Jesuit Tradition

Jesuit Tradition

St. Peter Canisius

When Canisius College first opened its doors in 1870, the founders chose to name the college after a distinguished member of their order - St. Peter Canisius. A Dutch Jesuit of the 16th century, he was a Hollander who spent his active life as an apostle to post-Reformation Germany. Because the city of Buffalo had a prominent number of citizens with German ancestry and heritage, St. Peter Canisius was an obvious choice for the German Jesuits, who are founders of both the college and nearby Canisius High School.

St. Peter Canisius (1521 to 1597) became a member of the newly formed Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1543. In 1549, he was sent by Pope Paul III to Germany to salvage the Catholic Church from the defection of many of its patrons to the new Protestantism.  St. Peter Canisius used education, the schools, the pulpit, and the written word to rekindle the faith of Catholics. First in Ingolstadt and then in Vienna, he opened colleges and seminaries for the training of priests and the higher education of the Catholic population.

It was as a teacher that St. Peter Canisius wrote one of his most famous works, the Catechism. Known as the Summary of Christian Doctrine when it first appeared in 1555, it provided the Catholic interpretation of issues in the dispute between Catholics and Protestants.  In the confused and ravaged Catholic world of the 16th Century, it provided a clear and useful explication of Catholic doctrine.

St. Peter Canisius went on to establish colleges and seminaries in Prague, Augsburg, Innsbruck and Fribourg. He became known for his eloquence of his sermons, the clarity of his writing, and his zeal for education as an agent for change. The restoration of Catholicism in Germany after the Reformation is largely attributed his work.