Changes in the Society of Jesus

Demographics: [37]

  1. In 1986 there were over 25,000 Jesuit worldwide.
  2. In 2015 there were 16,740, a decline of 33%.
  3. Geographically, during this 30-year time period the number of Jesuits increased in Africa; showed a slight increase in South Asia; a slight decline in East Asia, a 35% decrease in Latin America and nearly 50% decrease in Europe and North America.
  4. Aging: The past thirty years have witnessed the graying of the Jesuits due to increased longevity and fewer young men entering, especially in Europe and North America. The median age differs significantly, reflecting the demographic shift to Africa and South Asia. Society Leadership.

Society Leadership

  1. There have been three General Congregations over the past thirty years.
  2. General Congregation 34 (1995) affirmed the major themes of General Congregations 32 and 33. Jesuits and those who work with them were called to embrace the call of Christ:

    1. To meet the needs of the poor and marginalized;
    2. To be respectful and hospitable to people from different cultures and religious traditions;
    3. To see laypeople as co-workers with equal worth and dignity;
    4. To learn from the experience of women who have often been marginalized from church and society.
  3. Decree 18 focused on secondary, primary and non-formal education, highlighting:

    1. The central role of the laity as educators in the Ignatian tradition;
    2. The efforts to make Jesuit schools accessible to young people from families of slender means;
    3. Schools as platforms that reach not only to the extended community of parents, former students, and friends but also to the poor and socially disadvantaged in the neighborhood;
    4. The importance of pre-primary schools sponsored by the Society.
  4. General Congregation 35 (2008) acknowledged the increasing pace of change in the post-modern world.

    1. It attended to issues of technology, environmental awareness, migration, and globalization.
    2. It reaffirmed the call of Christ to the service of faith and the promotion of justice.
    3. Seeing the Jesuit vocation as a fire that kindles other fires, it acknowledged the centrality of collaborators and highlighted the importance of their formation in the Ignatian charism.
    4. In light of fewer Jesuits, it raised a fundamental question about institutional identity: With few Jesuits or no Jesuits present, what makes a Jesuit school Jesuit?
    5. It discussed ministry to the young, stating: We need to discern carefully how we carry out educational and pastoral ministries, especially among youth, in this fast-changing post-modern culture. We need to walk with young people, learning from their generosity and compassion so as to help each other to grow through fragility and fragmentation to joyful integration of our lives with God and with others. D. 3, No. 23.
  5. General Congregation 36 (2016) in Decree 1 called for a spiritual reawakening as the first step in addressing the urgent complex environmental and social crisis that has reached every part of the world, acknowledged the increasing pace of change in the post-modern world.
  6. The decree calls us to be Companions in a Mission of a Reconciliation and Justice [38].

    Address on Education by Jesuit Superiors.
  7. Fathers Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., and Arturo Sosa, S.J., the three Superiors General since the publication of Characteristics, have given a number of addresses on education. Though some are targeted to higher education, they all contain ideas that are relevant to all Jesuit schools.

    1. Fourteen presentations by Father Kolvenbach can be found at
    2. Fifteen presentations by Father Nicolas can be found at
    3. The presentations by Father Sosa can be found at

Recent Milestones

  1. In 2012, the first International Colloquium in Jesuit Secondary Education in Boston, USA, brought together educators in Jesuit schools worldwide to articulate a unifying vision and to celebrate the rich diversity of the network.
  2. In 2014, SIPEI (Seminario Internacional de Pedagogía y Espiritualidad Ignacianas) gathered leaders and thinkers of the global network to reflect upon the four attributes that Fr. Kolvenbach suggested that students should learn in Jesuit schools. These attributes, also known as the four C’s, are: conscience, competence, compassion and commitment.
  3. In 2015 The establishment of Educate Magis the interactive online community created to serve as a platform for interactions among students and educators in Jesuit schools around the world.
  4. The Action Statement from JESEDU-Rio in 2017 also represents a very important moment of discernment in the process of acting “as a universal body with a universal mission.” (GC 35, D.2, #20) Please see #s 56 – 60 of this document for an explanation.
  5. In 2018 Father General Arturo Sosa’s addressed the Fe y Alegría Congress – promoting the right to a quality education for all:
  6. “It is imperative that we advocate for, demand and promote the right to a quality education for all people. I encourage you to continue to proclaim that quality is not possible without inclusive, safe schools; schools which welcome and integrate, schools which cater for diversity, which are innovative, contextualized and relevant.” [39]

    Jesuit Schools: [40]
  7. What does it mean to be a Jesuit school? Is a school Jesuit because of its history, having been founded and staffed by Jesuits for many years? Is a school Jesuit because of its canonical status? Is a school Jesuit because Jesuits work there? Is a school Jesuit by history or by choice? Is a school Jesuit in a substantive way or is it Jesuit in name only? Is it Jesuit for marketing or branding considerations?
  8. Are they Jesuit schools only if they are sponsored and canonically constituted by the Society of Jesus?
  9. If so, they educate nearly 800,000 students in over 850 schools and with only 4.3% of personnel who are Jesuits. (In North America and Europe, that percentage will decrease in the coming years)
  10. Are they Jesuit schools that rest on any form of affiliation with the Society of Jesus?
  11. If so, these schools educate over two million students in nearly 2,300 schools; Jesuits constitute barely 2% of the staff.

    New Schools and Networks.
  12. Over these past thirty years, we have seen the emergence of new Jesuit schools and networks that are accessible to people of modest or few means.
    1. Nativity schools provide creative and tuition-free education to early adolescents.
    2. Cristo Rey schools provide secondary education to young women and men through a creative work-study program.
    3. In Latin America and now in Africa, the Fe y Alegría network continues its remarkable growth offering educational opportunities to the poorest sectors of society.
    4. Around the world, in 51 countries, the Jesuit Refugee Service has provided education, emergency assistance and health services to more than 700,000 people.
  13. These networks relate to the Society in different ways, reflecting the amazing possibilities open to our educational apostolate when we work with other religious congregations, lay people and other educators who identify themselves with the goals of Jesuit Education.

    Jesuits and Lay Colleagues.
  14. Over the course of their 450-year history, Jesuit schools have relied on a dynamic partnership between Jesuit and lay colleagues. Nowadays, much of the responsibility for the mission of our schools is shouldered by the laity. Catholic women and men join together with those of other Christian traditions to form “men and women for others.” As with our students themselves, our schools are enriched by the presence of faculty, staff and administrators of other religious traditions; in some places, they are in the strong majority.
  15. This has been a great gift: creatively expanding our understanding of Ignatian spirituality and identity.

Exercise 18. For discernment:

In your region of the world:

  1. How do you assess these changes?
  2. What are the most significant developments?
  3. What developments seem to reflect the greater good?
  4. In this context, what has your educational apostolate done?
  5. How have we responded to the Action Statement from JESEDU- Rio2017?
  6. What else can we do to respond to this Action Statement?
  7. What should your educational apostolate be doing?