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Jesuits. Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus (SJ), the largest Religious Congregation for men in the Catholic Church.

The Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish soldier, who, like most men of his time, initially dreamed of bravery, fame, wealth and beautiful women. But while he was trying to recover from the injuries he suffered after being seriously wounded in a battle, the books he read completely transformed him. He wanted to serve God – not the king. ‘For the greater glory of God' (Ad majorem Dei gloriam) became his motto. Giving up all his possessions and ambitions, he and his six companions took the vows of religious life at Montmartre in Paris , France on 15 Aug 1534. Ignatius and his first companions wanted to work in the Holy Land but later offered to do any work assigned to them by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope. They were officially approved as a Religious Order on 27 Sept 1540, by Pope Paul III.

Jesuits traveled to all parts of the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Realizing the vital role that education plays in humanizing the society, they founded schools and colleges and offered not merely academic education, but also discipline and important human values. Apart from education, they worked in various fields – science, communication, social action, philosophy and theology, spirituality… - all for God's greater glory.

Today more than 19,000 Jesuits work in 112 countries in six continents, with the aim of moulding, with God's grace, men and women for others. They see themselves as ‘converted sinners' or ‘wounded healers' and understand their mission in the world as ‘service of faith and promotion of justice.' The charming, serene Jesuit recently elected the Superior General to lead Jesuits everywhere is Fr Adolfo Nicolas, SJ. To learn more about Jesuits worldwide, visit www.sjweb.info

For easy administration Jesuits worldwide are divided into regions or what they call Assistancies. India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan come under the South Asian Assistancy, currently the largest in the world, with nearly 21 per cent of the world's Jesuits working here. It is led by the Provincial of South Asia or POSA, who has his office in New Delhi . Fr Edward Mudavassery, SJ is the present POSA. You can learn more about the South Asian Assistancy if you visit www.jcsaonline.org


An Assistancy is divided into Provinces and India has 20 Provinces (including some vice provinces and regions). About 4,000 Jesuits work in almost all the States of India. Some of the best known colleges and schools in India you would have certainly heard about are run by the Jesuits. Loyola College, Chennai, St Xavier's, Mumbai, St Xavier's, Kolkota, St Xavier's, Ahmedabad, St Joseph's, Bangaluru, and St Joseph's, Trichirappalli, Andhra Loyola College, Vijayawada, St Xavier's, Thiruvananthapuram… are all Jesuit institutions, whose alumni lead India and serve its people in a variety of fields.

The Madurai Province is the entire State of Tamil Nadu. It is led now by Fr Sebasti
L. Raj, SJ,
whose office is in Dindigul.



The northern region of the Jesuit Madurai Province in Tamilnadu State was officially created as the Jesuit Chennai Mission in June 2007 in order to strengthen and enhance the mission, launched in 1990's, of empowering the marginalized, especially the rural poor and the Dalits who are considered and treated as untouchable in the society. The goal is meaningful liberation with human dignity and economic stability and paving the way for social equality so that the oppressed could become the decision making leaders of the society they live in. Currently Fr Jebamalai Irudayaraj, S.J. is the Chennai Mission Superior. To know more about Chennai Mission visit its website: www.jesuitschennaimission.org

Madurai Province - A brief history

Why would the Jesuits of Tamil Nadu call their Province the Madurai Province ? The reasons are historical. Incidentally quite a few Indian Jesuit provinces have names of cities like Bombay , Patna , Jamshedpur and Ranchi . Others – like Andhra, Kerala and Gujarat – have the names of States.

Madurai Province is the oldest Province in India . Jesuit presence in this land of Tamils began since the times of St Francis Xavier. He arrived in Goa on 6 May 1542 and, after four months of stay in Goa, travelled to Tamil Nadu and worked in Manapad, Tuticorin, Madurai and Madras-Mylapore, preaching the good news of Jesus and founding Catholic communities.

After Francis Xavier came Antony Criminali (1520 – 1549) who was later killed by the Badagas in a raid near Vedalai, Ramnad District,Tamil Nadu. Henri Henriques (1520 –1600), Goncalo Fernandez (1541–1621), Robert de Nobili (1577 –1656) and others were sent from Goa to the Tamil region to continue the work of evangelisation.  

Old Madura Mission

When Robert de Nobili, a saintly scholar, visited the southern city of Madurai in 1606, he found it an ideal place to learn the ancient Dravidian language of the area - Tamil - and to start his work. Madurai was the capital of Pandya kings who ruled the area and it was a renowned cultural and literary centre.This is why when De Nobili founded a mission, he called it the ‘Madura(i) Mission' (1606). For men and material the Madura Mission depended on Goa Province .

After Robert de Nobili, 122 Jesuits worked in the Madurai Mission till 1759. Among them are courageous, holy men like St John de Britto (1647–1693), martyred in Oriyur, Ramnad district and the renowned Tamil scholar, Constantine Joseph Beschi, who is known by the Tamil name he adopted - Veeramamunivar (1680–1747).

Jesuits' service all over the world was painfully interrupted by an unfortunate development. As Jesuits went about educating, inspiring and concientizing the people everywhere, powerful men with strong vested interests – for whom neither God nor his people really mattered - began to fear and loathe the Jesuits. Yielding to the pressure exerted by such men with political power, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus on 21 July 1773. Jesuits ceased to exist openly and officially in Madura Mission and everywhere else.

New Madurai Mission

But how long can you suppress something bursting with life and energy that came from God? The Society of Jesus was re-established on 7 Aug 1814 by Pope Pius VII. Fr. J. Roothann, General of the Society of Jesus, entrusted the Madura Mission – the new Madurai Mission - to the Provincial of France, Fr. Francis Renault, who at once sent four French Jesuits to the Mission in 1837: Joseph Bertrand (1801 –1884), Louis Garnier (1805 – 1843), Louis du Ranquet (1801 –1843) and Alexander Martin 1799 – 1840). Later the Madurai Mission was entrusted to the care of Toulouse Province in France , founded in 1852.

Madurai Province

Therefore the two Madura Missions - the ‘Old Madura Mission' (1606–1759–1773) run by the Portuguese Jesuits (before the suppression) and the “New Madura Mission' (1937 – 1952) by the French Jesuits of the Society (after its revival) – became eventually the Madurai Province . Since its foundation in 1606, all the European Jesuits, both of the Old and New Madurai missions, continued to call their mission Madurai Mission.

While the Old Madura Mission had Madurai as its headquarters, the headquarters of the new Mission was Tiruchirapalli (Trichy). Based in Trichy, the French Jesuits of the Toulouse Province developed and consolidated the mission with remarkable vision and zeal. Madurai Mission was raised to the status of a Vice–Province in 1929, dependent on the Toulouse Province . In the year 1952, when the Toulouse Province celebrated its centenary, the Madurai Vice-Province was raised to the status of an independent Province. All the well-known Jesuit institutions in Tamil Nadu are the fruits of the vision, tireless efforts and heroic sacrifices of the French Jesuits.

St. Joseph's School and College, Tiruchy (1844), St. Mary's School, Dindigul (1850), St. Mary's School, Madurai (1855), St. Xavier's School (1880) and College (1923), Playamkottai, St. Francis Xavier School, Tuticorin (1884), Loyola College, Chennai (1925), De Britto School, Devakottai (1943) and St. Xavier's College of Education, Palayamkottai (1950).