What Makes a Jesuit School Jesuit?

The Relationship between Jesuit Schools and the Society of Jesus

Distinguishing Criteria for Verifying the Jesuit Nature of Contemporary Schools


In the two centuries since the first Jesuit high school was established in the United States, our lay partners and brother Jesuits have creatively and courageously faced momentous challenges. We acknowledge with gratitude the zeal, energy, and vision of those who have gone before us as well as the efforts of those who continue their work today in long established Jesuit high schools, in Jesuit Cristo Rey high schools, in Nativity schools and similar Jesuit sponsored educational apostolates. In order to support the important and successful work already evident in Jesuit schools throughout the United States, we offer the following reflections on our mission along with ten principles and practical applications for safeguarding our mission. Acknowledging our responsibility to provide leadership in the educational apostolate, we hope the reflections on our shared mission and the principles/applications lead to a careful examination of their sources in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, in the articulation of the Society of Jesus’ self-understanding at its recent general congregations,* and in the collection of important documents in Jesuit education published by the Jesuit Secondary Education Association as Foundations. By reflecting on these seminal texts, those involved in Jesuit education can experience and better understand the spirit that prompted us to write this present document, composed with Jesuit high schools in mind, but certainly applicable to other Jesuit sponsored educational apostolates.

First published in 2000, What Makes a Jesuit High School Jesuit? has proven helpful to Jesuit high schools in the United States. Our intention in revising and republishing that document is to make it more inclusive and more responsive to the needs of those serving in Jesuit schools desiring to stay faithful to the Jesuit mission and Ignatian vision in their educational apostolates.

Grateful for the excellent assistance the Jesuit Secondary Education Association provides high schools through its programs and resource materials, we recognize a distinction between the roles of the Society of Jesus and JSEA in assisting Jesuit high schools. As a service organization, JSEA makes available advice, programs, and other resources that can maintain and deepen a high school’s Jesuit identity. By presenting this document, we seek to help Jesuit schools confirm their living relationship with the Society of Jesus and demonstrate how authentically they function as apostolates of the Society of Jesus.

We gratefully thank those associated with Jesuit schools who generously embrace and advance the mission of the Society of Jesus. By accepting the invitation of St. Ignatius Loyola to labor beneath the banner of the Cross for the good of others, Jesuit schools effectively promote Jesus Christ’s justice and love for all people. We pledge our readiness to work with our partners in marshalling the resources necessary to bring the message of the Gospel to future generations through Jesuit education. May the Lord who has begun this good work continue to bless it abundantly.

Jesuit Conference Board
October 2006