Members of The Society of Jesus are called Jesuits. The Society of Jesus is an all male religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. The society's main purpose is to engage in evangelization and apostolic ministry. They are involved in these activities in more than100 nations throughout the world. The Jesuits focuses on intellectual research, education (schools, higher education and religious seminaries) and cultural exploits.
Some of the most prominent Universities in the world, and especially in the US, were founded originally by the Jesuit Order and some are still run by it.
The Order was founded just before the "official" counterreformation movement began. The Society for Jesus was founded by Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius was a Spanish highborn knight who decided to found the society following his conversion. He had a religious conversion after he was wounded in the battle of Pamplona in 1521. Moved profoundly by his religious experiences, Ignatius decided to devote his life to his faith and religious teaching and exercises. He was greatly inspired by saint Francis of Assisi (after which Pope Francis named himself).
In 1534, Ignatius gathered around him six men and they took together special vows.
Due to Ignatius's military upbringing and the fact that the society's members were willing to accept any mission anywhere in the world and become soldiers in the interest of their faith and the church, the first lines of their order's founding charter states that the Society of Jesus was suitable for "whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God". Ignatius was their first leader; the title which he took is superior general.
Ignatius wrote his vision for the exceptional order he had founded in a document called the "Formula of the Institute of the Society of Jesus. This was the founding document for the order to which all other documents had to conform. Ignatius of Loyola then made sure that his formula was anchored in papal law by the signing of two papal bulls; one in 1540 by Pope Paul III and another in 1550 by Pope Julius III. The formula described the nature and purpose of the new order and the kind of spirituality and community they would build.
The Jesuits claimed that the reform of the Church had to begin with the Individual's conversion of heart. The Jesuits believe that Ignatian retreat (the Spiritual Exercises) is one of the ways to bring this conversion about is. The retreat lasts four weeks. It is a period of silence during which one practices a series of directed meditations on the life of Christ
In the Catholic Church today the Jesuits are one of the largest religious orders of priests and brothers. The current superior general is Adolfo Nicolás, also a Spaniard.