Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491 into a noble Basque family in northern Spain. During his youth, he served as a soldier in the Spanish Army and had the experience of life at the royal court of king Ferdinand. In 1521, while defending the castle of Pamplona against the French, a canon ball shattered his leg. It was during the ensuing long and painful convalescence that he experienced an inner transformation that made him renounce, his ambitions of knightly glory and dedicate himself to love and serve Jesus.
On recovering from that painful experience, he went to Manresa he spent a few months in a cave living a life of intense prayer, mortification and reflection on the life and teaching of Jesus. His carefully worded notes on these deep spiritual experiences become a little book called the "Spiritual Exercises."
In his attempt to share his spiritual experience with others, Ignatius felt the need of good education. This led him to schools of learning in Spain and later to the University of Paris. It was here that he gathered around him a group of friends who later become his followers. Finally, in Rome, in 1540, Ignatius formally founded the Society of Jesus and his companions come to be known as the Jesuits. Ignatius was elected as its first General or Superior. He also personally drew up the norms and rules that were to govern the life of this group of dedicated men. These rules become the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius passed away at the age of 66 on July 31m 1556.
Today the Jesuits are spread all over the world and committed to a life of service of people through different types of work. At the time of the founder's death, there were about 1000 Jesuits working in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Brazil and India. At present, there are about 18,000 Jesuits serving all over the world. About one-fourth of them are teachers or administrators in the 848 educational institutions spread across 68 countries. There are about 2.5 million students studying in these institutions that range from pre-primary schools to full-fledged universities.
The history of the Jesuits' educational mission in India beings with St Francis Xavier's arrival on 6 May 1542 and the founding of schools and colleges in Goa and Cochin shortly afterwards. A number of premier institutions in India have been inspired by his memory.