The Society of Jesus was founded by a Spanish Basque soldier, Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius, Peter Faber, Francis Xavier and four other companions made their first vows in 1534 in Montmartre outside Paris. In 1540, Pope Paul III approved the Society of Jesus. Ignatius Loyola gathered an energetic band of educated men who desired nothing more than to help others find God in their lives. Ignatius' original plan was that they be roving missionaries, who would preach and administer the sacraments wherever there was the greatest need, a lack of others to respond and the hope of accomplishing the greater good.

Since then, Jesuits have served the Church in a wide array of areas – missionary work, schools, social ministries and elsewhere. They have distinguished themselves throughout history as scientists and theologians, poets and philosophers, explorers and missionaries, pastors and preachers. They have served as missionaries in Asia, India, Africa and the Americas. Robert Bellarmine and Peter Canisius led aspects of the Counter Reformation in Europe. Edmund Campion and others courageously assisted Catholics in England who suffered under the Elizabethan persecutions. Missionaries like Xavier, Ricci, deNobili, Claver, González, deBrito, Brebeuf, and Kino brought the Gospel to the ends of the earth. No other order has more martyrs for the Faith. Jesuits have become renowned for their sanctity, spirituality, scholarship, discoveries, and work in schools.

Jesuits were called the schoolmasters of Europe during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, not only because of their schools but also for their pre-eminence as scholars and the thousands of textbooks they composed. Then in 1773, Pope Clement XIV, yielding to pressure from the Bourbon courts and fearing the loss of his Papal States, suppressed the Society of Jesus. This religious Society of 23,000 men dedicated to the service of the church was disbanded. The property of the Society's many schools was taken over. The Society's libraries were broken up. The Society was restored in 1814 by Pope Pius VII. Since 1814 the Society has experienced amazing growth and has surpassed the apostolic breadth of the early Society in its educational, intellectual, pastoral and missionary endeavours.

Brief Jesuit History

The Jesuits in Australia

The history of Jesuits in Australia

The first Jesuits to set foot in Australia came from Austria, arriving in Adelaide in 1848. They came with a group of refugees and were assigned an area north of Adelaide for which to care. They were pioneering as they served the people in the developing colony. Later, Irish Jesuits established a community in Melbourne in 1865, and were enterprising and entrepreneurial as they established schools and parishes in Melbourne and Sydney. In 1882 the Northern mission among indigenous Australians was started.

The Australian vice-Province was begun in 1932 and the Province formally established in 1950, with Fr Austin Kelly SJ its first Provincial. The Province has benefited from a long line of dynamic and capable individuals working in a range of ministries. In recent years, although the number of Jesuits has declined, these ministries have continued and flourished with the help of lay companions.

A concern for the treatment of Aboriginal people and others on the margins has developed into the establishment of social justice ministries and engagement in public debate and theological reflection. The four Jesuit-owned schools attract strong enrolments. Five Jesuit-partnered schools have been established in recent decades. A presence in ten parishes provides a hub for pastoral activities. Several retreat houses provide opportunities for people to experience the Spiritual Exercises.