The Jesuits were the first religious order in the Catholic Church to undertake formal education as a major ministry. The founder, St Ignatius, was a firm believer in education and devoted many years to his own university education despite beginning at an age when most students had already finished. At first the focus was on training new members for the Society but in 1548, at the request of the citizens of Messina, Italy, Jesuits opened their first school for lay students. Today there are over 3,000 Jesuit educational institutions throughout the world.
Jesuit education seeks to be world affirming – to reveal a world “charged with the grandeur of God”. It encourages study of all reality, promoting the search for God in all things while respecting the infinite variety of ways in which God is revealed to an individual. Its objective is to produce wisdom and a deep sense of reverence rather than marketability or a narrow orientation towards a specific career.
There are 18 Jesuit universities and colleges in the Jesuit Conference. These together form the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Asia Pacific (AJCU-AP). In addition, there is The Beijing Center which offers a semester-abroad programme based in Beijing.