When the Society of Jesus first set foot on Philippine soil, they were on a mission: to plant the seeds of Christianity in mission schools with the Jesuit philosophy of education. they named their schools – the ATENEO.
To fully comprehend this philosophy of education and the ATENEO, one must understand in essence what the Society of Jesus is, and how it came into existence.
The Society of Jesus (originally called Campania de Jesus) is founded on the spirituality and apostolic vision of St. Ignatius Loyola, its founder.
Ignatius time was a critical era in the history of the church. Christendom was threatened by heresies and schisms. Her very foundations were shaken by the falling away and disenchantment of thousands of the Catholic Faithful and even the clergy. The Church was mired in religious and monastic scandals.
In time, Ignatius thru inspiration of the Holy Spirit attracted, and carefully organized a small band of followers. They were men after his own example, men of prayer and self-denial. A few of them were also noblemen just like him who abandoned their nobility and worldly possessions to follow the footsteps of the Master. He also required of them to be men of letters and higher learning, well-versed in the philosophical and theological teachings of the Catholic Church and the Gospel Truths as preached and lived by Jesus Christ.
This small band of followers – like Francis Xavier and Francis Borgia, lived in common and took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, with the Blessed Virgin Mary as their Patroness. Their lives were continuously being molded and guided by the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola within the structure of the Constitution of the Society of Jesus as approved by the Holy See.
Their ultimate intent was to be spiritually, morally and physically fit to be put anywhere in the world at the disposal of the Papacy at any time to defend the Faith against its detractors and enemies, to spread the Gospels, to be All things to all men… for the greater glory of God.
As such, the Jesuits were primarily missionaries, teachers and educators, and contemplatives in action. Conversion starts in the intellect, in the mind, and in the heart. So in the missions, it was logical that schools must be founded to mold the mind, body and spirit of the converts. Conversion to Christ must be rooted on solid ground and strong convictions — lasting and complete. It must constantly be nourished and renewed with spiritual enthusiasm and vigor to withstand the onslaught of crass materialism, carnality, and the deceptive satanic forces of evil in the world.
This thrust to influence the minds and hearts of men is at the very core of Jesuit education in founding the various ATENEO schools in the Philippines. And for that matter, of other Jesuit institutions of learning worldwide.