The Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, was founded in Rome, Italy, in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola and friends including St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter Faber.
Just over 16,000 Jesuits serve on six continents and in 112 nations. It is difficult to find a country where Jesuits do not serve.
Around 400 Jesuits belong to the Central and Southern Province and serve the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, southern Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma as well as the Central American country of Belize and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Father Ronald A. Mercier, SJ, is the first provincial superior of the Central and Southern Province which officially began on July 31, 2014. Of course, the Jesuit roots in this broad swath of America go back to the 16th century. As the country grew, two provinces developed, the New Orleans and Missouri provinces. In 2014, they combined to create the Central and Southern Province. On Dec. 3, 2014, the Jesuits in Puerto Rico became part of the province.
The province operates six institutions of higher education: Saint Louis University, Loyola University New Orleans University, Rockhurst University, Spring Hill College, Regis University and St. John's College in Belize.
It runs 12 secondary schools: Arrupe Jesuit High, Colegio San Ignacio, Cristo Rey Jesuit College Prep, De Smet Jesuit High, Jesuit College Preparatory School (Dallas), Jesuit High (New Orleans), Jesuit High Tampa, Regis Jesuit High, Rockhurst High, St. John's College High School, St. Louis University High and Strake Jesuit College Prep.
The province also sponsors pre-secondary education: Loyola Academy Middle School in St. Louis and Academia San Ignacio de Loyola in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The core spirituality that began with the personal experience of St. Ignatius's conversion continues at seven programs that offer Ignatian retreats: White House Retreat in St. Louis: Manresa House of Retreats in Convent, La.; Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colo.; Ignatian Spirituality Center in Kansas City, Mo.; Montserrat Retreat House in Lake Dallas Texas; Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, La.; and Jesuit Spirituality Center St. Charles College in Grand Coteau.
Young men begin their Jesuit lives with two years at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau.