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A Guide to know more about Jesuit Education

Jesuits always met a need. Europe entered the modern world almost overnight in the early 16th century. The voyages of exploration to the Americas and the Indies, the Protestant revolt, and Gutenberg's printing press changed people's understanding of the globe, redistributed wealth, and turned Europe into a battleground of ideas. A prosperous middle class wanted an education that would prepare their sons for the opportunities of this new world that was unfolding around them at a dizzying pace.

When Jesuits began their schools, two models were available. One was the medieval university, where students prepared for professions such as law, the clergy, and teaching by studying the sciences, mathematics, logic, philosophy, and theology. The other model was the Renaissance humanistic academy, which had a curriculum based on Greek and Latin poetry, drama, oratory, and history. The goal of the university was the training of the mind through the pursuit of speculative truth; the goal of the humanists was character formation, making students better human beings and civic leaders. Jesuit schools were unique in combining these two educational ideals.

Perhaps the most important reason for the success of the early Jesuit schools was a set of qualities that Jesuits aspired to themselves and which they consciously set out to develop in their students:

  • Self-knowledge and discipline,
  • Attentiveness to their own experience and to others',
  • Trust in God's direction of their lives,
  • Respect for intellect and reason as tools for discovering truth, Skill in discerning the right course of action,
  • A conviction that talents and knowledge were gifts to be used to help others,
  • Flexibility and pragmatism in problem solving,
  • Large-hearted ambition, and
  • A desire to find God working in all things.

These qualities were the product of the distinctive spirituality that the early Jesuits had learned from Ignatius and that Ignatius had learned from his own experience. Jesuits hoped, in turn, to form their students in the same spiritual vision, so that their graduates would be prepared to live meaningful lives as leaders in government, the professions, and the Church.


How does this spiritual vision get translated into an educational vision? The early Jesuits struggled to describe what they called "our way of proceeding." Their accounts varied but it seems that they thought of their distinctive spirituality as a three-part process. It begins with paying attention to experience, moves to reflecting on its meaning, and ends in deciding how to act. Jesuit education, then, can be described in terms of three key movements:

1. Be Attentive

We learn by organizing our experience and appropriating it in the increasingly complex psychological structures by which we engage and make sense of our world. From infancy, learning is an active process but in our early years it happens without our being aware of it. Once we become adolescents, though, whether we will continue to learn is largely a choice we make.

Conscious learning begins by choosing to pay attention to our experience -- our experience of our own inner lives and of the people and the world around us. When we do this, we notice a mixture of light and dark, ideas and feelings, things that give us joy and things that sadden us. It is a rich tapestry and it grows more complex the more we let it register on our awareness.

 Ignatius was convinced that God deals directly with us in our experience. This conviction rested on his profound realization that God is "working" in everything that exists. (This is why the spirit of Jesuit education is often described as "finding God in all things"). So, our intimate thoughts and feelings, our desires and our fears, our responses to the people and things around us are not just the accidental ebb and flow of our inner lives but rather the privileged moments through which God creates and sustains a unique relationship with each of us.

How do I pay attention? By observing, wondering, opening myself to what is new, allowing the reality of people and things to enter my consciousness on its own terms.

This is why Jesuit schools have traditionally emphasized liberal education, a core curriculum, and the arts and the humanities -- studies that can enlarge our understanding of what it means to be human and make us more sympathetic to experiences different from our own. This happens outside the classroom too -- for example, in service programs, when we enter into the lives of others. Referring to students engaged in working with the poor, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the current leader of Jesuits across the world, has said "When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change." The key movement that begins this process of learning and change is paying attention.

2. Be Reflective

The outcome of paying attention to our experience may be a complex variety of images, unrelated insights, feelings that lead in contradictory directions. To connect the parts of our experience into a whole, we need to examine data, test evidence, clarify relationships, understand causes and implications, weigh options in light of their possible consequences. We need, that is, to see the patterns in our experience and grasp their significance.Reflection is the way we discover and compose the meaning of our experience.

Figuring out our experience can be an inward-looking activity -- identifying our gifts and the future they point us towards or confronting the prejudices, fears, and shortcomings that prevent us from being the kind of people we want to be -- but it can also mean looking outward -- at the questions that philosophy and theology pose to us, at subjects like biology and finance and economics and the different ways they organize and interpret the world and help us understand ourselves. In either direction, the goal is the freedom that comes from knowing ourselves, understanding the world, and finding the direction that God is disclosing for our lives in and through our experience.

Reflection is a kind of reality-testing. It takes time and care. Ultimately, it is the work of intelligence, which is why Jesuit education has always emphasized intellectual excellence. There is no substitute for using the minds God gave us, to understand our experience and discover its meaning.

3. Be Loving

Being attentive is largely about us and how God is working in us through our experience. Being reflective moves our gaze outward, measuring our experience against the accumulated wisdom of the world. Being loving requires that we look even more closely at the world around us. It asks the question: How are we going to act in this world?

In part, this is a question about what we are going to do with the knowledge and self-understanding and freedom that we have appropriated by reflection. How shall we act in ways that are consistent with this new self and what it knows and values?

But we can't move very far in the direction of answering this question without discovering that it is not only a question about how our lives can be authentic. It is also a question about our relationship to the world around us and what the world needs us to do. We are not solitary creatures. From the womb, we live in relationships with others, grow up in cultural, social, and political institutions that others have created for us. To be human is to find our place in these relationships and these institutions, to take responsibility for them, to contribute to nurturing and improving them, to give something back.

We can understand this in quite secular terms if we choose to, but through the eyes of faith there is an even more compelling reason for thinking and living this way. Ignatius ends his Spiritual Exercises with a consideration of love. For him growing in love is the whole point of the spiritual life. He suggests two principles to help us understand love. One is that love shows itself more by deeds than by words. Action is what counts, not talk and promises. This is why Jesuit education is incomplete unless it produces men and women who will do something with their gifts.

More profoundly, Ignatius says that love consists in communication. One who loves communicates what he or she has with another. Thus, lovers desire each other's good, give what they have to one another, share themselves.

 It is easy to see this communication in two people in love. For Ignatius, however, love was most dramatically evident in the relationship that God has with human beings. Two examples of this are central in the Exercises. First, God creates the world and gives life to everything in it. People and things come into existence because God communicates God's own self to them. And God continues working in each person and thing in its own specific reality and at every moment. God keeps wanting to be in relationship with us, even when we fail to respond. Second, surpassing even the gift of creation is the gift God has given us in the person of Jesus. God's taking on our human nature in order to heal our brokenness is the ultimate evidence of God's love for us. Jesus' life and death are, for Ignatius, the model of how to love in return.

If every human being is so loved by God, then our loving relationships do not stop with the special people we choose to love, or with our families, or with the social class or ethnic group we belong to. We are potentially in love with the whole world.

So, for Jesuit education, it is not enough to live authentically in the world. We have to participate in the transformation of the world (the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam conveys the same idea, of mending or repairing the world). For more than four hundred years, it has been said that Jesuit education educated "the whole person." Today, we live with an increasingly global sense of what it means to be human. A person can't be considered "whole" without an educated solidarity with other human beings in their hopes and fears and especially in their needs. We can't pay attention to our experience and reflect on it without realizing how our own lives are connected with the dreams of all those with whom we share the journey of human existence, and therefore with the economic, political, and social realities that support or frustrate their dreams. This is why Jesuit education is so often said to produce "men and women for others."

The habit of discerning

Jesuit education, we have said, is a process that has three key parts, being attentivebeing reflective, and being loving. It results in the kind of good decision-making that Ignatius called "discernment." The goal of Jesuit education is to produce men and women for whom discernment is a habit.

We can think of discernment as the lifelong project of exploring our experience, naming its meaning, and living in a way that translates this meaning into action. We can also think of this process as something we focus on with special intensity at particular moments in our lives -- during the four years of college, for example, or when we have to make important decisions and want to do so freely and with a sense of what God is calling us to. At these times, we might be especially conscious of using spiritual exercises to help us negotiate the process. But we can also think of these three movements as the intertwined dynamics of daily life, the moment-by-moment activity of becoming fully human.

Arguably, it is the daily exercise of discernment that grounds the other kinds of spiritual growth -- the regular practice of attentiveness, reflection, and choosing through which our lives take on a meaningful direction. In fact, Ignatius thought that the most useful kind of prayer is to spend a few minutes each day deepening our awareness of how God works in the events of the day and how we respond, a practice he called an examen. I begin by calling to mind that God is involved in shaping the direction of my life and I ask for light about this. Then, I review the events of the day, especially those where my feelings have been most engaged, positively or negatively. I notice the patterns and the emerging insights about which experiences lead me towards God and which lead away. And I end by looking ahead to tomorrow and asking to live with a growing sense of God's trust in my future.

For Ignatius, a key element of discerning is the exercise of imagination. In doing the examen, he suggests we use our imaginations to elicit the feelings that have pulled us one way or another during the day and to picture how we might live differently tomorrow. In the Exercises, when he is advising us how to pray, he urges us to take a passage from the Gospels and imagine ourselves present in the scene, listening to the words of the people there, experiencing their feelings, and he asks us to elicit our own feelings in response. And, in the account of his very earliest spiritual experiences, he tells us that, while he was recovering from his wounds, he used to lie on his bed by the open window of his room and contemplate the stars, lost in reveries about the great deeds he would accomplish, at first for the princess he was in love with, and then for Jesus. Even in old age, when he spent his days sitting at a desk in Rome administering the affairs of the Society, he would go to the roof of the Jesuit residence in the evening and look at the stars in order to see his life as God saw it. Finding images that embody our dreams can be a lifelong form of prayer.

In the practice of discerning, we grow in being able to imagine how we are going to live our lives. We discover our vocations.The novelist and theologian Frederick Buechner describes vocation as "the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." When we arrive at this place, and understand the fit between who we are and what the world needs of us, Ignatius urges us to be unafraid to live with the consequences of this realization, to respond with generosity and magnanimity because this is the way we can love as God loves. Jesuit tradition uses the Latin word magis or "more" to sum up this ideal, a life lived in response to the question: How can I be more, do more, give more? Jesuit education is complete when its graduates embody this vision of life and work.

Sunny Jacob SJ
JEA Secretary
[Zonal Co-ordinators Meet
At 225, Jorbagh, New Delhi 110003
26th March 2015]
25 Mar 2015 - 06:00

We, the Members of JCSA, gathered at Vinayalaya, Mumbai (23-28th Feb 2015), were privileged to listen to the testimony of faith and courage, of struggles/suffering and pain of our dear Fr. Alexis Premkumar,s.j., released by the abductors (22nd Feb, 2015) and brought to us by the active involvement of the PMO and the External Affairs Ministry of the Govt of India.  

We thank the Govt of India for taking keen interest in the release and safe arrival of Fr. Prem. We thank in a special way the Jesuit team which has been at work on this mission ever since Prem was abducted some eight and half months ago. In particular we thank Fr. Peter Balleis, s.j. JRS Director, Michael Gallagher,s.j., Fr. Orville de Silva, s.j., Ms. Sylvia Kopler and their team for their untiring efforts in negotiating with the abductors in the most delicate way in spite of the risks involved.

JCSA  places on record our deep appreciation for the constant and hard work of Fr. Stan Fernandes,s.j. (JRS Country director) and Fr. Edward Mudavassery,s.j. (former Provincial of S. Asia) who regularly monitored the rescue work and conducted dialogue with Prem’s family on a regular basis and shared information. Fr.Edward continued to do this work even after he relinquished office; we appreciate very much his availability for this labour of ‘love’.

We thank in a special way ISI Jesuit community in New Delhi, especially Fr. Joe Xavier,s.j. (Director, ISI) and Fr.Joy Karayampuram,s.j. (Superior of ISI and official spokesperson for JRS on Prem) and the community members for their untiring efforts and prayer for Prem’s release.

We are well aware of the fact that JCSA family in South Asia has been deeply concerned with , and was constantly praying for Prem. Besides, Prem’s family members and many more friends and well-wishes were offering their prayers. We thank each of them for their solidarity and support.

May the good Lord continue to bless us all, along with Prem, to carry forward his mission of love and justice for all. JCSA will continue to support the efforts of JRS in Afghanistan and considers it a frontier mission of the Assistancy.

With immense gratitude to all of you and with abiding hope in the Lord,

Fr. George Pattery, SJ
Provincial of South Asia &
President of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia

9 Mar 2015 - 13:11
Dear Zonal Coordinators of PCE
This is to inform you about an urgent meeting of all the Zonal Co-ordinators of PCE's. 
After consulting the POSA we have decided to have the Zonal Coordinator's of PCE's meet here in our office at Jor Bagh. This is an urgent meeting.
Date: 26th March 2015
Time: 9 am to 1. p.m. 
Place: 225, Jor Bagh (Jesuit Residence)
Kindly come on 25th by evening. You can leave back on 26th itself. Kindly participate this important meeting without fail. In case you are unable to attend, kindly substitute with another PCE only.
The agenda of the meeting:
1. Jesuit Legacy programmes in our schools: its progress
2. Sharing of the SIPEI priorities
3. Web site for JEA
4. Evaluation of our schools.
5. Burning Issues in our schools;
6. Any other issues of importance.
Looking forward to meet you all here on the 25th.  
Kindly acknowledge the reception of this letter. 
With warm regards,
Secy, JEA
15 Feb 2015 - 07:23



03 Feb 2015
Sunny Jacob S.J.

Of late the Central Government and the ruling party have adopted lots of rhetoric’s on various occasions on diverse issues. Many are irrelevant and out of context. Creating hype and gaining political mileage seems to be the order of the day. How long will this sustain and continue its momentum is doubtful for any right thinking person. There are a few examples we can site for the smoke and cloud evoking utterances of responsible persons in the government and the elected representatives. Talking big and creating hype on every issue is not a good sign of governance. Be it on Black money or ‘Swatch Bharat Abhiyan’, or attacks on Churches or price control, the government seems to be only talking loud and no action is seen on the ground. The sad part of the story is that they have even started talking about the Constitutions of the country! But then one cannot forget the ideological thrust of the government of the day and their actions to undermine the spirit of the Constitutions.

When NDA was in power at the centre earlier, one of the first actions it took was setting up a committee to review the Constitutions of India. It was by Mr Vajpayee on 22 February 2000, constituted it for suggesting possible amendments to the Constitution of India. It was a clever ploy played by then the same ideology. The terms of reference given to the Commission stated that “the Commission shall examine, in the light of the experience of the past 50 years, as to how best the Constitution can respond to the changing needs of efficient, smooth and effective system of governance and socio-economic development of modern India within the framework of Parliamentary democracy, and to recommend changes, if any, that are required in the provisions of the Constitution without interfering with its basic structure or features”. It was headed by Retired Chief Justice of India Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah. The Commission submitted its report on 31 March 2002. The four-volume report was received by then law and justice minister Arun Jaitley.  

Even though the purpose looked good and the phrase sounded tolerable, an in depth study will tell us that the real intention of the whole exercise was only to create an impression that there is something need to be changed, and the Constitutions is to be upgraded! The actual aim of that exercise was to test the mood of the country in favour of a particular ideology. The discussions followed by the appointment of the Commission, made the impression on some people that Constitutions of India is not good, or Secularism, Socialism and Democracy etc. are not right for the nation.

Today again blatantly the same sort of rhetoric is raised. On the eve of the Sacred Day of our Republic this year the Governmental advertisement in the News Papers showed the old preamble of the Constitutions. It was not a mistake by the government to put that picture on the papers, but it was a deliberate, calculated, ideologically inspired act by the government to evoke a response from the people that ‘see this was the Original preamble’ and what we have today is not original. It is true that in 1976 the spirit of the Constitutions and the need of the time made the government to add Secular and socialist words to the preamble. In the words of Dr. Ram Puniyani, “words are not mere words; they do indicate our values and the basis of our association when it comes to the books like Constitution of India”.

When it was questioned how come these words are missing, which are part of the preamble, some leaders jumped to say that this is the ‘original’ Constitutions’ preface. A reputed lawyer like Mr. Ravi Shanker Prasad, a union cabinet minister, retorted that Nehru and Ambedkar, were no less secular, still these words were not put in the Constitution in 1950. At that time Nehru was Prime Minister and Ambedkar was the Chief of the drafting committee. Immediately one of the BJP’s political allies, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, stated that these words should be deleted for good as we are neither socialist nor secular. Finally Mr. Arun Jaitly went on to say that from now on the prevalent Constitution’s preamble, with words secularism and socialism, alone will be used. After that the BJP Chief too echoed the same. But more than a week confusion was created and for time being it is kept at the backburner. 

Everyone knows that the words Socialist and Secular were not there in the original Constitution which was implemented in 1950. But the value of Socialism and Secularism were always there in the Indian psyche. Socialism and Secularism are an embarrassment for a government that calls for a market free economy, which is all out helping the corporates. Word Secular is highly misunderstood today due to concerted effort by the anti-secular forces using it for a purpose. Anyone who talks about secularism is portrayed as pseudo secular and majoritarian thinking is interpreted as Secular! Therefore, it is quite natural for people belonging to anti-secular and anti-socialist parties to speak against the Constitutional values of Secularism and Socialism. It is a shame that the American President had to remind all of us about Article 25 and 26 that explain to us about secularism. Why  the government is so uncomfortable with the two words? Is it because, as Dr Ram Puniyani says, “Right from the beginning they have upheld Hindutva, i.e. Hindu nationalism, as their ideology in contrast to secularism, the majoritarian Indian nationalism? Time and again as the opportunity comes they articulate it and depending on their electoral political strength they try to implement a course towards Hindu nation. Due to their recent electoral success they feel more emboldened to express this openly”.

The issue cannot be seen in isolation. There are preceding any number of examples one can sight for emphasising the fact that there is a concerted effort to make India a non-secular state. There is an assertive talk by some quarters that, we are all Hindus, this is a Hindu nation etc. One of the Union Ministers came out with a proposal of making Gita as the National Book. One MP calls religious minorities with derogatory names, and another glorifies the killer of Mahatma Gandhi as a patriot. An organisation reportedly applied for permission to build a temple for Godse! If the permission is denied, then in their own offices they are going to install the statues of their real hero!  All out polarisation of communities are on, encouraged by the sheer political power and the full support of the big corporate houses and even foreign business interests. Communal politics is gaining momentum at the pretext of development on the one side and the rhetoric of a stable government at the centre and the states! Ghar Vapasi is also a sign of their anti-secular ideologies. Educational arena too is not far from controversies. Even Science is not spared of from unreasonable claims.

What saddens us more is all these rhetoric done by those who have taken oath in the name the Constitutions, promising that they will uphold the spirit of it in letter and spirit. They claimed to protect all the citizens and work for a progressive nation. Before taking his seat in the House every member of the Rajya Sabha, elected either in a biennial election or bye-election or nominated by the President, is required to make and subscribe before the President, or some person appointed in that behalf by him, oath or affirmation according to the following form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution:1 I, A.B., having been elected (or nominated) a member of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter. The same goes to the members of the Lok Sabha too. But today many of their words do no match with their actions on the ground.

Unfortunately the opposition parties are fighting themselves and rarely seen or heard speaking on behalf of the Spirit of the Constitution. Many of the power hungry leaders of the ‘powerless parties’ are deserting their so far upheld ideologies, and migrating, to the new pastors. Intellectuals are side-lined or not given a voice. Main stream Media seems to be biased or playing to the tune to the gallery, without realising that they have a positive role to play. Their discussions and debates are more ‘noises’ than voice of people with depth and not so important issues are highlighted and real issues are not given light.  

In this situation what the citizens of this great country do? What can educationists do? What should intellectuals, social activists, artists and writers do? I think it is only by upholding the values enshrined in the Constitutions we can, as a country, move ahead in the right direction. Otherwise, we will land up in a narrow, parochial mind-set and will have a terrible consequence. There will be majority- minority tussle and a theocratic fundamentalist polity will take shape and age old value of unity in diversity will diminish from the scene. Let us pledge that such a situation will never be allowed to emerge. But that pledge has to be taken now. Better now than never.

3 Feb 2015 - 08:57