Jesuit Education: A Living Tradition Today

On the occasion of the 6th International Day of Education – 24 January

By José A. Mesa SJ, Secretary for Secondary and Pre-secondary Education

During the first centuries of Jesuit Education a catch phrase by Fr Juan Bonifacio SJ captured the spirit animating the enthusiasm of Jesuits for Education: Puerilis institutio est renovatio mundi (The education of youth is the renewal of the world). Jesuits were convinced that the aim of education was to form people of upright character that could work tirelessly for the common good of society as a service to God. The Jesuits embraced heartily the idea of education as the way to transform individuals and societies. Later the Ratio Studiorum of 1599 introduced order and uniformity in the Jesuit schools proposing a common curriculum and offices. These schools played an important role in shaping education in the world, especially in the Catholic territories, offering in many cases, the only educational opportunities available. After the French Revolution education became a priority for the civil societies and it was regarded often as a public service in the hands of the state.


Today, education continues to be a priority for the nations. The 4th United Nations’ Sustainable Goal is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. UNESCO has also recently (2021) emphasized the importance of education to address the challenges that we have as humanity. The organization has called for a New Social Compact for Education to “reimagine our futures together” as a humanity. Similarly, Pope Francis has invited world leaders to create a New Global Compact in Education to respond to the epochal change we are experiencing as humanity with such challenges as climate change, social justice, gender equality, technological developments, and faith formation.

Fr General Arturo Sosa has called Jesuit Education networks to be attentive of these changes: “Our institutions need to be aware of the anthropological and cultural change we are experiencing, and they need to know how to educate and train in a new way for a different future” (JESEDU, Rio de Janeiro 2017). Re-creating, re-imagining, re-inventing is necessary to continue our living tradition and to make sure that the education we offer to the new generations is today as relevant as it has been for many previous generations.


Our educational apostolate is responding to the challenges with increasing creativity and vigor. New models, especially reaching out to the poorest in our societies, like Fe y Alegria, Cristo Rey, Nativity, SAFA, and others are making possible for millions to experience the quality education that Pope Francis and UNESCO imagine for the world. Our schools have been engaging technology and new developments in pedagogy to serve our goal of educating persons for and with others within an evangelical framework. The Universal Apostolic Preferences and the Global Identifiers of the document A Living Tradition have guided our schools as they discern how to offer quality education for our time. This has also meant to engage with other Catholic, educational, and social networks to share practices, dream the future and find new paths. Jesuit Education continues, as education in general, to be a work in progress.

As the delegates of Education declared in 2017 in Rio de Janeiro: “We are called to genuine discernment in continuity with our spiritual heritage to respond creatively to the challenges of our world and the new generations attending our schools. We are aware that our tradition calls us to engage in an ongoing conversation about the better means to serve our mission today that must be reflected in renewal and innovation in our schools and pedagogical models. All this needs to lead our schools to use the Ignatian imagination to propose and implement better educational practices that can really embody the human excellence of our education and transform our students, our societies, and us.”

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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