The Society of Jesus is a religious order of the Catholic Church, which was founded by Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish soldier turned priest. St. Ignatius founded the Society after his conversion following his injury during the battle of Pamplona. While recuperating in the castle of Loyola in Spain, he decided to follow his calling to serve God. In 1534 after completing his studies in Paris, he along with six other young men, including Francis Xavier and Peter Faber, professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They also took a special vow of obedience to the Pope. The Society was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540.
Even though the initial plan of St. Ignatius and his companions was to serve the Church by fighting against the fast advancing Turks, they soon realized that God had other plans for them. Under the charismatic leadership of St. Ignatius, the Society of Jesus grew quickly. Jesuit missionaries played a leading role in the Counter-Reformation and won back many of the faithful who had been lost to Protestantism. In Ignatius’ lifetime, Jesuits were also sent to India, Brazil, the Congo region, and Ethiopia. When Ignatius of Loyola died in July 1556, there were more than 1,000 Jesuit priests and Brothers.
During the next century, the Jesuits set up ministries around the globe especially in the Americas and in Asia. The “Black-Robes,” as the Jesuits were known in Native America, brought the faith to thousands of people, despite trials and persecution. However, in some nations, such as India and China, the Jesuits were welcomed as men of wisdom and science. With the rise of nationalism in the 18th century, most European countries either banned or suppressed the Jesuits. In 1773 Pope Clement XIV officially dissolved the order. However, in 1814, owing to public pressure, Pope Pius VII restored the Society of Jesus as an order, and they continue their work to this day. Ignatius of Loyola was canonized a saint in 1622.
Jesuits, as envisaged by St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, are to be servants of Christ’s mission. Keeping this charism in mind, Jesuits, for over 480 years have been serving the Church in different ways, always striving to bring newness in the Church’s life and ministry. Today there are over 16,000 Jesuits serving the Church in 112 nations in six continents. More than four thousand Jesuits presently serve in different parts of India. Among the 17 provinces of South East Asia, the Karnataka Province chose to venture into the North East of India in the year 1970 by sending three Jesuits, Fr Stany Coelho SJ, Fr Ligoury Castelino SJ and Fr Raymond D’Souza SJ.
JESUITS' CONTRIBUTION TO INDIA (Every Indian Ought to Know....)
1. Anthony Monserrate SJ, Spaniard, was the first geographer to complete a map of India in 1590.
2. Thomas Stevans SJ, English, wrote “Krista Purana” a classic in Marathi.
3. Robert De Nobili SJ, Italian, was the first European Sanskrit Scholar. He wrote 21 books in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit.
4. J. Richard SJ, French, was the first to use telescope on Indian soil in 1689 in Pondicherry.
5. Constanzo Giuseppe Beschi SJ, Italian, is called the “Father of Tamil Prose”.
6. Antonio Moscheni SJ, Italian, was a great painter who painted the St. Aloysius’ College Chapel, Mangalore, the Holy Name Cathedral of Mumbai, the Holy Cross Cathedral, Kochi.
7. Jerome D’Souza SJ, Indian, was a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly and four times India’s delegate to the UN General Assembly. Made considerable contributions to the Constitutions of India.
8. Camille Buckle SJ, Belgian, is India’s most famous Christian Hindi Scholar and a well-known lexicographer. He received the Padma Bhushan.
9. Johans SJ, Dandoy SJ, Antonie SJ and Fallon SJ, Belgians of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkatta, were great Indologists and enriched the Bengali & Sanskrit languages.
10. Carlos Valles SJ, Spaniard, was awarded the Ranjitram Gold Medal for his contribution to Gujarati language.
11. Anthony de Mello SJ, Indian, endeavored to integrate deep Christian spirituality with Eastern concepts and methods of prayer.
12. Pallithanam SJ, Indian, one of the first Indian Jesuit botanists.
13. K. M. Mathew SJ, Indian, the most productive Indian taxonomist ever. He is the world’s specialist in Jasmine.
14. Lancelot D’Cruz SJ, Indian, has developed people-forest-industry linkages for socio-economic development and protection of the traditional medial knowledge.
15. Savarimuthu Ignacimuthu SJ, Indian, discovered an insect which has been named after him Ignacimuthue.
16. Francis Perianayagam SJ, Indian, is developing semi-conductors as less expensive and easier synthesized alternatives to current germanium and silicon ones.
17. Leo D’Souza SJ, Indian, is a pioneer in plant tissue culture and in vitro propagation of several forest trees.
18. Cecil Saldanha SJ: Taxonomist. He has done extensive research and published volumes on Hassan &Karnataka flora.
19. Rudolph Aquaviva SJ, Fr. Duarte Leitao SJ & Fr. Christobal de vege SJ, were in the court of Akbar at his own request.
20. Bento de Goes SJ went to Tibet by the land route and prepared the way to the unknown and forbidden lands.
21. Fr Constant Lievens SJ started the co-operative movement in Chotanagpur region.
22. Br Peter Royappan SJ, Indian, served in postal service for 36 years and the Government recognized him nationally as managing "the Best Post Office in India".
23. Fr Henry Heras SJ deciphered the writings of Harappa
24. Fr Josef Neuner SJ, renowned theologian
25. Fr George Suares Prabhu SJ, Indian, renowned theologian
26. Fr Michael Amaladas SJ, Indian, renowned theologian
27. Fr Samuel Rayan, Indian, renowned theologian
28. Fr George Lobo SJ, Indian, renowned moral theologian
29. Fr John Vattankey SJ, Indian, famous Indian Philosopher
**The first printing press in India was started by the Jesuits in 1556.