What Does It Mean to be Jesuit Educated?

May 21, 2018


“The Jesuit education really focuses on asking the ‘why’ question... So when you’re serving someone, you’re going to the soup kitchen, you’re serving them a meal and you’re leaving, and the Jesuit education challenges you to to ask why those people are hungry and address the systemic issue and really be in it for the long run, and be committed to that issue, rather than a quick band-aid fix and then walking away from it,”

Alexandria Iwanenko ‘17

When most people hear the word “Jesuit,” they automatically think “religious.” While religion is large part of Jesuit teaching, it is narrow in scope to think of it solely through that lens. 

The Jesuits, formally known as the Society of Jesus, are a Roman Catholic congregation of priests and brothers engaged in founding schools and pursuing knowledge. There are 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, including Canisius University.Attending a Jesuit school does not mean attending mass every day or studying the Bible in every class. It is a philosophy focused on personal, moral, and academic excellence. The theology, philosophy, and other liberal arts requirements focus on shaping you as a whole person.

“You’re not here just to learn for yourself and to do things for yourself. You’re meant to do and to be a person for other people, and I feel really blessed to have been able to learn that,”

Kate Songin, Canisius alumna.

To put it simply, receiving this education has completely transformed me. In every class, it has been clear the professor was there to do more than just teach and leave. Each professor pays careful attention to what they are teaching and how it connects to overarching Jesuit ideals. However, my work in the classroom only scratches the surface of the depth of my Jesuit education.

My teachers have pushed me to achieve greatness not only academically, but in my personal life by encouraging me to explore who I was, who I wanted to be, and the steps I needed to take to get there. 

For example, my passion for writing lead me to Canisius’ weekly student newspaper, The Griffin, of which, I have been Editor-in-Chief for two years. Some of my professors encouraged me to join as it would be a way to build my resume and expand my network on campus. However, it has lead to much more than this. Being a part of the newspaper has allowed me to give a voice to some of the lesser known areas of both the Canisius and outside community. The newspaper gives me to speak for the voiceless on a platform larger than myself, and in this way, help to serve others.

Educating The Whole Person

A Jesuit education forms well-rounded students with a passion for knowledge and personal growth. This is one of the main philosophies of Jesuit teaching: cura personalis, or the care for the whole person. 
Jesuit education will engage your mind and dare you to question yourself and the world around you, enabling self-exploration through smaller classes sizes, expert professors, and a core curriculum focused on justice, diversity, ethics, and global awareness.
Growing as a person is not easy as it usually brings discomfort. My Jesuit experience has allowed me to grow as a person in a way that I now realize my potential to make a difference in the world. The sheer magnitude of that thought is scary; it comes with a lot of responsibility. 

But a Jesuit education has given me the tools needed to be able to “set the world on fire,” in the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola. This idea means that the knowledge, discernment, and personal awakenings experienced as a result of the Jesuit values will ignite a flame in you that will be impossible to fan out. It is a flame that burns as a constant reminder to do and be more. 

You can see the results of this everywhere: Canisius graduates have gone on to provide medical care to children in Liberia, start community focused organizations, and much more.

Men and Women For and With Others

“[Being for and with others] is about interacting with your community, helping the people around you, and learning from them how you can be a better person,”

Cristina Wasinger ‘13

Jesuit philosophy states that it is not only important to live authentically in the world, but to participate in the transformation of it. 

A person cannot be considered “whole” without an educated solidarity with others in their hopes, fears, and, especially, their needs. Jesuit values teach that we cannot reflect on our own lives and experiences without first realizing how all lives are connected, as well as what the economic, social, and political realities are that can enable or frustrate our and others’ dreams. It is not only working and serving for others, but with others.
An enormous part of a Jesuit education is participating in service. This is where your studies culminate, and your values are truly put into practice. When serving the community, you are not only bettering others, but also yourself.
This ideal takes many forms at Canisius. It can be a service trip to South America, helping refugees at the Mexico border with the Kino Border Initiative, or it can be caring for children at an orphanage in Poland. But this ideal doesn’t have to be practiced internationally. 
Local service learning gives you the opportunity to see these problems face to face, and then examine them in the classroom, allowing you to question them academically - How did these people get to where they are now? What are the events that happened to have led them to this point? What is the bigger issue at the root of all of this?

I was able to see this ideal fully realized as a student leader for Be The Light, a youth theology institute Canisius offers for high school students. During this institute, we were able to see the “lights” and “shadows” of Buffalo, meaning the new innovations and companies that are making the city thrive, but the various communities that are suffering as a result.

Through this experience, I was able to see the cause and effect that change can have and how such deep rooted societal issues develop, actively putting this Jesuit ideal into practice.

Canisius also encourages this Jesuit ideal of “men and women for and with others” with its daily life on campus. Students are encouraged and expected to become leaders within our campus community, as well as devote time to service work in the city of Buffalo. Whether this takes the form of participating in our student government or delivering food to those in need, we offer hundreds of ways to get involved and unlock different aspects of yourself.

Putting Values into Action

“The Jesuits have the motto ‘magis’ or ‘to do more,’ ‘do more in service,’ ‘do more in school,’ ‘do more in your career,’ ‘do more with your family.’ The whole idea of going above and beyond what you think you can do,”

Bryce Hopkins ‘12

Magis is a place where your knowledge of the world and your hunger for change meet. This is the total understanding of who you are, what the world needs of you, and how you will choose respond. This is a life lived as a continuous response to the question: How can I be more, do more, give more? 

This motto can be applied to most every aspect of your life: in school, service, career, family, the list goes on. The idea is to go above and beyond what you think you can do.

After gaining this worldly education, you will be asked what you’re doing to change the circumstances of those around you in a positive way. You will question yourself. You will be asked what you believe in and you will be asked what you do to show you believe in those things.

Personally, I’ve taken a strong interest in social justice and finding new ways to put my beliefs into action and exhibit what I’ve learned in school in the real world. I participate in events that involve service in our local community of Buffalo, especially those helping the refugee population.

These Jesuit teachings have not only provided me with the tools needed for me to become successful in my professional life and future career, but have helped mold me into the person I was meant to be.


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