Shaping a better world

Jesuit schools and colleges impart much more than classroom knowledge,
with a strong focus on social justice, responsibility and action.


By Fr Peter Hosking SJ, Rector, Saint Ignatius’ College, Adelaide

Jesuit education is dedicated to developing the whole person — mind, body and spirit —through a holistic approach that integrates intellect, imagination, emotions and conscience. This model encourages exploring connections between data, insights, challenges and outcomes, aiming to foster critical thinking, moral insight and effective communication. Teaching social justice, responsibility, participation and action is essential to this educational endeavour. In this sense, education goes beyond career preparation; its purpose is to develop people of compassion, conscience, competence and commitment, embodying the “people for others” ideal to shape a better world. 

Jesuit schools aim to provide both intellectual and character formation, inspiring students to become agents of change guided by solidarity with marginalised communities. We hope our graduates will understand and address injustices as well as social and economic inequality. They should be equipped to tackle contemporary social issues such as environmental degradation, economic inequality, diversity and inclusion. We want them to learn how to advocate for improved education, justice, healthcare, employment and housing access for all. This involves formation in truth-telling, reconciliation and healing through dialogue. 

From their earliest missions in schools and hospitals, and through preaching and sacraments, Jesuits have shaped their messages to the capacities of their audiences, considering peoples’ needs, socio-historical contexts and spiritual outcomes. This approach has sought to communicate meaningfully for the good of others. The Jesuit concept of “eloquentia perfecta”, or perfect eloquence, is based on the classical ideal of the virtuous person writing and speaking well for the public good. There is a fundamental link between rational thinking, ethical reflection and persuasive discourse. To achieve “suaviter”, or persuasion, the speaker must be honourable. 

True eloquence requires erudite learning and moral discernment. Cicero stated, “The influence and wisdom of the perfect orator depend not only on his own dignity but also on the safety of others and the welfare of society.” The Ratio Studiorum of 1599 provided the framework for Jesuit education, advocating a pedagogy that combined analytical reasoning, moral discernment and social responsibility. The 16th-century Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suarez described eloquence as “wisdom speaking bountifully”, requiring prudent understanding, integrity, discretion and heroic virtue. The Belgian Jesuit Charles Coppens, a 19th century academic and author, emphasised that the primary responsibility of education is “to make people virtuous; any system of training which does not put virtue in the first place is a false system.” 

Jesuit colleges throughout history have sought to develop the ethical and intellectual faculties of their students to make good Christians, good citizens and good intellectuals. This commitment to intellect, character and eloquence continues to define Jesuit education today, shaping individuals who are prepared to contribute profoundly to society. 

This article was originally published in a recent edition of ‘The Ignatian’, the newsletter of Saint Ignatius’ College, Adelaide. 

Banner image by David McMahon

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