The Jesuits

Servants of the joy of the Gospel


The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar is one of six administrative parts of the universal Society of Jesus around the world.

The Society of Jesus is a religious order within the Roman Catholic Church established in 1540 by St Ignatius of Loyola who, with his first companions, placed the whole Society at the service of the Church and of God’s people.

Making God known in the world

Now in the 21st-century members of that same Society, more commonly called Jesuits, along with many women and men who share their vision, dedicate themselves to continuing the work of making God known in the world.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius was born in the year 1491 at the castle of Loyola in the Basque Country in the north of what is in modern Spain. As a young man, Ignatius had a great love for military exercises as well as a tremendous desire for fame. He framed his own life around the stories of heroism. Joining the army at seventeen he served as a soldier in the Spanish army until at the battle of Pamplona in 1521 he was gravely injured when a cannonball shattered his right leg.

Ignatius was returned to his father’s castle where he underwent not one but many surgical procedures to repair his leg. In an era that didn’t know anesthetics, having the bones set and then re-broken left him in the end with a shorter right leg and a limp for the rest of his life.

Spiritual Conversion

While lying in bed recuperating Ignatius began an extraordinary journey of spiritual conversion which led to his experiencing a call to imitate the heroism of many of the saints of old. During this difficult recovery, Ignatius had asked for some of his favourite books but none were available and instead he was given a book about the life of Christ and another about the lives of the saints and it was in these that he found a new direction for his own life.

Society of Jesus

Over many months and years, during which Ignatius’ went back to school and then to university in Paris and travelled to Jerusalem as a pilgrim, he wrote down his experiences of prayer and the workings of God in his life and gradually these developed into the book which is called the “Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.”

It was through sharing this little book of the Spiritual Exercises that Ignatius gathered nine companions including St Francis Xavier and St Peter Faber and together they accepted to form the Society of Jesus with the approval of Pope Paul III in 1540 taking their name not from the one who founded them, Ignatius, but from the one who had brought them together, Jesus.