is who we are.

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