History of the Society of Jesus in Malta

The History of The Society of Jesus in Malta – Our Presence, Houses and Apostolates
By John Scicluna, S.J. 


The Beginnings

Already in St. Ignatius' time, from 1553, the bishop of Malta, Dominic Cubelles, began repeatedly asking Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the new Order, the Society of Jesuits, also known as Jesuits, to send some members to Malta so as to help reform the diocese and the ruling Hospitalier Order of St John (Knights of Malta), as well as to start a College. 

Ignatius saw the possibility of using Malta as a base to send Jesuits to Girba, near Tripoli. Given Malta’s geographic position and the proximity of the Maltese language to Arabic, Malta seemed to Ignatius an ideal stepping stone to train missionaries for the Muslim world. 

In 1554, St Ignatius planned to send Fr Nicholas Bobadillia to carry out the diocesan apostolate and other Jesuits to open the College. Due to quarrels between the Bishop and the Order, however, the plan did not materialise.

In 1565 the newly elected Fr General, Francis Borgia, sent a group of Jesuits with the army that was put together to relieve Malta from the Great Siege. It is not known if they actually landed, and none further is known on this second attempt.

The first known Jesuit to come to Malta was Fr G. Carminata, a well known preacher. In 1577, he was invited by the Grandmaster to give Lenten sermons to the knights of St John. 

The first Maltese to join the Jesuits was Rev. Simon Bonnici, a diocesan priest. He entered the noviciate in Rome in 1578 and died in 1589.

The newly appointed bishop of Malta, Thomas Gargallo, in 1578, asked Fr Carminata, then provincial of Sicily, tosend Jesuits to Malta to open a College. Fr Carminata obliged by sending three: Fr Casati, Fr Paraninfo and Br Longo. However, due to disputes between the Maltese authorities, the college was not built, and the three Jesuits were recalled back to Sicily.

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The Sicilian Jesuits returned to Malta in 1590, on the bishop’s insistence, and settled helping victims of the plague then ravishing the islands. 

In March, 1592, Pope Clement VIII sent letters to the bishop and Grandmaster ordering them to settle any differences at once and provide funds for the establishment of a Jesuit college. The college was founded instead of a seminary, the setting up of which was ordered by the Council of Trent, and confirmed in a 1591 diocesan synod. Two Jesuits arrived to make the necessary preparations. 

The College opened on 8th March 1593 in a house in Valletta which served both as the school and the residence for nine Jesuits. The construction of the “Collegium Melitense” (which until the 1970’s housed the Malta University) and the Jesuit Church in Valletta, started in 1595. Within two years, the Jesuits had already moved into the new building. Besides teaching within the college, the members of the Jesuit community distributed food to the poor, heard confessions, preached in the villages, taught Christian doctrine to children, worked for conversion of Turks, acted as intermediaries between rival families helping to resolve blood feuds, and established Marian congregations for different groups of people.

On two occasions the Jesuits were made scapegoats and had to leave Malta. The first occasion was in 1639 when tensions arose between the rigid and orthodox Grandmaster and a number of liberal knights. The knights used the Jesuits as a scapegoat: after several threats, the Jesuits were forced to leave. On intervention by the Pope, the situation promptly returned to normal, and the Jesuits were back by September, to reopen the College in December.

The second occasion was in 1768. After the Jesuits were expelled from different countries in Europe, it was the turn of Malta to expel the Jesuits. At the end of April, 1768, Grandmaster Pinto - who himself appreciated the work of the Jesuits in Malta - banished the Order from Malta, and consequently, against the Pope’s wish, confiscated all its property. The Jesuits were put on a French ship and taken to a port near Rome.

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The rulers of Europe, forced the Pope, on threat of schism, to ban the Jesuit Order. The Jesuits, who had considerable influence on all parts of society through their colleges, itinerant preaching, spiritual direction and were regarded as obstacles in the rise of absolute monarchies and opponents of the illuminist culture. On 21st July, 1773, Pope Clement XIV, issued an administrative decree by which he suppressed the Society of Jesus.

The decree was forwarded to the bishops to be communicated by them to the Jesuits resident in their dioceses. In most of the countries of Europe the decree of suppression was carried out to the letter, the Jesuits as a body submitting loyally to the decision of the Pope.

However, Catherine II of Russia and Frederick II of Prussia were impressed so favourably by the work of the Jesuits as educators that they forbade the bishops to publish the decree in their territories. Thus, providentially, the Society of Jesus continued to exist in White Russia and Prussia. In the other countries many of the Jesuits laboured as secular priests, others of them united in different congregations.

Gradually, Clement’s successors in 1778 allowed the Jesuits to open a noviciate in Russia, a community of former Jesuits in England  at Stonyhurst in 1803 was allowed to affiliate with the Jesuits in Russia the following year the Society was re-established in Naples. In 1797, the duke of Parma, with the encouragement of Joseph, received permission from the pontiff to establish a Jesuit province in his duchy. Then the Pope allowed the Order to be restored in Naples. Schools and a college were opened in Sicily.

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Restoration and Growth

After several pleas from Bishops and Catholics worldwide, one of the first things that Pope Pius VII did after returning from Napoleonic exile to Rome was that on 7th August, 1814, almost exactly forty-one years to the day since Clement XIV suppressed the Society, he issued the Bull, Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum formally re-establishing the Society. 

In short time, from the few old Jesuits that remained, the Order grew and spread at an immense rate. Many of the works established before suppression, not since taken up by other orders, were revived, and a number of new ones were added to these, most of which were based in countries where Catholics were a mere minority.

After the re-establishment of the Order, the first Jesuits returned to Malta in 1839 but stayed only for a few days while in transit to other countries. At this period, Malta was a British colony, and the Maltese started to put pressure on the authorities to set up a Jesuit college in Malta once more. The government not onlydisagreed, but in 1846 set up a Protestant college that was doomed to close soon as the sons of the Maltese intelligentsia, for whom the college was aimed, ended up in the Jesuit college in Noto, Sicily. 

Many Maltese, worried about the strong Protestant influence brought about by the British presence, petitioned Pope Clement XVI to intervene. The Holy Father asked the Jesuit General, who in turn asked the Provincial in England, to open a College in Malta. a The government yielded to the opening of a Jesuit college in Malta, provided it was run by British citizens. In 1845, English Jesuits founded St Paul’s College in Mdina. This closed down in 1852 and after a brief restart in Valletta, the college shut its doors permanently in 1858.

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Jesuit Refugees

In 1848 and during the wars of Italian reunification (1860), the Jesuits in Naples and Sicily were threatened with expulsion, and many ended up in Malta. The Bishop welcomed the Jesuit refugees and gave them lodging in part of San Calcidonio in Floriana.  (San Calcidonio, also known as Our Lady of Manresa Retreat House, was opened by Fr Pier Francesco Rosignoli, SJ, in 1753 and closed in 1768 after the Jesuits’ expulsion when it fell into the hands of the Diocese of Malta. It may be mentioned that when the Jesuit returned in 1860, they remained in residence at Floriana till 1918. Between 1860 and 1867, the Provincial Curia of the Sicilian Province was house in this Residence. From 1858 to 1910 and again from 1921 till 1977 the diocesan seminary was housed here. Now it is occupied by the Archbishop’s Curia.

But San Calcidonio did not have enough room for all the Jesuit refugees, so some of them shifted to a large house near Annunciation Street, Hamrun. Later they moved to another house at Santa Venera, where the present Carmelite Priory is situated.

In 1867 a noviciate was opened in Gozo. In 1872 a large house in Lija was acquired to accommodate Jesuits from the French, Neapolitan and Sicilian Provinces. 

In 1877, the noviciate was transferred from Gozo to Santa Venera, and in 1879 from Santa Venera to Notabile. In 1881, the Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar was rented to house the increasing number of Sicilian and Maltese young Jesuit Students in the Juniorate, philosophate and theologate. San Luigi Gonzaga was chosen as the patron Saint of this new house of studies in Naxxar. 

But the Jesuits were not content with the transfer of residences and the make-shift accommodation of their young students. They wanted to build a large college, suitable and comfortable, that would take in all Jesuit students under one roof. The site chosen was at Mriehel in Birkirkara. The college was constructed with the funds acquired from the sale of the Sainte Pulcherie in Constantinople which belonged to the Sicilian Province. Once again the new College, which opened in January 1897, was also called Collegio San Luigi. 

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Seminary and Colleges

The diocese of Gozo was established in 1864 and the following year the Bishop asked the Jesuits to open, take over the direction of and staff the Major Seminary and the secondary school which had to be opened. The seminary and school opened in October 1866 and was staffed by Fathers from the Sicilian Province. The students came from Malta and Gozo as well as from Sicily. But in 1903 difficulties started hitting the Seminary Jesuits hard. Efforts were made to resolve the difficulties and in August, 1909, after having run the Seminary and given their best to the Gozitan clergy and people for a span of 43 years, the Jesuits left unceremoniously. 

In 1876 several Maltese families petitioned Pope Pius IX to open a Jesuit College in Malta. The request was passed on to the Jesuit General who agreed and in turn sent it to  the English Provincial who also agreed to open the college.St Ignatius College at St Julian’s  opened in 1877 in the building which was used by the Malta Protestant College which closed down in 1865 and bought by three Maltese gentlemen. The new College adopted the English system of education with English as its medium of instruction. A church adjoining the College was completed in 1881. The College flourished with good academic results and came to be recognised as one of the leading schools. The Jesuits also involved themselves in various pastoral ministries especially among the members of the English communities and the Military.

Due to trouble from external forces, it was decided to close down St Ignatius College. The official reason was that the Bishops in England were asking the Jesuits to open a College in Leeds. The College closed down in July, 1907.

In the meantime, the political atmosphere in Sicily became sufficiently safe to justify the transfer in 1906 the Jesuit students to Acireale, and to Bagheria near Palermo. After their return to Sicily the Jesuits were planning to implement the promised to open a college at Palermo. But …

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An end and a new beginning

Thus the building of the Collegio San Luigi in Birkirkara was left vacant and open for sale.

When news about the possible closure of St Ignatius’ College began to circulate, many Maltese to Fr General, to the English Provincial and to the Pope to avoid such a decision. But at the beginning of 1907 the parents were informed that the College would close down in July 1907. The parents were worried and over three hundred parents signed a petition to Pope Pius X to intervene. The Pope passed on the request to Fr General who asked the Sicilian Provincial to postpone the opening of the college at Palermo and open the desired College at Birkirkara.

In the beginning of summer 1907, the Provincial appointed Fr Emmanuel Grima, then the Rector at the Gozo Seminary, to prepare in three months for the opening of a College in the existing building of Collegio San Luigi. Most of the furniture, including the statue of the College Madonna were brought over from St Ignatius’ College. Thenew College at Birkirkara under the protection of St Aloysius opened on 8th October, 1907. 

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Separation and new spring

At the turn of the 20th century there were three Jesuit communities in the Maltese islands, at the Seminary at Gozo (till 1909), and in Malta at  San Calcedonio (till 1918) and the College. These, together with Greece, formed part of the Sicilian Jesuit Province.  In 1924, a second community was opened at Floriana when the Jesuits were entrusted by the Government with the administration of Sarria church, Floriana, with the adjoining residence, both government properties.

This link with Sicily continued until 7th September, 1940, when, through a telegram, Fr J. Delia, the College Rector, was informed that he is appointed as Fr General’s “Delegate for the administration of the College, thus effectively separating the two Jesuit communities from the Sicilian Province and made them directly dependent on him.

At the end of the War the Jesuit Vicar General asked Fr Delia to prepare to open a Noviciate in Malta which was opened on 1st October, 1945.

Shortly after his election of the new Fr General informed Fr Delia about his decision to establish the Vice-Province of Malta. The Decree establishing the Maltese Vice Province was promulgated on 29th June, 1947. A few days later Fr Delia was appointed the first Vice Provincial. In 1983, the Vice-Province became a full-fledged Province.

The return of the Maltese Fathers, Scholastics and Brothers from Italy and the entrance of young men in the noviciate heralded a new bright future for the Jesuits in Malta. Existing apostolates and works were strengthened and new openings were being planned.

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The Houses

- St. Aloysius’ College, Birkirkara

The College, inspired by Ignatian spirituality,  imparts a holistic education.  Through spiritual, cultural and social work experiences the College aims to enable the students to be persons for and with others. 

Seven years after the opening of the College as a Secondary school, in 1914 a church was built and in 1928 a theatre hall was inaugurated. The Scouts at the College were established in 1916.

At the beginning of World War Two an attempt to confiscate the College was successfully overcome. Then during the War almost half the College was used as a hospital. For some time the Bishop’s Curia and other church and health department offices were located here. Medical students and seminarians had their classes here.

After the establishment of the Vice-Province, the Provincial’s Offices were at the College till 1950 when they moved to Floriana. 

The fields opposite the College were bought in 1947 for a new playground which was inaugurated in 1954. That same year the College badge and uniform were changed. The CYLO was started in 1960. Then in 1962 the Sixth Form opened, only with an Arts section and suspended four years later. After four years it was reopened with the addition of two other sections: Languages and Maths. In 1972, girls were admitted in the Sixth Form. A new Complex for the Sixth Form was built and inaugurated in 1991.

The boarding system was abolished in 1963 and the day-boarding system finished in 1979. The College PTA and the College Newsletter were started in 1969.

The Church Schools caused by the government problem started in 1979 and dragged on for five years. First there was the issue of the pupil-worker scheme and the capitation fees were stopped. The next move was that the fees were frozen and then fees could not be charged. However, the parents voluntarily made donations. Big protest rallies were organised by the PTAs and Former Students. The Government withdrew the schools’ licence and classes were held in parents’ homes. At one time the Police placed chains on the College gates but the Parents and Old Aloysians stayed on to guard the College and the community. In November 1984, after an agreement between the Government and the Archbishop the Schools re-opened.

In the College church, Masses for the public are celebrated daily and it is often a preferred venue for weddings.

The College Sports Complex and Gym was opened in 1997. The Jesuit residence was completed in 2002. During the College Centenary Year in 2007 the weekly holiday was shifted to Saturday. In October Fr General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach presided over the Centenary celebrations.

Another  milestone in the College annals opened in June 2008 when the Jesuits took over Stella Maris School run by the nuns to serve as the Primary Section of the College.

The JRS (Malta) offices are housed in the College Gym.

Over the span of a century the College contributed in no small way to Maltese society and to the formation of many important Maltese personalities attended the college, including Presidents of the Republic, noteworthy politicians, priests, religious, artists, lawyers, journalists and scientists.

- Sarria Residence, Floriana

This residence was opened in 1924 when the Government entrusted the Jesuits with the administration of the church, which was built in 1677 by Martino de Sarria, a knight of St John.

Throughout the years, due to its central location, the church it used for various religious meetings. One was by the MUSEUM Society and its founder, Dun (Saint) Ġorġ Preca used to address the weekly meetintg of the members.

More than twenty different groups meet here every month. On weekdays, a Mass is celebrated for workers from the nearby various government offices. On Sunday a Mass in English is celebrated. 

The “Teenagers Correspondence Club” was established here and was followed in 1964, by the “Teens and Twenties Trust” (4Ts) which started here. The “Friendship Groups” saw their beginnings here in 1972.

Between 1950 and 1962, the Provincial’s Offices were located here.

- Loyola House, Naxxar

The Jesuit Noviciate opened on 1st October, 1945, in a Villa belonging to Marquis John Scicluna who in 1950 then donated it to the Province, was, for many years, the cradle of the Province where young men who decided to follow Christ began their spiritual journey

In 1952 the foundation stone for the new noviciate and juniorate building was laid. With the dwindling number of novices, it was decided, in 1971, to give part of the new building to the Little Sisters of the Poor for an Old People’s Home. Due to lack of vocations, the Sisters withdrew in 1992 and the Catholic Action began to run it. 

The first floor of the old building was renovated in 1995 and called “Monserrat” to be used by the Vocations Team and other youth groups for meetings and live-ins.

The Province Infirmary is also housed here. 

From 1975, the Provincial’s Office are in a section of the House.

The Sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of the Way forms part of the House. Every day a number of Masses are celebrated and throughout the day many persons come here to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Various Fathers of the community give pastoral service in the parish and elsewhere.

- Manresa Retreat House, Victoria, Gozo

After 43 years’ service at the Bishop’s Seminary in Gozo, the Jesuits left the Island. After a lapse of 44 years, at the request of the Bishop of Gozo, the Society was entrusted with the administration of the Retreat House for the retreat apostolate and spiritual help to the faithful of the neighbourhood. It opened on 21st October, 1953.

The House was extensively refurbished in 1995 and it is very much sought after by priests, religious and lay persons from Gozo, Malta and abroad, for directed, preached or private retreats, meetings, seminars and for some rest in quiet surroundings.

In the church, which forms part of the House, Masses are celebrated daily for the public.

- St Philip’s Residence, Senglea

This was the next Residence to be opened. The Archdiocese and the Collegiate Chapter of the city entrusted the Church and Residence to the Jesuits. It was opened on 1st November, 1957. 

The church, dedicated to Our Lady of Good Havens (the Visitation), was built in 1640. It is known as the church of St. Philip Neri as it was given to the Oratorians who rebuilt it in 1741. When the Oratorians left Malta, the archpriest of Senglea became responsible for the church. During the cholera epidemic the friary adjacent to the church served as a hospital.

During their stay at Senglea, the Jesuits carried their pastoral ministry in the church, assisted the Archpriest and helped in the nearby parishes. Many people always found some priest available to help them in their spiritual and material needs.

At the end of 1997, Fr General issued a Decree which “suppressed and dissolved” the community. At the end of March, 2008, the Jesuits handed the keys to the Archdiocese who passed them on to the Salesians. 

Two months later, the Archpriest organised a Thanksgiving Mass for the dedicated service the Jesuits gave at Senglea.

- Xavier House, Valletta

In the 19th century this building was a hotel and later leased out to various families. A benefactor of the Province donated this vacant building to the Province. In September, 1962, the community moved in. At the same time the Provincial’s Offices were also shifted here from Floriana.

This Residence who just opposite the building of the University of Malta (initially the Jesuit’s Collegium Melitense) which some years later shifted to Msida.

In 1965, during the time of Vatican II, John XXIII Librarty was started  here. Many students, priests, male and female religious and other lay persons availed themselves of the services it offered.

The office of the Benefactors Association is located here.

For a number of years the editorial office of the magazine Problemi ta’ llum and Regina et Mater were also in this House.  

Everyday, some members of the community celebrate Mass in the Jesuits church (now government property). The Fathers are also available for confessions and spiritual direction.

- Mount St Joseph Retreat House, Mosta

In 1753 the Jesuits had built the Retreat House at Floriana which after their expulsion became diocesan property. When the Jesuits left San Calcidonio in 1918 there was no retreat house in Malta. The need for a Jesuit retreat house in Malta was keenly felt by the Province and the Archbishop. 

In 1961, on the outskirts of Mosta town, a property was bought in an area known as San Ġużepp tat-Tarġa (because of St Joseph’s statue on steps leading to the plain below). Construction work started in early 1961

and inaugurated in December, 1964. Our Jesuit Brothers played a big part in procuring the materials for the construction and in other works.
The House was extensively refurbished and re-opened in December 2005. The huge concrete statute of St Joseph on the façade of the House developed cracks. It was replaced by another exact replica in fibreglass.
The Retreat House is located in spacious and quiet surroundings with an enchanting wide view of the plain below and the blue sea in the distance. This is one of the reasons why many individuals and groups throughout the year seek this place for encountering the Lord. Others come here to participate in some course, seminar or live-in.

The Fathers in the community are always available to welcome and assist those who come for some spiritual nourishment and refreshment. The priests also assist in various parishes.

- Villa Pacis, Bugibba

In 1962 construction work started in a quiet area at Bugibba, St Paul’s Bay for a summer residence and for retreats during the other months. It was inaugurated in the summer of 1963. However, after a few years it was surrounded by a cluster of buildings which mushroomed in a short time. Thus the Province was forced to sell the house in 1969.

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Other projects

In 1957 land was bought at Blata l-Bajda on the way to Valletta for a National Shrine in honour of the Sacred Heart together with a residence for the staff and offices of the Apostleship of Prayer, the Christian Life Community and the Young Christian Workers. After Fr General asked to postpone this project, the land was sold in 1964.

With the approval of the Archbishop, Fr General approves the proposal to buy land in the region of “Savoy Hill”, Sliema, for a church and other apostolic works. Later Fr General approves the plans for a Residence and church here.

After a detailed study, in 1960 Fr General asks the Province to postpone the project at Blata l-Bajda and to abandon the Savoy Hill plan. Instead he suggests that it would be better to plan for a Retreat House and a new College. 

Later he agreed with the Province to postpone opening a College at Ta’ Giorni, St Julians, in a property donated to the Province but advises to retain the property. Later in 1968 he approved the sale of the property and with the proceeds establish a Scholarship Fund at the College and pay off outstanding debts of other projects. 

A house at Oxford was rented and opened in 1957 for Maltese Fathers and Scholastics studying at Oxford University. Then in 1965 it was later leased out and in 1972 it was sold and another house in London was acquired. It was sold in 1995.

- Dar Manwel Magri SJ, Msida

The Collegium Melitense, later the University of Malta, started at Valletta in 1592. Then in 1968, the University shifted to Msida. At the end of 1968, the Province acquired a small plot of land near the main gate of the new university for a new Jesuit residence. In December, 1992, the first community settled in the new Residence named after Fr Manwel Magri, SJ, a Maltese ethnographerarchaeologist and writer.

Close to the Residence is the University Chapel. In 1971 a Jesuit was officially appointed the first full time Chaplain at the University. But when the University was still at Valletta Jesuit Fathers used to attend to the needs of the students. 

The Jesuit Chaplain, assisted by other Jesuits, lay staff and volunteers, cater for a population of over 10,000 comprising Professors, other staff and students. The Chaplaincy organises various religious and cultural activities. During the summer months the inYgo Youth Network and the Chaplaincy organise voluntary work in Malta and in other countries. Long term voluntary service abroad has been launched.

The House is a venue for various meetings organised by the Jesuits and used by groups for their meetings.

- Fekruna Rest House

Two adjoining houses at St Paul’s Bay were acquired in 1980 to serve as a rest house for Jesuits. It is also used for meetings of apostolic sectors of the Province and by youth and CLC groups for live-ins.

- Marina Road, Pietà

In 1973, due to shortage of accommodation at the College, some Fathers took up Residence in a rented house on Birkirkara Hill, St. Julians. Then in 1975, it was closed and the community moved to another rented house at Marina Road, Pietà. 

- Dar Pedro Arrupe, Zejtun

This is the last House that was opened in the Province. The presence of the Church and of the Jesuits in the south of Malta was lacking. So in 1989, this Residence was started which houses the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice Centre.

The mission of the Centre is to link the service of the Christian faith with the promotion of social justice, to disseminate Gospel values and the social teachings of the Church, to train and form influential agents towards Christian social commitment, and to ensure presence, insertion and involvement among the grassroots. It works to support activities aimed at promoting social justice, to reflect on, raise consciousness and seek solutions to social problems and injustice in the light of the Christian faith. 

The Formation/Reflection branch, made up mostly of non-Jesuits, organises and runs courses, focus groups, spiritual exercises with a social theme, public lectures, contributions to the media and at times action on a specific issue involving social justice. It reflects on current issues and receives ongoing formation. 

Members of the Insertion branch (the Jesuit community living at Zejtun) ensure Jesuit presence, witness and contact with the grassroots as a way of empowering them and integrate their experience in their reflection and action in promoting social justice. 

The Centre has already shown practical commitment in favour of asylum seekers and refugees. Migration, and its darker dimensions of racism and xenophobia, is one of the priority areas of the whole Society of Jesus. Together with the Jesuit Refugee Service, both on the local and the European level, it has also participated in international initiatives. 

As part of the Centre, in January, 2001, the Paulo Freire Institute was opened at Zejtun for the promotion of literacy and community development. It aims to encourage children to improve their reading and writing skills. It is also vital to empower their parents with important skills. Thus the main activities presently carried out at the Institute are: Non-Formal Educational Activities for children; Literacy Project for children; Literacy for Employment Project; Parental skills programmes; Female empowerment courses; Community Social Work and Energy-conservation educational programme.

The priests in the community, besides helping in  parish, on Sundays they celebrate Mass at the Refugee Detention  Centres.

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- International Apostolates

The mission of the Society of Jesus is indeed a universal one, without any kind of frontiers. According to the Formula of the Institute, a Jesuit is one who desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Christ on earth. Thus the Jesuits consider themselves as servants of Christ’s mission. Concretely its aim is the defence and proclamation of the faith, which leads us to discover new horizons and to reach new social, cultural and religious frontiers.

Long before the Maltese Province was established always lived this awareness of sharing in the universal mission of the whole body. Individual Jesuits served in Tunis, in Canada and British Guyana.

The major missionary enterprise in the history of our Province is surely the beginning of the mission in India among the Santal tribals. The seed sown there in 1925 has grown into a sturdy tree and given fruit. The Santal Mission has developed. Today the territory has been divided into three dioceses which are co-extensive with Dumka-Raiganj Province, one of the many Jesuit Provinces in India, with its own noviciate, colleges and other centres. 

Maltese Jesuits also served in Vatican Dicasteries in Rome, as well as in the Jesuit headquarters, as Directors of the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality, in the office of the General Treasurer, in the Christian Life Community office and in the Historical Institute. Maltese Jesuits also serve in the international ecclesiastical Jesuit institutions. With dedication and zeal they also rendered apostolic service in China, the Philippines, Japan, Australia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Libya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Israel, Italy, Albania, Romania, France, United Kingdom, Chile,  Brazil, Canada and the United States.


At some time some Maltese Jesuits served the Holy Father in the Apostolic Nunciature in the Archbishop’s Curia as the Archbishop’s Delegate for Religious, in the Workers’ Secretariat, for Youth in the Secretariat for Education, Ecclesiastical Assistant for the Catholic Action Movement, National Chaplain for the German-speaking community, as Public Relations Officer, as President of the Historical Commission for Causes of Saints and as Judges in the Metropolitan and Regional Ecclesiastical Tribunals. Worth mentioning is that in 1940, the Archbishop appointed one Maltese Jesuit as the Superior of the Missionary Society of St Paul until in 1948 one of the members was elected Superior General.


From the time of its foundation, the main spiritual ministries have always been preaching the Word of God, administering the sacraments, giving the Spiritual Exercises to individuals or groups, and spiritual direction. Other means  of their spiritual apostolates were the founding and animating the Sodalities of Our Lady (today known as Christian Life Community), the Eucharistic Crusade and the Apostleship of Prayer.  During Lent the Fathers preach Lenten Sermons in different parishes and groups.
Before and after the War, during the summer holidays, the Province organises retreats for youth.

Regularly the Fathers help in various parishes where they celebrate Masses and in hearing confessions. Some Fathers carried our pastoral work in the Dockyard and in Industrial Estates. For 33 years one Father served as the Chaplain of the German-speaking community in Malta. A number of Fathers are involved in Prayer Groups and youth groups. Jesuit Fathers also serve as Chaplains in State and Church schools. 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus had entrusted to the Jesuit Fathers to promote and spread the devotion to his heart. The Society accepted this “sweet mandate”. Accordingly, through the Apostleship of Prayer with the monthly intentions proposed by the Holy Father, through the Consecration of Families and Groups to the Sacred Heart and through the periodical Il-Messaġġier tal-Qalb ta’ Ġesú as well as through radio programmes it continues to fulfil its mandate.

In October, 1927, the Director of the Apostleship of Prayer began to organise the corege in honour of Christ the King.

In the Maltese Province, the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality was established. It organises three-year courses to train lay persons to direct the Spiritual Exercises and be qualified as spiritual guides. An offshoot of this Course has been the establishing of the “Parish Ignatian Ministry”.

Diocesan Clergy Formation

The Maltese Jesuits have made a significant contribution to the formation of the diocesan clergy. In Malta, in the Archbishop’s Seminary, except for two years, from 1934 to 1988, the Spiritual Father was a Jesuit. Afterwards there were Assistant Spiritual Fathers. Other Jesuits were involved in lecturing in the Faculty of Theology at the University. 

When, between 1978 to 1988, the Faculty of Theology at the University of Malta was suppressed, and the Holy See established a Pontifical Faculty at the Seminary, a Jesuit Father was elected President of the Faculty.   

After the Diocese of Gozo was established, in 1866 the Jesuits were invited to take over the direction and staffing of Bishop’s Seminary. This continued till 1908. Then in 1970, the Bishop of Gozo invited the Jesuits to provide a  Rector for the Seminary. In 1997 this responsibility was passed on to the diocesan clergy.

Other Maltese Jesuits worked in Seminaries in Kenya and Sudan.

Chaplaincy at the University

When the University of Malta was still at Valletta, various Jesuits used to attend to the spiritual needs of the students. After the University in 1968, moved to Msida, in January, 1971, a Jesuit was officially appointed the first full time Chaplain. 

The Archbishop of Malta donated funds for the building of St Thomas More chapel where there are the offices of the Chaplain, his assistants and staff. 

After teaching Religion at the Junior College for some years, a Jesuit was appointed as Spiritual Father there in 1984, But the following year the government stopped the ministry he had been rendering for the past seven years. After a petition by more than a hundred staff members and by over one thousand students, the Education Minister refused to re-consider his decision. He was re-appointed in 1988 and continued till 1998. He was succeeded by another Jesuit till 2004.

Intellectual apostolate

In 1961, for the first time since the Society lost the University during the Suppression, a Jesuit was appointed Lecturer in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University, and continued till 1964. Then in 1965 Fr Maurice Eminyan was appointed part-time Lecturer of Dogmatic Theology and Ecumenical Theology at the University and in 1968 he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Theology. 

When the Foundation for Theological Studies was founded in 1990, Fr M. Eminyan was appointed its first Director. 
In subsequent years other Jesuit Fathers were appointed Lecturers in the Departments of Biology, of Psychology, of Spiritual Theology, of Moral Theology, of Church History, of Law, of Spirituality and Pastoral Psychology, of Philosophy and of Latin and Greek.

Other Maltese Jesuits also fulfilled their intellectual apostolate abroad. One Father lectured at Nairobi University, another at the Oriental Institute in Rome. At the Gregorian University they lectured in the Departments of Theology, Philosophy and Church History. Another Father lectured in the Theological Faculty at Naples. One Father was Professor of Theology at the University of Detroit. Two others lectured at Heythrop College of the University of London. One Father lectured in Philosophy at the Pontifical Athenaeum in Pune, India.

In 1968 the Province established the Institute of Religious Studies to provide course in theology.
Besides lecturing some the Fathers in the Intellectual Apostolate also published books and articles related to their specialisation.

Social Apostolate

Two Maltese Jesuits were involved in the Young Christian Workers movement. Fr Michael Galea found the Żgħażagħ Ħaddiema Nsara in Malta 1948. Another established a branch in the Archdiocese of Calcutta in India. In 1959, the ŻĦNbegan to publish the Il-Ħaddiem newspaper.

Already in 1955, the Province founded the “Catholic Social Guild” and in  1970 the Istitut Edukazzjoni Soċjali.

In April 1967, the Province accepted the Maltese Government’s invitation to provide a Principal, a Deputy Principal and two teachers for St Philip Neri’s School, a correctional home for boys at Santa Venera. This continued till December, 1972, when our services were terminated by mutual accord.    

Another major step by the Province was taken in 1989 when it opened a Residence at Żejtun together with the Centre for Faith and Justice. An offshoot of this Centre was the establishment of Paulo Freire Institute in the town.

The Centre has been organises courses about the Social Teaching of the Church. It also organised Conferences and Seminars for which speakers from abroad are invited. 

Some Jesuits did some work experience at the Malta Drydocks.

Due to the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Malta from Bosnia, Iraq and Sudan, the Province established the Jesuit Refugee Service in the Island. Over the years it has been rendering yeoman service in assisting refugees in their needs, especially through legal assistance by qualified lawyers to legalise their situation especially in applying for refugee status. Social workers also see top their other needs.

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The first periodical in Maltese was Il-Messaġġier Malti tal-Qalb ta’ Ġesú which started publication in 1912 and wound up in 1973. After the War, before the opening of the Noviciate and the establishment of the Province, the periodical Lil Ħbiebna saw the light of day in 1945. Three years later, the Communities of Christian Life began to publish Regina et Mater for is members. In 2005 these the latter magazine were merged.

In keeping with the times, the Province started a social reflection magazine Problemi ta’ llum which ceased publication in 2000 to be replaced two years later by Orbis which for various reasons was also discontinued in 2007.

St Aloysius’ College till recently used to publish its illustrated annual magazine to record the year’s events in the life of the College. 

In 1948, The Maltese Jesuit, an in house monthly newsletter started publication.

A 74-page booklet Books by Maltese Jesuits: a Bibliography was published in 2002. It contains the titles of books and articles in the original language and translations.

Various Jesuits took part in Radio Programmes and when Television was introduced in Malta some Jesuits are invited to take part in regular programmes.

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Through its educational apostolate and its Catholic movements, the Jesuits in Malta and Gozo have always played a very important and influential role in the holistic formation  of youth. The contact and apostolate with youth increased considerably through the work of the University Chaplaincy.

At the College, the Catholic Young Leaders Organisation (CYLO) was founded in 1960.

Other organisations established for youth were the Teenagers Correspondence Club established in 1963 and then theTeens and Twenties Talent Trust (4Ts) started in 1969.

Then in 2004, the Ignatian Youth Network, inYgo was established as a part of inYgo International. inYgo brings together young people, ages 16-26, who are in touch with Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality through St Aloysius’ College, the University Chaplaincy, Paulo Freire Institute, the Christian Life Communities and the Saturday evening Mass in Sarria Church. 

inYgo seeks to accompany young people in their relationship with God, in building community and in their preferential option for the poor. 

During the summer holidays inYgo organises voluntary work in Malta and overseas. Recently, long-term volunteer work abroad was launched

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Collaboration with the laity has always been a characteristic of Jesuit apostolate. In recent years this Jesuit-Lay and Lay-Jesuit collaboration has been very much stressed and has become one of the aims of our mission as Jesuits.

In 2001 a Jesuit Father was appointed to oversee the formation of our Lay Collaborators. Then once a year, Jesuits and their collaborators come together to pray, reflect and celebrate their collaboration in the one mission of Christ.

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Some Recent Events...

In December, 1997, Fr General appointed Fr Alfred Darmanin as the President of the Conference of European Provincials.

The first Jesuit General to visit Malta was Fr Pedro Arrupe in 1973. His successor, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, paid three visits to Malta: in 1986, in 1997, for the Golden Jubilee of the Province and in October, 2007, three months before his resignation, for the Centenary Celebrations of St Aloysius’ College.

The present General, Fr Adolfo Nicolàs, visited the Province in October, 2009.

In November, 2009, at Siġġiewi, a statue of Fr Ġużé Delia was inaugurated there.

In September, 2010, an inter-Jesuit Conference project was launched in Malta. The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM) sent one Jesuit from Tanzania and the Conference of European Provincials sent one Scholastic from Poland to work with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta.

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