This year marks the 150th anniversary of the return of the Jesuits to the Philippines.
The first Jesuits actually arrived in the country almost 500 years ago, in 1541. While they were primarily missionaries, even then, as now, they were already deeply involved in the education of Filipinos.
It was the early Spanish Jesuits that set up Colegio Seminario de San Ignacio in 1581, the first university not only in the Philippines but in all of Asia.
However, in the eighteenth century, the Society of Jesus fell out of favor with colonial powers and Catholic royalties. They were expelled from their areas, including the Philippines, until finally, in 1773, the congregation was dissolved.
After decades of persecution and suppression, the Jesuit congregation was reinstated. On April 14, 1859, almost a hundred years after they were expelled from the country, ten Jesuits arrived in the Philippines, mainly to do missionary work in Mindanao and Jolo. Before proceeding to Mindanao, the Jesuits were petitioned by residents of Manila to set up a Jesuit school which eventually became Ateneo de Manila University.
Thus, 2009 marks not just the return of the Jesuits but the 150th anniversary of the Jesuit educational apostolate in the country, and the 150th anniversary as well of the Jesuit presence in Mindanao.
Ateneo de Zamboanga University is celebrating the jubilee with a public lecture by noted historian Fr. Jose S Arcilla, SJ on “The Jesuits’ Return to Mindanao and the Beginnings of Ateneo de Zamboanga” on July 3, 2009.
An exhibit on “The Jesuits in Mindanao since their Return” and “The Ateneo de Zamboanga in Retrospect” will open later on the same day.