At the invitation of Bishop Louis DuBourg, nineteenth century Jesuits arrived in St. Louis in 1823 hoping to work among the Indian people in the St. Louis area. They soon discovered that effective ministry would require the sending of men into the American west while the bishop discovered that the Jesuits could administer a college he had founded in 1818. Saint Louis University was taken over by the Society of Jesus in 1829 and missionaries like Father Peter De Smet, S.J. were sent from St. Louis, following the paths already blazed by St. Louis fur traders and frontiersmen.
The original Indian mission of St. Regis established in Florissant, Missouri, was made over into a Jesuit community dedicated to the training of young Jesuits. For more than 150 years, St. Stanislaus was an academic community and a community of prayer. It was also the "motherhouse" for the Missouri province, a sprawling complex of buildings, farms and orchards. Over time, it became a repository for art, missionary artifacts, books, and basic necessities. When the complex was finally shuttered in 1971, the original stone building on the property was dedicated as a museum. In 2001, the collection housed in the "rock building" was transferred to the Saint Louis University Museum of Art as a permanent loan of the Missouri Province of The Society of Jesus.
Today, the Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions fills the entire third floor of the museum. The artifacts illustrate not just Jesuit and Catholic life but also the frontier experience of the Jesuit missionaries. Art and artifacts reflect a universe of experience, and illustrate art over the centuries and the artifacts of continents and creeds.