The Society of Jesus – also known as the Jesuits – is a religious order of men within the Roman Catholic Church. Founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola and nine companions, the Society numbers close to 18,000 men and is present in more than 125 countries.
Jesuit priests, brothers and scholastics (young men on their way to the priesthood) are studying and implementing a vast range of ministries – pastoral, educational, social and others. The Jesuits are organized into some 100 Provinces and Regions and much of their work is realized in close collaboration with lay people.
As an international body, the Society unites their ministry in local communities in a global network. Jesuit Missions is linked to this network and its mission is intimately connected with that of the Jesuits, who seek to proclaim a faith that does justice and respond to needs neglected by others.
The founder of the order, St Ignatius of Loyola, and his early companions set the example when they responded to the crisis of homelessness and poverty in Rome in 1538. They gathered the homeless and brought them to their home, giving their own beds to the sick. They wanted to live with and serve the poor. No task, however spiritual, was judged complete unless it included practical charitable work.
During their last General Congregation, held in 2008, the Jesuits emphasised their universality, saying: “Serving Christ’s mission today means paying special attention to its global context. This context requires us to act as a universal body with a universal mission, realising at the same time the radical diversity of our situations.”
Jesuit Missions traditionally has a very close relationship with Guyana, South Africa and Zimbabwe but works with partners throughout the world to provide education, healthcare, emergency relief, as well as seeking to proclaim a faith that does justice.