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Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus



Saint Louis University - A Tradition of Jesuit Education

  The Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, was founded in 1540 by a small group of alumni from the University of Paris. They were ten in number, all Roman Catholic priests with excellent education and university degrees; and their leader was a Basque named Ignatius of Loyola.

Ignatius Loyola's Life

  • Born in 1491 as Inigo de Loyola into the Basque noble family of Loyola.
  • Became an officer in the service of the Spanish King.
  • Wounded in battle at age 30. His leg was shattered by a cannonball.
  • During his year long recuperation he began his spiritual journey.
  • Compiled a set of directives and meditations ("Spiritual Exercises") to help others experience a journey similar to his own.
  • At age 33, he began to undertake formal studies culminating in 1535 with a Master of Arts degree from the University of Paris. There he gathered a group of companions into a group committed to a shared vision and mission for service.
  • In 1540, Pope Paul III recognized this group as a religious order under the name of the Society of Jesus.
  • Their original objective was to go to Jerusalem, which proved impossible because of the warfare in the region.
  • Unable to journey to Jerusalem, they placed themselves at the service of the universal church through the Pope.
  • From 1540, until his death in 1556, Ignatius was directing a worldwide network of more than 1,000 Jesuits working in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
  • Today there are about 665 Jesuit educational institutions throughout the world. Of these 177 are higher education institutions, including universities, colleges, and faculties of advanced studies in philosophy and theology.



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