"For many years those involved in Jesuit secondary and pre-secondary education, both lay and Jesuit, have offered and shared their gifts as committed partners, contributing to and sacrificing for the mission of the school, laboring with Christ and one another for the greater glory of God. The Spirit of God certainly continues to animate the generous work of the women and men who accept the call to partnership in the mission of Jesuit education."
-- What Makes a Jesuit School Jesuit? (Jesuit Conference, 2006)
Almost since the foundation of the Society of Jesus in 1540 Jesuits have been engaged in the work of education. At first their attention was directed toward training new members for the Society. Then, in 1548, at the request of the citizens of Messina, Italy, Jesuits opened their first school for lay students. Today there are 3,730 Jesuit educational institutions throughout the world, caring for just over 2.5 million students. A little over 4,000 Jesuits and 125,000 lay, religious and clerical partners work together in the educational apostolates of the Society which include Fe y Alegría schools and programs (promoting social change by means of integral, popular education among impoverished populations, particularly in Latin America and Spain) and technical or professional schools as well as institutions of primary, secondary and higher education.
Jesuit schools constitute one of the most effective forms for the apostolic activity of the Society of Jesus in the United States. Jesuits and their colleagues educate over 46,000 young men and women each year at 71 secondary or pre-secondary schools in 25 states, including the District of Columbia. Of these institutions 64 are Jesuit sponsored, 4 are co-sponsored with other religious communities or the local Church and 3 have been endorsed by Jesuit provinces as Ignatian schools in the Jesuit tradition. The Board of the Jesuit Conference, which comprises the ten Jesuit provincials and the President of the Conference, relies upon PASE, in tandem with JSEA as a national service organization, to work with the sponsored schools to ensure the vitality of their Jesuit mission and Ignatian vision as educational apostolates of the Society of Jesus.