Around 1500 senior students from Sydney's three Jesuit-aligned schools took part in a joint celebration for the 200th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Society at St Mary's Cathedral on 7 August.
Former St Aloysius' College student Bishop William Wright, from Maitland-Newcastle Diocese, presided over the celebration, which brought together students from Years 9 to 11 from St Ignatius' College, St Aloysius' College and Loyola Senior High School.
Following the Mass, the students then walked from the cathedral to the Sydney Opera House for a special commemorative photo on its steps, then enjoyed a lunch on the grounds of Government House.
The day was about celebrating not only the restoration, but also the contributions of the Society to education around the world.
'The day was very much an opportunity for our College community to give thanks for the Society of Jesus and the works they have performed in this country, particularly in the ministry of education', said St Aloysius' College Principal Mark Tannock.
'Our unique college would not exist without them. Our Church, more than ever, needs good priests, and the Jesuits have provided to our community the priestly presence that has been fundamental to our pursuit of a loving, hope-filled society.'
While the senior students gathered at St Mary's, students from Years 3 to 8 at St Aloysius' College joined their compatriots at St Ignatius' College for a special Mass at Riverview, followed by a lunch on the school grounds.
St Aloysius' College Rector Fr Peter Hosking provides some more context for the anniversary below:
To put the significance of the Restoration in context, the Society of Jesus had grown to some 23,000 Jesuits by 1750. Jesuits involved themselves in every kind of apostolic service, as missionaries, retreat leaders and spiritual directors as well as opening and running schools for the young. By the mid-1600sthey were considered the schoolmasters of Europe. The multi-dimensioned aspect of the Jesuit vocation, their staunch defense of the Pope, their familiarity with many of the royal courts of Europe, their intellectual and pastoral theology, led tomisunderstandings. An anti-Jesuit feeling spread and took shape throughout Europe by the mid 1700s.
Partly due to the Jesuits supporting the Guarani in their clashes with Portuguese troops in Paraguay, Portugal was critical of the Jesuits. When an injury to King Joseph was falsely blamed on the Jesuits, Portugal became the first kingdom to expel Jesuits from its territories, including its colonies in South America. In France anti-Catholic elements scorned the Jesuits because of their well-argued loyalty to the Church. Following a financial scandal, theParliament forbad Jesuits to function as a religious order. Spain was the next to expel the Jesuits, blaming them for somedisturbances against taxation. There was increasing pressure now on the Pope to suppress the entire Society of Jesus. In 1773Clement XIV had a brief drawn up, Dominus ac Redemptor. Itclaimed that the Society was an object of dissension and its members troublemakers and rebellious. The Jesuits were driven from their homes and works. And the Jesuit General and his closest companions cruelly imprisoned.
The manner chosen by Clement XIV to disseminate the decree of suppression, left local bishops responsible for promulgating it.Non-Catholic countries such as Prussia and Russia refused to allow their bishops to promulgate the brief because they wanted to Jesuits to continue their schools. Catherine the Great made it known that any Jesuit would be welcome in Russia, and this enabled them to regroup. Pope Pius VI, who succeeded Pope Clement XIV, approved these developments in Russia. JosephPignatelli gathered the Jesuits expelled from Spain, and reestablished a Jesuit community In Italy in 1797. He was appointed director of novices and later Provincial in Italy. Heshepherded a number of re-founded Jesuit communities.
During the time of the suppression, Europe underwent the turmoil of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. Pope Pius VI wanted to restore the Jesuits, but was taken away in exile to France in 1798. His successor Pius VII published the Bull restoring the Society of Jesus on August 7, 1814. The 41 years of suppression had a detrimental effect on Jesuit missions in China, India, and North and South America. It was over a decade before the Society was able blossom again. Since then, particularly now in the twenty first century, a restored Society has re-grouped, re-energized and re-focused on the key values of its founder Ignatius of Loyola, namely, to work in the service of others for the Greater Glory of God.