The Jesuit order grew out of a combination of the dreams of its founder, Ignatius de Loyola and the efforts made at a time when the Catholic Church was most in need of them. The possible expansion of Protestantism gave impulse to a reactionary movement, demanding action from the reformist Popes and from the Council of Trent.
During these more than four centuries, the Company of Jesus has prepared men who have left their mark on the history of the Church and the world. Among them were a considerable number of saints and beatified men and women – to be precise, 41 saints (27 of whom were martyrs) and 139 beatified (131 of whom were martyrs).
Its founder made it a very simple organization: it is run by a Father General elected for life and is split into provinces, each one under the supervision of a "father provincial".
Early on the Company of Jesus became involved in the education of youngsters. It opened the first lay college already in 1548 in Messina, Italy.
Of great importance throughout Brazilian history and absolutely vital at its beginning, the Jesuits landed in Bahia - brought by the first governor-general Tome de Souza – on the 9th of March 1549. In other words, just nine years after the founding of the Company.
Many were dynamic men such as Nobrega, Anchieta, Luiz da Grã, Leonardo Nunes and Cristovão Gouveia, who sacrificed themselves to perform their work of faith. These and so many others, like Antonio Vieira one of the greatest preachers that the Company ever had (one century later), fully identified themselves with the beginnings of the History of Brazil, above all in the chapter on educating and catechizing the Indians.
When the Jesuits arrived in Brazil in 1549, they went about opening schools to teach reading and writing, and also agricultural practices, carpentry and ironwork. Thus education in Brazil began with the Jesuits. The usual formation of religious teachers, the same spirituality ensured pedagogical unity, disclosed in a document of 1599, the famous "Ratio Studiorum" (ordination of studies).
This system of education composed of colleges, missions and catechizing and which in many places was the only one available, suffered violent interruption in 1759, when the Jesuits were obliged to leave Brazil by the Marquis of Pombal.
Up until then there were 10 colleges, 10 seminars and other residences. Jesuits were even to be found on the Island of Marajo.
The consequences of this hiatus in the educational system can be felt even today, despite the gradual return of the Jesuits to the country, which started at the beginning of the last century.
Jesuits began returning to Brazil in 1842: German Jesuits in the South and Italians in the Southeast. Later, the Portuguese in the Northeast. In 1867 the São Luis College was founded in Itu, São Paulo, and now functions in the state capital. The Anchieta College was founded in 1890 in Porto Alegre. Others followed in the main capitals: Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis, Salvador, Recife and more recently Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Fortaleza and Teresina. Important personalities of the Republic have studied in the Novo Friburgo College in Rio de Janeiro. The Jesuits took over a technical school for electronics in Minas Gerais and since 1940 became active in the field of higher education with PUC in Rio de Janeiro. In subsequent decades, both UNICAP (Recife) and UNISINOS (São Leopoldo, Rio grande do Sul) emerged. In São Paulo, the São Luis Faculty has been functioning for over 50 years.
In addition to this group of higher education schools are the research schools and institutes maintained by the Padre Saboia de Medeiros Fundação Educacional Inaciana (previously the Foundation of Applied Sciences), founded after 1941 by Padre Saboia de Medeiros, and today assembled under the University Center of FEI with courses in engineering, administration and computer science.
Today approximately ten thousand Jesuits, spread around the globe and with the collaboration of one hundred thousand lay people, are responsible for disseminating the educational activities of the Company of Jesus to more than two thousand teaching Institutions, which serve close to a million and a half young people and adults in 56 countries.
At this time in Brazil there are 4 provinces, a missionary region and a missionary district. The Jesuits cater to 100,000 students. In their colleges and universities a large number of lay teachers collaborate to see that the fundamental goals of a Jesuit education are reached.
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