The Jesuit Institute was founded in 1988 through an endowment from Boston College's Jesuit Community.
In 1989 Fr. Robert Daly S.J. was named its first director, a professor in the Theology Department and editor of Theological Studies.
In 1992, Fr. Michael Buckley, S.J. became its second director. Prior to his appointment, he was a professor of systematic and philosophical theology at the University of Notre Dame. Fr. Buckley also served as rector and professor at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. from 1969 to 1986, and was a delegate to the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus held in Rome in 1995.
In 1996 Fr. Buckley became the inaugural holder of the Canisius Chair. Named by the University for the 16th-century Jesuit educator, writer and theologian Peter Canisius, the chair was set to be held by an accomplished scholar whose academic interests and influence would further the institute's efforts to foster the Jesuit and Catholic nature of Boston College.
During Fr. Buckley’s tenure the Institute took its actual shape. He sponsored many important events, among them was an international conference held in late May 1997, entitled “The Jesuits: Culture, Learning, and the Arts, 1540-1773.” The University of Toronto Press published the proceedings of the conference under the very same title.
On 2002, Fr. T. Frank Kennedy S.J., chair of the Music Department, became the third Jesuit Institute director. In 2006 he was named the second holder of the Peter Canisius Chair. A specialist in the early Baroque period, Fr. Kennedy broadened the international scope of the Institute by bringing visiting scholars from all around the globe and sponsoring international conferences like the ones featured below:
- June 5-9, 2002. "The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences and the Arts, 1540-1773." This international conference drew scholars from all over the world to further understanding of the interaction between religion and culture that took place in the international Jesuit network during 'the age of discovery' and beyond. This cultural interaction involved such diverse disciplines as painting, music, theater, science, history, mathematics, architecture and cartography.
- January 14-15, 2005. "Inculturation and the Church in North America."
This conference discussed issues related to: Young Adult Catholics - Gender and Catholic Political Life - Catholics in American Political Culture - The Impact of Women Theologians - The Participation of the Laity - Business Culture and the Church - Sectarian Threats - "A Truly Local Church" - Collective Identity - US Hispanic Marian Devotion - Challenges for the Future.
Participants: John P. Beal (The Catholic University of America), Nancy A. Dallavalle (Fairfield University), MaryAnn Hinsdale (Boston College), Dean R. Hoge (The Catholic University of America), Natalia M. Imperatori-lee (Notre Dame), Mary Johnson (Emmanuel College), David Hollenbach (Boston College), Mark S. Massa (Fordham University), Peter C. Phan (Georgetown University), Francis Sullivan (Boston College), T. Frank Kennedy (Boston College).
- February 26-28, 2009 "Ethics and Sustainability of the Earth," an international conference on ethics and the physical, natural and social sciences to discuss issues related to sustainability from a faith perspective.
Keynote speakers: Jeremy Jackson, professor in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego; Dianne Dumanoski, Science Editor of the Boston Globe; and Laurie Zoloth, director of Center for Bioethics, Science and Society and professor of medical humanities & bioethics and religion at Northwestern University.
Boston College faculty members: Canisius Prof. T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, director of the Jesuit Institute and organizer of the conference, Founders Professor of Theology James Keenan, SJ, Assoc. Prof. Gail Kineke, chair of the Geology and Geophysics Department, Prof. Juliet Schor (Sociology), Assoc. Prof. Laura Hake (Biology), Geology and Geophysics faculty Asst. Prof. Amy Frappier, Assoc. Prof. Alan Kafka and Asst. Prof. Noah Snyder.
Visiting scholars giving presentations: Roger S. Gottlieb (Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute); Michael Northcott (Theology, University of Edinburgh); Jane Bennett (Social Science, Johns Hopkins University); Philip Landrigan, MD (Science, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY); Sister Pushpa Joseph, (Social Science, University of Madras, India) and Willis Jenkins (Ethics, Yale University); John Hart (Ethics, Boston University); Heather Eaton (Ethics, St. Paul University, Ottawa).
- April 15, 2009. "Women In The Church: North and South," an interactive videoconference between Boston College and the Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro. Keynote speakers: Patricia Cahill, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives and Maria del Rosario Saavedra, Social Scientist of CINEP; Research Center for Popular Education in Bogota. Respondents: Maria Clara Bingemer, Associate Professor of Theology at the Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro and Lisa Sowle Cahill, J. Donald Monan, SJ, Professor of Ethics at the BC Theology Department.
- November 30, 2009. "Memory and its Strength: The Martyrs of El Salvador. A Discussion Between Jon Sobrino, S.J. and Noam Chomsky, Moderated by J. Donald Monan, S.J." Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT, liberation theologian Jon Sobrino, S.J., and Chancellor J. Donald Monan, S.J., relate their personal recollections and share their views regarding the assassination of six Jesuit priests and two staff members at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador on the 20th anniversary of their martyrdom. Watch it online
- March 24-25, 2010. "Jesuits and the People of the Book. The Society of Jesus, Jews and Muslims (1540/1773)." Keynote speaker: Paul Shore. Participants: Thomas M. Cohen, James W. Reites, Robert A. Maryks, Sabine MacCormack, Maria Ana Valdez, Carmel Cassar, Paul Shore, Emanuele Colombo, Benjamin Braude.
- September 21, 2011. "September 11, Ten Years On." For the 10th anniversary of September 11, four professors, two from BC: Peter Skerry and Jonathan Laurence, Political Science, and two from the Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro: Monica Herz, Institute of International Relations, and Paulo Fernando Carneiro, Center of Theology and Human Sciences, reflected on the political, social, and religious repercussions of the fateful event that shaped, and still shapes, the consciousness, lives, and behaviors of modern America.
- April 28-30, 2012. International Networking in the Society of Jesus. Challenges from a Universal Mission. This conference brought together religious and lay people, academics, and practitioners from apostolic works and from various different levels of Jesuit structures of governance, to initiate a line of reflection on the opportunities and ways to develop international networking in the Ignatian family; given the challenges that globalization poses to the universal body of the Society of Jesus. The main goals of the conference were: a) Identify and analyze the main initiatives that already exist or are developing in the SJ. b) Analyze the key aspects for Jesuit international networking and identify concrete problems and questions that should be addressed. c) Present concrete proposals and recommendations for developing and improving international networking in the Society of Jesus. d) Position BC as a leading university in Jesuit international networking. For more information visit its website at http://www.jesuitnetworking.org/. The event's website may be found here.
- June 13-14, 2013. "Secularization and the Jesuits, Challenges to the Society of Jesus in a Secularized World." A group of prominent sociologists and Jesuits met at Boston to discuss the challenges of Secularization to the Society of Jesus. The aim of the workshop was to provide the Jesuits a better understanding of Secularization and its challenges and opportunities, and to give social scientists the opportunity to study and discuss the impact of Secularization on this international religious body. The event was sponsored by the Jesuit Institute, The Secretariat for the Service of Faith of the Society of Jesus, and the Sociology Department of Boston College
- June 11-15, 2014 "Jesuit Survival and Restoration, 200th Anniversary Perspectives from Boston and Macau." 2014 marked the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus, one of the most significant events in nineteenth-century cultural and religious history but also one of the least well-studied. Scholars from across the globe convened at Boston College to look at arguably the three most important engine-rooms of Jesuit activity during this turbulent period: east-central Europe/Russia, China, and the United States. This international conference aimed to shed new light on neglected aspects of this vital subject. The conference also highlighted the exhibitions “Jesuit Survival and Restoration” and “The Jesuit Victorian Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins” on view at BC's John J. Burns Library.
- July 15-16, 2014. "Listening to Early Modern Catholicism. New Perspectives from Musicology." An international group of musicologists convened at Boston College to discuss the sonic cultures of Early Modern Catholicism (c.1500–1750). Scholars from nine different countries demonstrated the unique insights that can be gained about Early Modern Catholicism from the study of music and sound. Keynote addresses were offered by John O’Malley, S.J. (Georgetown University), and Robert L. Kendrick (The University of Chicago). The conference also featured a round table (chaired by T. Frank Kennedy, S.J.) concerning the role of the Jesuits and their networks in the creation of Catholic soundscapes. Visit its website at http://www.listening2014.com/
On July 1, 2014, Fr. James Keenan S.J., Founders Professor in the Theology department and Director of the Presidential Scholars Program, became the fourth director of the Institute and the third holder of the Canisius chair.
- April 8-9, 2016. "Growing Apart: The Implications of Economic Inequality."
The Insitute has organized a number of general conferences.