Sophia University

About Jesuit Tradition

Jesuit Tradition

Jesuit Tradition of Sophia University -- For the Greater Glory of God

Sophia University is a Jesuit university based on the teachings of Christianity and the Catholic spirit. The university conducts research and educational activities in accord with this spirit and places importance on caring for and thinking about the needs of others in a humanistic way, along with discovering oneself from interacting with various viewpoints. From what sort of beginning did these principles arise?

The Jesuits at the time of their foundation placed emphasis on two activities. The first was to promote the establishment of educational institutions in the major cities of Europe. The results of such activities can be seen even today in the form of senior high schools and universities.

The second emphasized activity was missionary work overseas, outside of Europe. Jesuits intended to go to areas where Christian teachings were mostly unknown and to promote the spread of the Gospel message there. One can say that in Japan the spread of Christian teaching by the Jesuits has included both of these activities.

Francis Xavier arrived in Japan by ship in 1549 and devoted himself to the spread of Christian teaching. He continued to have the dream of creating in the capital of Japan a university that would rival the great universities in Europe. This Francis Xavier was a founding member of the Roman Catholic religious order for men now known as the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. A group of ten men including Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier had founded this religious order in 1534. They left the Europe of the sixteenth century, the era of the great sailing ships, to spread the message of the Christian teaching all over the world. Xavier's trip to Japan was one such example.

The statue of Xavier located on the Ichigaya campus
The statue of Xavier located on the Ichigaya campus

Xavier treated with equally great respect persons of high social position and persons of no social status at all, persons from Europe equally with persons from Asia, and in return he was loved by all types of people. Xavier could initiate personal contact with soldiers, merchants, persons with no education and persons with deep culture. He began his conversations at a level that fit the person with whom he was speaking and deepened each conversation to touch each listener's heart. In situations where different cultures and customs were present, Xavier lived in a way that showed affection without pretense but rather with mutual assistance.

Later, during the seventeenth century, Japan began to be a country that was closed off from outside influences. Christianity was persecuted and the Jesuits eventually had no choice but to leave Japan. They again returned to Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century and established Sophia University in 1913.

From that time until the present, Jesuits have worked at Sophia University not only as educators, but as missionaries, priests and religious as well. Thus, even today the Jesuits are continuing the double mission that characterized the founding stages of the Society of Jesus, the combination of education and preaching the Gospel.

The visit of Mother Theresa to Sophia University
The visit of Mother Theresa to Sophia University

The spirit of treating individuals with respect and love that characterized the foundation of this institution has continued all through this time. Thus we can adopt as our own the words that Mother Theresa shared with us during her visit: "Everywhere in the world there are poor people; please extend your help to the troubled people, the suffering people, who are living right next to you!"