The College of Philosophy and Letters was established as a distinct school of Saint Louis University in 1889 for the education of Jesuit seminarians.
In 1934, the college was approved by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education as a reserved ecclesiastical faculty for philosophy. In the fall of 1975, the purpose of the College of Philosophy and Letters was expanded to include all pre-ministerial programs at Saint Louis University.
With Pope John Paul II’s promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana in 1979, the College began to function no longer as a reserved faculty but as an ecclesiastical faculty open to all qualified students.
The college currently admits Jesuit students, students studying for ordination as archdiocesan clergy, and students of other Catholic religious orders, congregations and institutes. It is also open to admitting laypersons with an interest in philosophical preparation for ministry.
Currently, the College of Philosophy and Letters houses one of three “First Studies”
programs in the United States for young Jesuits in training. The other two are at Fordham University and Loyola University-Chicago.
The college seeks to prepare students with the intellectual background for intelligent service of faith and justice in dialogue with culture, and for later studies in theology. Toward that end, its programs are designed to give students an integrated philosophical training that can help illuminate the contexts of ministry in which they have engaged, and are likely to engage.
This aim requires a course of studies that allows students to bring different traditions of philosophical reflection to bear on the problems of human existence and contemporary global challenges, in such a way that it can be integrated with other fields of learning, especially with subsequent or concomitant theological reflection.
The college mission described flows directly from the official commitments of the Society of Jesus in union with recent Popes. More specifically, as offering courses for the first round of Jesuit academic formation
after novitiate, the college serves as a “First Studies” program.
To fulfill its mission, the college collaborates closely with other departments at Saint Louis University, in particular the Departments of Philosophy and Theology, which provide many of the courses that students in the college are required to take. The college also collaborates with The Aquinas Institute of Theology, which provides many of the graduate theology courses the Jesuit students take.