Jesuit Higher Education

As a Jesuit institution of higher education, Canisius is proud to inherit a tradition of educational innovation, academic excellence and purpose-driven inquiry that stretches back nearly 500 years.

The Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, an order of Roman Catholic priests founded in 1540 in Paris, France, by Ignatius of Loyola and six companions. From the beginning, the Jesuits were notable as educators. Ignatius and his companions met while students at the University of Paris, which was considered one of the world’s premier universities of its day. 

Our namesake is Peter Canisius, who joined the Society of Jesus in 1543 and founded the first Jesuit school in Messina, Italy. He later supervised the creation of Jesuit universities throughout Germany. Peter Canisius was a widely respected teacher, preacher and scholar.

Jesuits established schools and universities throughout Europe, soon becoming known as the “Schoolmasters of Europe.” Jesuits also became deeply involved in scholarship in their own right and were respected throughout the world. 

Canisius is an important part of this legacy as one of 27 Jesuit universities in the United States and 189 universities worldwide. The college was founded in 1870 by the Jesuits of the German Province at the invitation of Buffalo Bishop Stephen Ryan and was named after St. Peter Canisius. Thirty-five students enrolled in that first class.

A Radical Approach to Education

“Innovation” might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a 500-year-old religious order, but that’s exactly what the Jesuits did for education – and still do. From the development of a standardized curriculum to the incorporation of new and controversial fields of study and a more humane, holistic approach to instruction, here’s how the Jesuits revolutionized education and paved the way for the modern university.

Until the Jesuits, most schooling was local. What you learned, how you learned and whether you received a good education depended on the local teacher and where and how that person was educated. The Jesuits incorporated the rigorous and modern education experienced by the founders at the University of Paris into their own schools. In 1599, they created the Ratio Studiorum (“Plan of Studies”). This document was a guide to what Jesuit education would include regardless of where it was located – if you attended a Jesuit school you knew what kind of education to expect. This was a huge innovation in education.

Because St. Ignatius and the Jesuits believed that “God is found in all things and people,” they incorporated mathematics and science as well as theology and philosophy into their course of instruction. This was a radical idea at the time. The Jesuits “educated the whole student,” and a Jesuit education included what we now would consider out-of-class or experiential student development activities – another new idea. 

Both of these concepts – finding God in all people and things and educating the whole student – remain core values at Canisius. 

Cura Personalis- care for the whole person

Jesuit Lingo

At Canisius you will often hear phrases that speak to our Jesuit values. If it sounds like a foreign language, that’s because it is – having originated from a centuries-old educational tradition, there’s some Latin that can sometimes sound like legalese. Dead language aside, these principles are very much alive at Canisius and more essential in today’s world than ever before.

Cura personalis is a Latin phrase that means “care for the whole person,” seeing each and every student as an individual with unique identities, histories, dreams, goals and needs. A Canisius education is holistic and supports intellectual, social, spiritual and physical well-being.  

Magis means “more” and “greater.” It’s a calling to do and be more for those around us, for the world and for ourselves. To be educated at a Jesuit university means to be open to personal growth and change as well as to new facts, ideas and skills in the pursuit of the more.

Being for and with others is a concept rooted in the fact that every person, every creature and the whole natural world are sacred. This belief is a challenge: to be open to learning in all of its forms; to recognize and protect the dignity of every person, especially those struggling on the margins of society; and to embrace the sacredness of the natural environment and all of its creatures and to be responsible stewards for all creation. Our Jesuit values underscore our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability. 

Faith that does justice. Many universities declare their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and to sustainability. However, as the head of the Society of Jesus, Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., said to a gathering at Santa Clara University in 2000,

“Every Jesuit academy of higher learning is called to live in a social reality and to live for that social reality, to shed university intelligence upon it and to use university influence to transform it. Thus, Jesuit universities have stronger and different reasons than do many other academic institutions for addressing the actual world as it unjustly exists and for helping to reshape it in the light of the Gospel.”

Jesuit Pedagogy

Pedagogy describes how we teach. Grounded in the value of cura personalis (“care for the whole person”), Jesuit pedagogy contains five elements of good teaching: context, experience, reflection, action and evaluation.
1.    Context refers to getting to know one’s students as wholly unique human beings. 
2.    Experience refers to connecting classroom learning to the experience of students and involving students in making those connections. 
3.    Reflection means that teaching includes not only providing information but also providing opportunities for students to draw connections between classroom learning and other aspects of human knowledge and activity. 
4.    Action means that students should have the opportunity to apply their classroom learning to their activities and choices outside of the classroom.
5.    Evaluation is understood not only in the traditional sense of assignments and grading but also in the sense of providing significant mentoring for student success. 

Mission Integration at Canisius

Although the Jesuit mission of Canisius University permeates all that we do, three offices in particular form the Office of Mission Integration. They are:


The Vice President for Mission Integration

The Vice President for Mission Integration provides leadership to the effort to integrate our Jesuit mission in all we do. The vice president is responsible for articulating what it means to be a Jesuit university to Canisius’s various internal and external constituencies, and for providing opportunities for members of the Canisius community, called Ignatian Pathways, to deepen their understanding of and commitment to the mission of the university. 

The Vice President for Mission Integration leads the Office of Mission and Ministry and supervises Campus Ministry and the New Buffalo Institute.

The work of the Office of Mission and Ministry is guided by two Jesuit documents. The Universal Apostolic Preferences 2019-2029 articulate four priorities for all works of the Society of Jesus around the world, including universities and high schools, parishes, social services, etc. The four UAPs frame the priorities of the Office of Mission and Ministry.

Characteristics of Jesuit Higher Education is a publication of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) that outlines seven characteristics that a Jesuit university should demonstrate. Every five years, Jesuit universities are expected to undergo a Mission Priority Examen self-study based on these characteristics. Canisius’s last MPE was in 2018.

Mission and Ministry Staff 

Deacon Gary Andelora
Sacramental Minister
Old Main 207 D

Rev. Fred Betti, S.J.
Old Main 207 C 

Dr. Sandra Estanek
Interim Vice President
Mission Integration
Old Main 209

Spencer Liechty
Campus Ministry
Old Main 207 B 

Shana Richardson
New Buffalo Institute
Old Main 211

Ignatian Pathways

Through participating in Ignatian Pathways, members of the Canisius faculty and staff are able to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the university’s Jesuit heritage, explore their own spirituality, and move toward mission leadership. Ignatian Pathways consists of Canisius Colleagues, Canisius Colleagues II, and participation in national Jesuit programs. 

Canisius Colleagues 

Canisius Colleagues is a year-long program for members of college community…faculty, administrators, and staff… who want to learn more about what it means to work at a Jesuit institution. Participants gather once a month over lunch learn more about our Jesuit heritage, to discuss how our own work in whatever we do connects to our mission as a Jesuit institution and serves the students who attend Canisius. 

Canisius Colleagues II is a semester-long program for those who are interested that provides a follow-up opportunity to delve more deeply into one’s spiritual journey using the insights of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Ignatian Pathways also provides select opportunities for participation in national programs sponsored by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, such as the Jesuit Leadership Institute and the Ignatian Colleagues program. 


Mission-in-Curriculum is a collaboration between the office of Mission and Ministry and the Center for Online Learning and Innovation (COLI).  Through videos and other resources, M-I-C provides members of the Canisius faculty with a self-paced tool for integrating mission into their courses. 

Canisius University also participates in the Jesuit Leadership Institute and the Ignatian Colleagues program. Both national programs are sponsored by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.