Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, lived in an unprecedented period of human history. Born in Spain in 1491, he was thrust onto the stage just as Michelangelo was creating his David, Columbus was departing Spain for the New World, and Copernicus was discovering that the earth actually revolved around the sun. He lived when the world, as Europeans knew it, was pushing its limits through the emergence of art, music, science, mathematics, literature, politics, and philosophy, as well as from the stories of distant lands and foreign cultures.
Challenged by his context, Ignatius set his sights on revolutionizing religious experience by introducing the "humanistic" approach to Christian spirituality and the "apostolic" approach to Christian vocation. The Jesuit theologian, David L. Fleming, in interpreting Ignatius' opening prayer of his "Spiritual Exercises," captures this vision well: "All things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily." Following the darkness of the Middle Ages, Ignatius and his contemporaries set out to "cast fire upon the earth" by finding God in "all things."
In order to find God in all things, Ignatius charged his early Jesuit brothers to study the arts and the sciences. In 1548, the first Jesuit school was founded in Messina, Sicily, so the laity might experience what the Jesuits had known all along – that God was to be found in music, sculpture, biology, trigonometry, politics, history, philosophy, and the classics. In just a few years, Jesuits were enthusiastically opening schools in diverse places from Italy to East Asia, France to Latin America. The first Jesuit school in what would eventually become the United States opened in 1773 with the foundation of Georgetown. Today, there are
approximately 3,750 Jesuit schools worldwide, educating more than 2.5 million students.
In 1954, the rich tradition of Jesuit education took root in Rochester, NY, when Bishop James Kearney invited members of the Society of Jesus to open a high school for boys. Established more than 450 years after the first Jesuit school in Messina, the world of McQuaid Jesuit over the past 60 years has been more similar to Ignatius' own era than any other in between. Since McQuaid Jesuit's founding, the world has expanded immeasurably. Women and men have witnessed revolutionary progress in the fields of technology, sociology, medicine, religion, artistic expression, politics, and information gathering. In its relatively brief history, the McQuaid Jesuit community has seen it all, and our unique mission of finding God in all things and thus setting the world on fire has served our students and our community through the presence of our invaluable network of alumni, parents, and friends. More than 8,000 men are part of the McQuaid Jesuit alumni community, pursuing interests in business, art, education, government, medicine, and non-profits, among other pursuits.