Saint Louis University Menu Search

Teaching our Jesuit Mission

There are reasons people are impressed when you say you attend a Jesuit college.

First, we believe in educating "the whole person" -- mind, body, heart and spirit. The more whole you are, the more you can contribute to the world.

Second, Jesuit schools are known for their rigor. We don't so much embrace ideas as challenge them, always looking for larger, stronger answers. As a consequence, not only will you learn to defend your ideas, you will learn to improve upon them, developing the intellectual wherewithal to think clearly, argue pointedly and express yourself beautifully.

And, finally, you will evolve as a leader, acquiring the ethical and moral underpinning necessary to make sound judgments. Through class, service learning and learning to appreciate cultural difference, you will come to see the world -- and your place in it -- as a wondrous opportunity for growth and good works.

Learn More About SLU's Mission

Explore Ignatian Pedagogy

Additional Faculty Resources

Bridges (the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life)

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola is presented on campus each year through the Bridges program. Also known as the Spiritual Exercises of Everyday Life or the 19th Annotation Retreat, Bridges is an eight-month program of prayer and personal reflection for busy people. Retreatants commit themselves to daily prayer, weekly meetings with a spiritual director and monthly input on the Exercises. The program begins each August.

Helping Our Own

This program provides a one-time monetary gift to any full-time or part-time employee experiencing a valid financial crisis. Requests are made in writing and reviewed by a committee of employees from the home campus. All requests are kept confidential. This program exemplifies the University's Jesuit mission in action - a community concerned for one another and committed to serving those in need.

Journey Conference

Held in May 1998, Our Journey to Tomorrow: A Commitment to the Jesuit Spirit brought together 125 SLU faculty, staff and students to deepen their understanding of the University's Jesuit spirit and values, to reflect on the current life of the University in light of these values, and to suggest action for the future. Since 1998, follow-up luncheons have been held each semester, with invited faculty and staff members sharing from their experience on an issue related to the University's Jesuit mission.

Faculty/Staff Weekend Retreats

Offered each semester, the weekend provides employees with an opportunity to reflect on their lives, their work and their relationship with God, in the company of colleagues and an experienced retreat director.

Twilight Retreats

Offered during Advent and Lent, this evening of reflection is an opportunity to reflect on the season and its meaning.

Shared Vision

This three-part video and discussion series explores the University's Jesuit identity and gives participants an opportunity to grow in their knowledge and understanding of what it means to be part of a Jesuit University. Each session is held on both campuses twice each semester. All employees of the University are encouraged to attend these two-hour programs.

Marchetti Jesuit Endowment Fund

The University's Jesuit community provides funding for special projects that enrich and strengthen the Catholic, Jesuit character of the University through conference, programs and grants. Full-time faculty and staff members who would like to pursue research or develop programs that foster dialogue between faith and reason and between culture and Christian beliefs are invited to apply for grants.

Heartland Conference

The Jesuit Higher Education in the Heartland Conference gathers faculty, staff and administrators from 12 Jesuit colleges and universities in the country's Heartland and Delta regions to explore the vision of Jesuit education in the 21st century.

Heartland Faculty Conversations

Selected faculty members from 11 Jesuit colleges and universities in the Heartland and Delta regions gather each February for a two-day conference to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the University's Jesuit mission and identity.

National Ignatian Spirituality Conference

Developed by the St. Louis Center for Ignatian Spirituality and sponsored by Saint Louis University and the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus, the conference is designed to educate and encourage those who practice Ignatian spirituality as well as those involved in works rooted in Ignatian spirituality. Conferences have been held at SLU as recently as July 2015. They attract 400-500 participants from throughout North America.

Jesuit Expressions

 Ad Majorem De Gloriam (AMDG)

"For the greater glory of God." Motto of the Society of Jesus.

Cura Personalis

"Care of the Person." A hallmark of Jesuit education from its beginnings.


"More." The term traditionally used by Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits, suggesting the spirit of generous excellence in which ministry should be carried on.

Ratio Studiorum

"Plan of studies." Published in 1599 after several drafts and extensive consultation among Jesuits working in schools, this document was a handbook of practical directives for teachers and administrators, a collection of the most effective educational methods of the time, tested and adapted to fit the Jesuit mission of education. The principles behind its directives came from the vision and spirit of Ignatius. The process that led to the Ratio and continued after its publication gave birth to the first real system of schools the world had ever known.

Taken from "Do You Speak Ignatian," by George W. Traub, S.J.

Jesuit Distinctions

What is a Jesuit?

Officially known as the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits are a Catholic religious order of men founded in 1540 by Ignatius Loyola. Their mission is to go anywhere and do anything to "help souls," especially where the need is greatest, particularly where certain people or certain work was neglected. Though frequently associated with education, the Jesuits were originally a missionary order. Today, the Jesuits are the largest missionary order in the world. Currently, there are 23,000 Jesuits worldwide and about fifty who are active on the SLU campus.

What Does "Jesuit" Mean?

The term was originally coined as a putdown by people who felt there was something terribly arrogant about a group calling itself the 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 other favorable to them. (Taken from "Do You Speak Ignatian,"by George W. Traub, S.J.)

What Makes an Education Jesuit?

In the summer of 2002, the Society of Jesus in the United States published Communal Reflection on the Jesuit Mission in Higher Education: A Way of Proceeding. Addressed to their colleagues in Jesuit higher education, the Jesuits invited them to an inclusive, local discussion on the essential characteristics of higher education in the distinctive Catholic and Jesuit tradition, yet open to the values and convictions of other members of our communities who join them in their mission.

The some key characteristics of Jesuit higher education that the Jesuits offer for further reflection and discussion are:

  • Dedication to human dignity from a Catholic, Jesuit faith perspective.
    For the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, God can be found in all things, because all of reality is an arena of God's self-revelation.
  • Reverence for and an ongoing reflection on human experience.
    This is key to The Spiritual Exercises. It is premised in the belief that one can discover God's presence in one's life and the freedom to respond to that presence through a series of prayer exercises and through personal conversation.
  • Creative companionship with colleagues.
  • Focused care for students.
    Cura personalis (care of the person) has been a characteristic of Jesuit education throughout its 450 years.
  • Well-educated justice and solidarity.
    This characteristic was clearly addressed by the Society's current head, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, at a national gathering at Santa Clara University in 2000:"The real measure of our Jesuit universities lies in who our students become. Tomorrow's 'whole person' cannot be whole without a well-educated solidarity. We must therefore raise our Jesuit educational standard to "educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world. Solidarity is learned through 'contact' rather than through 'concepts.' When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change."

Who is Ignatius?

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was the youngest child of a noble Basque family fiercely loyal to the Spanish crown, and was raised to be a courtier. Trying valiantly to defend the fortress town of Pamplona in 1521, a French cannonball shattered his leg and led him to reconsider his way of life. While he recuperated from his wounds at the family estate, he had only two books to read, the Life of Christ and the Lives of the Saints. The books he read and the daydreams he entertained had a great effect on him, so much so that he decided to lay aside his sword of war and take up what he called the "sword of Christ."

This change in life plans led him to seek an education at the University of Paris. There, he formed a circle of friends who, with time, decided to band together and dedicate themselves to the greater glory of God and the good of all people. When their efforts to go to the Holy Land were met with disappointment, they decided to place themselves at the service of the Pope, who could send them throughout the world, wherever there was a need. Wherever the Jesuits went throughout the world, their mission remained the same: To "seek the greater glory of God and the good of humanity."

What is Ignatian Spirituality?

Like all Christian spirituality, Ignatian spirituality provides a person a method to integrate one's relationship to God and to the world. Ignatian spirituality, like other Christian spiritualities, bases its integration on a particular insight into the person of Jesus and His relationship to the world. Being a companion with Jesus on his mission gave Ignatius of Loyola's life a sense of purpose and meaning. It is just such companionship that lies at the heart of Ignatian spirituality.

The characteristics of Ignatian spirituality are the characteristics of Ignatius' spiritual life. A brief summary of these characteristics might include:

  • An awareness of being created and redeemed by God's love
  • The understanding that Jesus initiates this redemption within the ordinariness of the world, demonstrating that the world is a good place to live and work
  • A desire to work as a companion of Jesus to continue this mission in the world
  • The practice of continual prayer and discernment to discover how God speaks to the soul
  • The discovery of the presence of the Spirit in community

From the website of the Maryland Province Jesuits.

What Are the Spiritual Exercises?

Ignatius collected his formative experiences of prayer into what became known as his "Spiritual Exercises". He offered these to men and women of his time as helpful means for them to attend to God's call, choosing to live committed lives of Christian service. The Exercises invite the "retreatant" to "meditate" on central aspects of Christian faith (e.g. creation, sin and forgiveness, calling and ministry) and especially to "contemplate" (i.e. imaginatively enter into) the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. With the help of a spiritual guide, the goal of the Exercises is the attainment of spiritual freedom and the power to act out of the promptings of God's spirit in the truest core of one's being - to act ultimately out of love.

From "Do You Speak Ignatian?" by George Traub, S.J.